Signs of a strong economy: hedges are overgrown and lawns need to be mowed

Brian Friend was sitting at his kitchen table sipping a Friday night beer that spring when he realized he had to cancel $ 80,000 worth of landscaping contracts because he couldn’t hire enough workers.

“It was a rock bottom,” said 42-year-old Mr. Friend, who runs Sylvan Gardens Landscape LLC in Pittsburgh.

Like landscapers across the country, Mr. Friend faced severe labor shortages this year, triggered by low unemployment and high demand for visas under the foreign seasonal worker program known as H-2B. Higher wages and additional bonuses have not drawn more workers, say some landscapers.

Richard Cafaro, owner of the family-run Lawn Maintenance Services Co. outside of Pittsburgh, said he was forced to close the 48-year-old company because it failed to obtain a seasonal visa for foreign workers that he had applied for. The company had relied on them for the majority of its sales force for 17 years.

“I just had no way forward,” said Mr Cafaro, 47. “It’s so frustrating.”

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