Capitol Update 3/18/2022
The Federal Open Market Committee indicated that interest rates will rise by a quarter percentage point as the Federal Reserve seeks to bring inflation under control. The interest-rate increase, which is the first in more than three years, could be followed by six more this year, projections show. Full Story: CNBC The Hill, The New York Times The Wall Street Journal
The Producer Price Index for final demand increased 0.8 percent in February, as prices for final demand goods rose 2.4 percent, and the index for final demand services was unchanged. Final demand prices moved up 10.0 percent for the 12 months ended in February.
In January, unemployment rates were lower in 19 states, higher in 2 states and the District of Columbia, and stable in 29 states. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 9 states and was essentially unchanged in 41 states and the District.
A $3.8 billion University of California at Davis plan to expand the UC Davis Medical Center is the biggest among six billion-dollar-plus hospital projects announced since Dec. 1. Others announced were in Hawaii, New York and Ohio, as well as in California. Full Story: Becker’s Hospital Review
Contractors are exploring new avenues in their search for scarce labor. Tactics include seeking out retirees with offers of part-time work, recruiting at local schools and tapping into nearby military bases to seek recent service retirees. Full Story: For Construction Pros
California ups inspection, compliance efforts on public projects
California’s Department of Industrial Relations has stepped up inspection of publicly funded construction sites in the state to better ensure worker compensation and compliance. In January, DIR announced its Labor Enforcement Task Force would lead a new initiative to ensure employers on those jobsites provide workers’ compensation insurance and adhere to labor laws, such as skilled and trained workforce requirements, workplace health and safety requirements and apprenticeship standards. The task force will also crack down on pay, as employers must pay all workers employed on qualifying public works projects the prevailing wage determined by the DIR according to the type of work performed and the location of the property.
A 32% surge in the nonresidential category helped lift total construction starts by 9% last month, according to Dodge Construction Network. However, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.013 trillion was tempered by a 3% decline in residential starts. Full Story: Dodge Data & Analytics
DOL proposes new Davis-Bacon rules
Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh rolled out new rulemaking proposals for the first time in nearly 40 years to change the Davis-Bacon Act, which sets the prevailing wages contractors must pay workers on federal projects. While a construction employers group said the changes represent “more pork for special interests” for unions, which President Joe Biden supports, Walsh claimed the changes would do the exact opposite. “This action is an example of the federal government being a good steward of taxpayer money,” Walsh said on a conference call Friday. “As President Biden said during the State of the Union, when we invest in our workers, we build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out.” Workers groups and unions cheered the announcement, saying it would protect construction workers’ wages and shield them from exploitation.
Quitting workers seek higher pay, advancement: Pew
Workers who quit jobs last year — churning up the U.S. labor market — blame their departures on low pay, no opportunities for advancement and a feeling of disrespect at work, according to Pew Research Center. “Those who quit and are now employed elsewhere are more likely than not to say their current job has better pay, more opportunities for advancement and more work-life balance and flexibility,” Pew said in a report. Nearly one out of every three workers (31%) who left jobs last year said they did so because of disruption from the coronavirus, Pew said. Child care challenges prompted a high percentage of departures by workers with children younger than 18 living at home.
AGC of America is releasing a series of new coronavirus public service ads that feature Spanish-speaking construction workers urging their colleagues to get vaccinated for COVID. Each of the workers featured in the ads was unvaccinated and had a near-death experience with the coronavirus. They want their colleagues to avoid making the same mistake and in the videos urge other workers to get their shot. You can find the ads here and here. The ads all direct viewers to AGC of America’s Coronavirus Vaccine toolkit which now includes a feature to translate all the site’s content into Spanish.
Targeted investments in transmission infrastructure now would save consumers at least $140 billion over the next decade, according to a report from the American Council on Renewable Energy and partners. “To accelerate the transition to a renewable energy economy, we must upgrade and expand our nation’s antiquated transmission grid,” said President and CEO Gregory Wetstone. Full Story: American Council on Renewable Energy
Construction companies continue to shy away from technology solutions and often outsource their information technology needs, according to the latest JBKnowledge’s Annual Construction Technology Report. Employee reluctance, budgeting constraints and a lack of needed support staff were cited by respondents surveyed last summer as the leading factors holding back tech adoption. Full Story: Building Design + Construction (free registration)
Rising sea levels and extreme storms caused by climate change could cost port operators almost $10 billion annually by 2050, based on a report commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund. The report is, however, based on no actions being taken on greenhouse emissions and provides an early opportunity to correct ahead of future problems. Full Story: The Verge
A decades-old plan to create a giant reservoir in Northern California’s Colusa County is advancing with the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement of a nearly $2.2 billion federal loan. The loan still requires approval and term setting, which could take two years, but additional funding will also be available from an $875 million bond approved by voters and a USDA loan of $450 million. Full Story: The Associated Press
High-speed rail projects that seemed promising and likely during the Obama administration have slowed or come to a complete halt in certain areas due to local political resistance. Progress on what is now referred to as high-performance rail is being made in fits and starts on projects in California and Florida. Full Story: Railway Age