Capitol Update – 03/11/2022￼
In February, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers rose 0.8 percent, seasonally adjusted, and rose 7.9 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 6.4 percent over the year (NSA).
The U.S. added 678,000 jobs in February. It’s another sign of a hot labor market
Hiring accelerated sharply last month as U.S. employers added 678,000 jobs, the largest gain since last July, and a resilient economy continues its recovery from the stubborn coronavirus pandemic. The unemployment rate fell to 3.8% last month, from 4% in January. Job gains for December and January were also revised up by a total of 92,000 jobs. The health outlook has improved significantly since a winter wave of infections tied to the omicron variant. Job gains in February were widespread with bars and restaurants adding 124,000 jobs, construction companies adding 60,000, and factories adding 36,000. The economy has now recovered more than 90% of the payroll jobs that were lost in the early months of the pandemic.
This year should see an upturn in construction across all categories coming off a year in which only the residential sector was lively, according to construction executives and other sources. Current and future-looking data are positive, but challenges remain in the form of uncertain supply chains, materials prices and hard-to-find skilled labor. Full Story: International Banker
A 9% gain in the institutional category highlights the latest Dodge Momentum Index, which rose 4% in February from a revised January figure. The February reading of 158.2 marked a turnaround after three straight months of decline as more education and health care projects entered the planning stage. Full Story: Dodge Data & Analytics
Construction wages in February climbed at their fastest pace in 40 years, with a year-on-year gain of 6%. February saw an additional 60,000 jobs in the construction industry, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, but economist Ken Simonson noted that “filling positions remains a struggle, as pay is rising even faster in other [non-construction] sectors.” Full Story: Business Insider (tiered subscription model) (3/4), Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)
Construction staffing reaches 99% of pre-pandemic numbers
Staffing has nearly climbed out of the pandemic-induced hole. In February, construction reached 99% of pre COVID-19 numbers, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers. Contractors added 60,000 new employees last month, Associated Builders and Contractors reported, boosting total employment in the industry to 7.6 million. That’s the highest staffing level since COVID-19 drove one million workers off site in April 2020. The industry’s unemployment rate of 6.7% is still significantly higher than the national unemployment rate of 3.8%. It’s no secret: builders have many harnesses to fill.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has ushered in new era of infrastructure spending that underscores the need for tech talent, enhanced cybersecurity, accessibility and sustainability, according to a survey from the Deloitte Center for Government Insights. Survey respondents anticipated greater demand for infrastructure to support broadband, remote work, multimodal transportation and telemedicine, but many US respondents do not believe the way governments manage infrastructure construction will change significantly. Full Story: Route Fifty (3/2)
Both chambers of Congress have approved a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package that would unlock full funding increases for key highway and transit programs under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The omnibus bill also includes a 7% spending increase for the Army Corps of Engineers civil works program and a 23% bump for major projects for the Department of Veterans Affairs, but spending for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds would remain at 2021 levels.
The $1.5 trillion fiscal 2022 omnibus spending package released today includes $26.9 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Transportation Department, $44.9 billion for the Energy Department and $150 million to help the Defense Department address PFAS contamination. It also includes $9.5 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, $5.88 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, $3.26 billion for the National Park Service and $1.41 billion for the Bureau of Land Management. Full Story: E&E News (3/9)
A confluence of factors has forced international contractors to either leave Russia or look to scale back operations there. For US contractors, the combination of the ban on Russian oil and natural gas, along with the ongoing labor shortage, could lead to a pause in some work and a downturn in the industry. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model) Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)
About $110 billion out of the $1.2 trillion in the bipartisan infrastructure law has been distributed to the states so far, said infrastructure implementation coordinator Mitch Landrieu during a Bipartisan Policy Center virtual forum. Landrieu also noted about half the law’s total funding will go through the Transportation Department while the remainder will be channeled through other departments and agencies. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)
Sectoral development programs with employer-led curricula are one way the construction industry can encourage more women to enter the profession while also fulfilling demand for specific skills. Other steps to bring in more women include development partnerships, focusing on inclusion and safety, and measuring progress. Full Story: Construction Dive
Women panelists describe their vision for equitable jobsites
Though women are a growing presence on the jobsite, it’s no secret that construction remains male-dominated. If that’s going to change, there must be a collaborative effort to make the industry attractive to all, said panelists at the National Association of Women in Construction Puget Sound’s diversity, equity and inclusion event on Tuesday. Women account for only 11% of workers in construction overall, according to a recent Fixr report, although their numbers have risen 50% in the past decade. In the field, however, the gender disparity is even more stark: Only 3% to 4% of jobs in production, transportation, construction and maintenance are occupied by women. Women are underrepresented in leadership as well, according to Fixr, making up 17% of management and professional workers. Barriers to construction diversity include resistance from gatekeepers, lack of authentic outreach and an industry infrastructure that is slow to innovate, according to Michigan-based Brown Construction Collective + President and CEO Rita Brown. That’s in addition to a historically White and male-dominated work culture that can be unwelcoming to people with different identities.
US infrastructure diversity plan draws fire from contractors, minority groups
Two cabinet-level heads are better than one at funneling a higher percentage of lucrative infrastructure jobs to women and minority contractors. That’s the concept behind a memo of understanding between Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to award more of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to underrepresented workers. But the framework drew fire from a powerful construction trade group for emphasizing project labor agreements. And it elicited skepticism from a minority contractors’ organization for lacking tracking and enforcement details.
For the first time, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority is using progressive design-build and construction manager-general contractor methods. The switch in strategy comes in response to the deadline for many projects posed by the 2028 Olympics in the city and takes advantage of new federal funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)
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