SBE News

Capitol Update – 08/27/2021

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California Employment Report for August 2021

The Center for Jobs and the Economy has released our initial analysis of the July Employment Report from the California Employment Development Department. For additional information and data about the California economy visit While the July numbers were generally positive, they remained at levels keeping California’s recovery behind much of the rest of the country.  The largest gap still remains in the relative performance for recovered nonfarm jobs, although the far slower pace in employment recovery is likely to affect this component as well as labor shortages continue impinging on the jobs change potential.

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Contractors caught between vaccine hesitancy and owner mandates

Construction firms are scrambling to meet client requests for 100% vaccinated jobsites. Construction was supposed to be getting back to normal by now. In June, with vaccines rolling out broadly across the U.S. and COVID-19 case numbers plummeting, Labor Day was heralded by many as the date workers would return to offices, and the pandemic would largely be a fading memory. But things aren’t quite working out that way. “We started reopening in June, and there was a lot of hope,” said Laura Guzman, vice president of marketing and communications at Milpitas, California-based XL Construction. “But as we started to watch the most recent trends, we’ve had to hit the pause button again. Source.

Cal/OSHA Encourages Employers and Workers to Follow Updated CDPH Guidance Recommending Face Coverings Indoors

In addition to the requirements of the COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) and as a best practice, Cal/OSHA encourages employers and workers to follow the recent update from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommending that all individuals wear face coverings while indoors regardless of vaccination status. CDPH recently updated its Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings to include that recommendation due to the recent increase of COVID-19 infections in the workplace. For more specifics on the recent updates from CDPH, please refer to their fact sheet When Do You Need Your Mask in California?  Employers should ensure that any employee who requests a face covering at work is provided one, as required by the ETS. Cal/OSHA helps protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace in California. Employers who have questions or need assistance with workplace safety and health programs, including assistance with developing a COVID-19 prevention program at their worksite, can call Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch at 800-963-9424.  Workers who have questions about COVID-19 hazards at work can call 833-579-0927 to speak with a Cal/OSHA representative during normal business hours. Complaints about workplace safety and health hazards can be filed confidentially with Cal/OSHA district offices.

Employers with Questions on Requirements May Contact: call your local Cal/OSHA Consultation Office

AECOM moving headquarters to Dallas

The nation’s 8th largest contractor is relocating from California to Texas, joining hundreds of other major companies that have flocked there in the last decade. The country’s eighth largest contractor is relocating. Multinational engineering firm AECOM announced Tuesday that it would be relocating its global headquarters from Los Angeles to Dallas, effective Oct. 1.  AECOM’s CEO Troy Rudd and other corporate leaders will move to an existing Dallas office, joining more than 1,200 workers there. More than 2,500 employees will remain at the downtown Los Angeles office and other offices throughout California, AECOM said. Source.

Business activity growth slows for 3rd straight month

Growth of business activity has slowed in August for the third consecutive month, reaching the lowest pace since December. The IHS Markit flash US Composite PMI Output Index has declined to 55.4 from 59.9 in July. Full Story: Reuters 

Outlook: US legislation favors growth in construction

Construction output could grow by 3.5% by the end of 2023 if the American Jobs Plan wins congressional approval, according to a projection by Oxford Economics. Infrastructure would be the main beneficiary, however, with a mixed outlook for the commercial and residential sectors. Full Story: Association of Equipment Manufacturers (8/23)

AGC warns of Delta’s potential effects on construction

Most states are failing to return to pre-pandemic levels of construction work as the Delta variant of the coronavirus sweeps the country, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson says Delta “may make it harder to find employees eligible to work on restricted sites and may also depress demand if some owners defer projects,” while AGC Chief Executive Stephen Sandherr calls on the House to quickly pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to generate more activity. Full Story: Global Construction Review (UK) (8/24)  

Strained contractors balance owner demands, bottom line

Contractors that had anticipated relief from the strictures required by the pandemic now find they have to return to cautionary measures, including mask mandates, vaccinations and social distancing. However, some are resisting when it comes to vaccination mandates, with the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota and other associations saying that state’s requirement could worsen labor shortages and lead to costly project delays. Full Story: Construction Dive (8/24),  Finance and Commerce (Minneapolis) (8/24)  

US rail projects take longer, cost more than those in other countries

High labor costs, change orders and other factors add millions of dollars to budgets and slow down timelines on U.S. projects, according to a new report. U.S. rail projects take longer to complete and are more expensive than similar projects built in other countries, a new report has found. American rail projects with minimal tunneling take about six months longer to complete than similar non-U.S. projects, while all-underground construction can take nearly a year and a half longer to build than abroad, according to an analysis by the Eno Center for Transportation.  In addition, domestic rail-transit projects cost about 50% more on average on a per-mile basis than in Europe and Canada, a number that rises to roughly 250% when New York City’s disproportionately expensive projects are included. Source.

Improving Career Education Pathways into California’s Workforce Summary

The current economic crisis hit Californians with less education hard and brought greater attention to the role public workforce training can play in an equitable recovery. To support workforce needs and the economic success of residents, California invests heavily in access to education beyond high school. The state deployed between $6 and $7 billion annually to workforce education in the years leading up to the pandemic. By understanding how best to target these investments, California can build training programs that offer the greatest benefit to workers and employers.

The California community college system is the largest provider of publicly funded career education in the state. Community colleges are therefore critical for effective and equitable workforce training, even as the system has a governance and financing structure that creates challenges to connecting college programs to careers. Furthermore, we lack complete information about whether, how, and who completes job training programs in a timely manner and who then finds quality employment that offers economic mobility.

To fill in some of these gaps, we investigate the trajectories of nearly one million students who have pursued career education at California community colleges over the last decade. We also use stakeholder interviews to probe how employers and workforce intermediaries support these students in completing programs and gaining skills valued in the labor market. We find:

  • The vast majority of students who pursue career education in the community colleges never earn a credential. One quarter of career education students earn a credential within six years; students who pursue health pathways are more successful—over half complete a credential within six years.
  • Students who earn an initial credential, re-enroll, and complete a second one in the same field—a stackable credential path—are even more rare. About 5 percent of all career education students earn multiple credentials in the same discipline, though this includes students who earn an associate degree. Among those who first earn a certificate, the share jumps to about 25 percent.
  • Students who complete credentials take about 2.5 years to do so. Even short-term certificates that require far fewer credits take students about two years; completing a stackable credential pathway takes over four years, on average.
  • Black and Latino students are less likely to complete a credential, as are younger students and men. Equity gaps in completion emerge relatively early, particularly for Black and younger students.
  • Students who complete at least one full-time term have much higher completion rates. These students also tend to earn credentials in a timely manner.
  • Stakeholders cited challenges to partnerships with employers, including funding siloes, lack of resources, and coordination needed within individual colleges. Employer and industry partnerships with community colleges can create effective career education programs, and recent state and federal investments are supporting more strategic employer-college relationships. 

Public Policy Institute of California

Calif. high-speed rail chief optimistic on funding

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill working its way through Congress does not explicitly mention the nation’s largest infrastructure project, the California bullet train. However, Brian Kelly, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, says six programs in the bill could infuse $21 billion into the project.

Full Story: Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model) (8/19)  

Engineer Pauses Fix of ‘Sinking’ Millennium Tower in San Francisco

Engineers paused work for at least two weeks on the $100-million foundation upgrade for San Francisco’s 645-ft-tall Millennium Tower high-rise residential condominium after measurements showed increased settlement during the installation of pile casings for the new piles. The work has been stopped “out of an abundance of caution” for two to four weeks, said a statement from Ronald O. Hamburger, the senior principal with Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, who designed the upgrade scheme. The pause, which began Aug. 20, will allow the engineers “to understand better the mechanisms associated with the increased settlement rate” and ways to mitigate it, he explains.  The building remains “fully safe” and unharmed, says Hamburger. The tower settled about 17 in. since its completion in 2008. Work on the sinking 58-story building to prevent significant future settlement, financed by a court settlement, began last fall. 

Bay Area Gets $168M in EPA Water Investment Loans

Silicon Valley Clean Water and the Oro Loma Sanitary District on Aug. 17 announced two federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans totaling $168 million from the the US Environmental Protection Agency for water system upgrades in Redwood City and Alameda County in California.

SVCW, which serves 220,000 people in the communities of Belmont, Redwood City, San Carlos, and the West Bay Sanitary District, received a loan of $143 million, and the Oro Loma district, which serves unincorporated communities of Alameda County, received $25 million.  The loan to SVCW will be split, with $69 million to support the $554-million Regional Environmental Sewer Conveyance Upgrade program (RESCU) and $74 million ford the $140-million wastewater treatment Plant reliability upgrades.  The RESCU program will replace and rehabilitate SVCW’s wastewater conveyance system. Aspects of the project, which use a progressive design-build project delivery method, include upgrades to the gravity pipeline, front of the plant and pump stations. Construction began in 2018 and is anticipated to complete in April 2023. The wastewater treatment plant project began construction in mid-2018 and is planned to finish by December 2026. The facility was originally constructed over 40 years ago and is beyond its useful life, requiring major improvements. “The project entails upgrading primary, secondary, tertiary, and solids handling processes, and improves energy systems to provide reliable treatment for decades,” says SVCW General Manager Teresa Herrera.

Calif. pipeline project aims for 2022 finish

A $103 million project to build a new pipeline from Santa Cruz County, Calif.’s only reservoir to serve Santa Cruz is expected to finish by year-end. Work began in spring on the new line, which replaces deteriorating 60-year-old pipelines that no longer meet safety standards. Full Story: Santa Cruz Sentinel (Calif.)

San Diego Pure Water project to take big step this fall

San Diego is poised for a fall start on construction on some of the key elements of its largest infrastructure project — a multibillion-dollar wastewater recycling system called Pure Water. The goal of the project is to increase the city’s water independence amid climate-induced drought. Full Story: The San Diego Union-Tribune (tiered subscription model)


Prepared by Mark Smith, Advocate, California Builders Alliance

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