SBE News

Capitol Update 3/20/2023

Infrastructure prioritized in proposed White House budget

Infrastructure, climate change, commercial navigation and attention to disadvantaged communities are among the priorities addressed in the Biden administration’s fiscal 2024 budget. The outline released by the White House also includes $4.45 billion for 18 transit projects across 11 states. Full Story: The White House Army Corps of Engineers Department of Transportation

January jobless rates down in 5 states, up in 2; payroll jobs up in 20 states

In January, unemployment rates were lower in 5 states, higher in 2 states and the District of Columbia, and stable in 43 states. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 20 states and was essentially unchanged in 30 states and the District.

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PPI for final demand declines 0.1% in February; goods fall 0.2%, services decrease 0.1%

The Producer Price Index for final demand decreased 0.1 percent in February. Prices for final demand goods fell 0.2 percent, and the index for final demand services edged down 0.1 percent. Prices for final demand rose 4.6 percent for the 12 months ended in February.

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CPI for all items rises 0.4% in February as shelter increases

In February, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 0.4 percent, seasonally adjusted, and rose 6.0 percent over the last 12 months, not seasonally adjusted. The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.5 percent in February (SA); up 5.5 percent over the year (NSA).

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Construction job picture improves in Feb.

Residential specialty trade contractors led the way in construction job gains last month, with 11,200 jobs out of 24,000 overall added across the construction industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The industry’s unemployment rate decreased to 6.6% in February from 6.9% in January and from 6.7% in February 2022. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)  

White House calls for stronger rules after bank failures

President Joe Biden wants Congress to beef up banking regulation to reduce the risk of further bank collapses after the Federal Reserve and other regulators stepped in to support two failed banks. The banks’ investors will not be protected, Biden says.

Full Story: BNN Bloomberg (Canada)   Reuters   CoinDesk (UK)

A note of caution as AI enters construction

Artificial intelligence is making inroads in construction and holds great promise for increasing efficiency, says Bianca Weber-Lewerenz, author of “Accents of Added Value in Construction 4.0.” But AI and other advanced technology introduce “impacts on both human beings and society as a whole. We’re talking about data complexity and how that plays into [work] and all the pressure on the side of environmental emissions,” Weber-Lewerenz says. Full Story: Daily Commercial News (Ontario)  

Buy America implementation might not be uniform

Contractors pursuing work on federally funded infrastructure projects should know agencies might implement domestic sourcing deadlines differently under the Build America, Buy America Act, and those deadlines might depend on the project type, materials used and funding source, attorney Amy Hoang writes. Buy America generally does not supplant sourcing requirements from Transportation Department agencies unless existing mandates are less strict than those under the bipartisan infrastructure law, Hoang notes. Full Story: JD Supra/Seyfarth Shaw

Is pandemic-era safety fading with new personnel?

Some CEOs at construction companies say measures the industry took to promote health and safety during the height of the pandemic have fallen by the wayside in today’s business-as-usual environment, consultant Jay Greenspan writes. Companies have also seen less situationally aware personnel recruited as a result of the tight labor market, Greenspan writes. Full Story: Construction Dive  

Proposed EPA emission limits concern contractors

Construction industry groups are concerned the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to curb nitrogen oxide emissions affecting cement and steel producers might further increase the cost of materials. The rule might interfere with federal infrastructure goals, says Brian Turmail from the Associated General Contractors of America, noting “the Biden administration seems committed to doing everything in its power to make it difficult and increasingly expensive to procure the energy and materials needed to build our future.”Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)

Skanska predicts inflation-topping construction costs

Above-average construction price inflation is likely at some point in major markets nationwide during the next two years, according to a report from Skanska. Annualized price inflation is projected at 3% to 5% in at least one six-month interval for most of 21 markets examined, and more than 5% is expected in Phoenix and Orlando, Fla. Full Story: Construction Dive 

Caterpillar CEO bullish on 2023 outlook for builders

There appears to be no imminent slowdown in North American construction activity if projects flowing to Caterpillar customers are any indication, CEO Jim Umpleby says. “The input we’re receiving from our construction customers in North America is quite good,” Umpleby says, adding, “We expect 2023 to be better on both the top and bottom line.” Full Story: BNN Bloomberg (Canada)

IIJA rollout raises questions about project delivery

Opportunities and challenges posed by the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are leading many construction firms to form public-private partnerships to meet demands for transit projects that typically use construction manager at-risk or design-bid-build procurement, says Jim Varney, senior director at Parsons. That is a takeaway from the 2023 New York Build conference, where panelists explored aspects of the federal funding, including equity mandates and demand for new projects and upgrades to infrastructure. Full Story: Construction Dive 

Language Guides for Contractors

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) has begun publishing Spanish-language versions of its licensing exam study guides. All study guides can be downloaded for free on the Examination Study Guides page of the CSLB website. As of March 15, 2023, the following exams have study guides also available in Spanish:

·     B-2 – Residential Remodeling Contractor

·     C-2 – Insulation and Acoustical

·     C-4 – Boiler Hot Water Heating and Steam Fitting

·     C-5 – Framing and Rough Carpentry

·     C-9 – Drywall

·     C-22 – Asbestos Abatement

·     C-29 – Masonry

·     C-31 – Construction Zone Traffic Control

·     C-32 – Parking and Highway Improvement

·     C-33 – Painting and Decorating

·     C-34 – Pipeline

·     C-35 – Lathing and Plastering

·     C-36 – Plumbing

·     C-38 – Refrigeration

·     C-39 – Roofing

·     C-42 – Sanitation Systems

·     C-43 – Sheet Metal

·     C-45 – Sign

The Spanish study guides for the remaining exams will be released over the next few weeks. In addition, CSLB is in the process of getting 10 exams translated into Spanish, including the Law and Business; B – General Building; C-8 – Concrete; C-9 – Drywall; C-15 – Flooring and Floor Covering; C-27 – Landscaping; C-33 – Painting and Decorating; C-36 – Plumbing; C-39 – Roofing, and C-54 – Ceramic and Mosaic Tile. This process is expected to be completed later this year. For these exams, Spanish-speaking applicants will take the exam in Spanish rather than using a CSLB-approved translator. Spanish-speaking applicants can still use a translator for the remaining exams that are not being translated.

Largest-ever US dam removal to begin this month

A $450 million project in Oregon scheduled to begin this month will be the largest dam removal in the nation’s history. Four dams will be eliminated along the Klamath River, with work expected to extend into late next year. Full Story: KDRV-TV (Medford, Ore.)

Core tops out at terminal entrance expansion at LAX

The entrance to the Tom Bradley International Terminal Core has topped out, marking the latest step in Los Angeles International Airport’s yearslong, $15 billion capital improvement program. The entrance is one of seven new ones as part of the airport’s $490 million Terminal Cores project. Full Story: Los Angeles Daily News

Calif. city taps Granite as interchange project lead

Granite Construction will lead planned improvements on Lancaster, Calif.’s Avenue J Interchange at California State Route 14 under a $30 million contract with the city. Construction is set to begin in spring and take about a year on the project, which will include retaining walls, two new ramps and widening of existing ramps. Full Story: The Construction Broadsheet

Repairs underway at San Diego clogged sewage tanks

An international sewage treatment plant in San Diego is discharging partly treated wastewater into the Pacific as flow from Tijuana, Mexico, overtaxes the system. Repairs are underway and expected to be completed by June for five treatment tanks that have become clogged with sewage, sediment and debris. Full Story: Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model)/San Diego Union Tribune