Millions of Americans have either lost or are concerned about losing their job during the pandemic, and businesses large and small have closed this year. However, skilled trades in home services is a small business sector that is actually experiencing a labor shortage.

HomeAdvisor released a new skilled trades report that found skilled home trades businesses present an opportunity for entrepreneurship — and 71% of workers in this industry believe there is a job shortage.

We spoke with Mischa Fisher, chief economist at HomeAdvisor, about the report.

What are the skilled trades?

These are some of the categories of skilled trades:

  • Additions/remodels
  • Appliances
  • Cleaning
  • Contractor/builder
  • Decks
  • Drywall
  • Electrical
  • Flooring
  • Handyman
  • HVAC
  • Insulation
  • Landscaping
  • Locksmith
  • Painting
  • Pest control
  • Plumbing/septic
  • Roofing/siding/gutters
  • Windows

However, Fisher says there’s a need to accurately define the skilled trades. “To many people, the skilled trades are the folks trained in technical skills around plumbing, carpentry, and electrical work.” And while that definition is true, Fisher says it’s a narrow description that’s missing some features. “We’re working to expand that definition to not only include a broader range of skillsets around what goes into making a great home, but also to recognize that the skilled trades are incredibly entrepreneurial,” he explains. “It’s not just swinging a hammer, it’s also about interpersonal skills, service, business management, and finding ways to innovate and expand.”

Why this a good time for people to consider entering the skilled trades

Actually, Fisher says it’s always a good time for people to consider entering the skilled trades. “As a field, it both pays well and is extremely satisfying work, with only 7% of workers in the field expressing any dissatisfaction in their career choice.”

However, he believes that now is a particularly good time to enter the skilled trades. “While many other sectors have been damaged — in some cases dramatically — by COVID-19, the home service and housing sectors are booming — and this means more opportunity for this extremely fulfilling and satisfying work.”

Trade labor shortage and the economic consequences

This is also a good time to consider the skilled trades because there’s a labor shortage. “In fact, 71% of workers in the industry believe there is a shortage, and only 4% think the shortage has gotten better over the last 5 years.”

And Fisher says this shortage has consequences. “First, consumer demand isn’t met, and this means a loss of enjoyment and improvement in the lives of consumers who want to see some aspect of their home improved or maintained.”

There’s also a loss of sales, tax revenues, etc. “But the other consequence is that people who might really find a satisfying career in the skilled trades aren’t getting it.” Instead, he says a lot of these people are going to school, obtaining student loan debt, and working in careers that aren’t as satisfying.

Among survey respondents who found their work very satisfying, the top reason for this satisfaction was finding meaning and value in their work, followed by flexibility in work hours.

Unique attributes of skilled home trades businesses

The report reveals several unique attributes of skilled home trades business services, and we asked Fisher to explain some of them:

Size of the business: “The sector is overwhelmingly composed of small businesses,” he says. “In some parts of the industry, over half of the total businesses are operated by only a person or two.”

Starting costs: “An entrepreneur in this industry does not need a lot of cash to start their business, because they’re not going up against large incumbents,” Fisher says.

Training: “The nature of recruitment and training in the industry presents a novel pathway and potentially profitable learning.” Some industries have lengthy educational requirements. “However, the skilled trades require hard work, a positive attitude, and a desire to learn — and you can get paid during an apprenticeship instead of having to carry student loan debt.”