SBE News

Capitol Update – 09/17/2021

August jobless rates down in 15 states; payroll jobs up in 11 states, down in 3

In August, unemployment rates were lower in 15 states and the District of Columbia and stable in 35 states. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 11 states, decreased in 3 states, and was essentially unchanged in 36 states and the District.

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CPI for all items rises 0.3% in August; gasoline, food, shelter among indexes rising

In August, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers rose 0.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis; rising 5.3 percent over the last 12 months, not seasonally adjusted. The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.1 percent in August (SA); up 4.0 percent over the year (NSA).

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Is Biden’s vaccine mandate legal? It doesn’t matter.

The administration knows employer mandates are likely legal, and it has decided the economic and public health benefits of a requirement are worth the risk of a judicial defeat later.

Kate Tornone is lead editor of HR Dive, a sister publication to Construction Dive. Opinions are the author’s own.

When President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the government would soon require many employers to mandate coronavirus vaccines for workers, there was much hand-wringing about the rule’s legality. Is it legal? And, if so, is it enforceable? It doesn’t matter. The administration is frustrated with the damage done by those who remain unvaccinated, Biden said. The goal is to move to save lives and get the economy back on track as fast as possible. And Biden has long taken the position that employers are the ones that can do that. We’ve also known for some time that employer vaccine mandates are likely legal, assuming accommodations are provided for those who cannot receive the shot due to a disability or sincerely-held religious belief. But while some businesses adopted vaccine mandates in recent weeks, others hesitated. Various employment law attorneys have told HR Dive reporters that clients are interested in such policies, but worry about legal challenges. This newly announced standard is designed to assuage those worries more than assurances from enforcement agencies could.

Cost-of-Living Crisis Continues to Drive Up California’s Poverty Rate

SACRAMENTO—According to data published by the U.S. Census Bureau today, California continues to have the worst poverty rate among all states when adjusted to account for government programs designed to help low-income families and necessary expenses for critical goods and services.

“More people live in poverty in California than in any other state because of our high and rising costs of living. More than 16 percent of Americans living in poverty live in California, despite being home to just 12 percent of the population,” said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable. “Driven by our housing and overall cost-of-living crisis, more Californians struggling to make ends meet are falling into poverty.” California’s cost-adjusted poverty rate (2018-2020 average) was 15.4 percent, while 16.5 percent of all Americans living in poverty live in California. Rates among the other states ranged from 5.9 percent in Minnesota to 14.5 percent in Mississippi (16.5 percent in DC), with the US average at 11.2 percent and the average among all states other than California at 10.6 percent. For the first time, California residents paid more for electricity in March 2021 than the average for all other states in the nation. They also continue to pay the highest gas taxes and prices in the country and for the ongoing housing crisis through increased housing costs. As tracked by the Center for Jobs and the Economy’s Affordability Index, nearly all necessity costs for the average California family continue to increase.

“Unfortunately, it is likely that our poverty crisis will continue to get worse,” Mr. Lapsley continued. “We are seeing a significant increase in inflation, which will drive costs up even higher. At the same time, a series of new and expensive energy mandates are being implemented, which will drive up the cost on home electricity, gasoline, goods and services, and housing. And let’s not forget the more than $200 billion in new and higher taxes introduced by the California Legislature in 2021 alone. Without prioritizing focus on affordability and honest discussion of the price Californians are paying for new and expensive regulations, fees and mandates, we will never address the growing poverty crisis in our state.”

Contractors find new ways to cope with elevated lumber prices

Although material price fluctuations have wreaked havoc on construction, labor has become the dominant source in driving costs, experts say. U.S. commercial and residential builders breathed a sigh of relief last month when softwood lumber prices dropped more than 30% after reaching an all-time high in May. Although prices still remain elevated, they have come down to a more manageable level, experts told Construction Dive. These fluctuations in the price of lumber are related to the supply chain, said Daniel Pomfrett, vice president at Cumming, a project and cost management firm. Now that lumber prices have started to decline, Pomfrett said contractors should not expect the upward spikes that characterized earlier pandemic stages. “I think we’re now starting to see that demand rise above as some people held back their projects in that pandemic period,” said Pomfrett. “But the supply chains, in actually getting that raw material, that’s really where we’ve seen that sort of pressure that’s being built up and so, as that pressure is being released, what we’re seeing is that the prices are coming down.” Lumber prices remain above pre-pandemic levels, despite dropping below the peak price observed in May 2021, according to Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. Though massive spikes are unlikely going forward, Basu said there continues to be “significant volatility.”

Study: US has deficit of 5.24M homes

Disrupted supply chains and ongoing labor shortages are impeding builders amid a shortage of 5.24 million US homes, according to research by The gap in supply has widened from a shortfall of 3.84 million homes in 2019, and says the current pace of construction would need to double for supply to catch up with demand in five to six years. Full Story: CNBC 

Commentary: Buildings deserve infrastructure funds

Buildings are an invaluable component of daily life and warrant inclusion in any infrastructure deal Congress approves, write Russ Carnahan, co-founder of BuildingAction, and Vincent Sandusky, president of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association. Projects that involve retrofitting buildings for greater energy efficiency and ventilation can create many new jobs while also tackling climate change and future pandemics, they write. Full Story: Smart Cities Dive

Report shows high cost of bad data in construction

Bad data sapped nearly $1.8 trillion from the global construction industry last year, $87 million of which came from rework, according to research by Autodesk and FMI. Organizations on average said 40% of the data they collect is unreliable in some form. Full Story: Construction Global

California lawmakers withhold $4.2B from high-speed rail project

California legislators ended their 2021 session last week without releasing $4.2 billion in funds for the state’s high-speed rail project from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a move that could end up delaying the $100 billion project further if hard-to-find workers leave for other jobs during the funding gap. Gov. Gavin Newsom requested the funds in May, which were approved by voters via Proposition 1A in 2008, to finish construction in the Central Valley, kick off new work between Merced and Bakersfield, continue planning for the 520-mile line and position the project to compete for more federal infrastructure funds, according to his budget plan. But state legislators, led by Assembly Transportation Chair Laura Friedman and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, have argued for allocating the money to other urban transportation projects since the high-speed rail job has ballooned in costs and faced numerous delays. “What do you need $4 billion for this year, when they spend about a half a billion a year, and they have not provided us any real details about what the money would go toward this year?” Friedman said, according to Streetsblog California.

San Diego airport terminal project advances

The California Coastal Commission has advanced an expansion of San Diego International Airport’s Terminal 1, clearing the way for an expected groundbreaking this year. The $3 billion project will involve demolishing a 19-gate terminal to make way for a 1.2 million-square-foot terminal with 30 gates. Full Story: The San Diego Union-Tribune (tiered subscription model)

Calif. I-405 project gets federal grant

The Build America Bureau has allocated $628.93 million for a project to add a general-purpose lane and toll lane in each direction along a 16-mile stretch of Interstate 405 in Orange County, Calif. The project also includes improvements to entrances, exits and bridges. Full Story: Traffic Technology Today (UK)

Mark Smith
California Builders Alliance

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