SBE News

Capitol Update 1/15/2023

Lawmakers announce $1.66T government funding deal

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have announced a deal on a $1.66 trillion spending plan for the federal government, getting ahead of concerns about a potential shutdown. Lawmakers have until Jan. 19 to codify the deal into legislation before some government funding runs out. Full Story: Politico   CNN   The Washington Post  Financial Times  

CPI for all items rose 0.3% in December; shelter up

In December, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 0.3 percent, seasonally adjusted, and rose 3.4 percent over the last 12 months, not seasonally adjusted. The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.3 percent in December (SA); up 3.9 percent over the year (NSA).

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Payroll employment increases by 216,000 in December; unemployment rate unchanged at 3.7%

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 216,000 in December, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7 percent. Employment continued to trend up in government, health care, social assistance, and construction, while transportation and warehousing lost jobs.

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Construction jobs increase for ninth straight month

A total of 17,000 new construction industry jobs were added in December, representing the ninth consecutive monthly increase, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Across 2023, total employment rose by 197,000 or 2.5% from the previous year. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)  

Job openings rise 10% to highest level since 2022

Major infrastructure and manufacturing projects have created more demand for workers, but the supply of skilled labor can’t keep up.

Fed’s Bowman: Rate cuts will come once inflation falls

Interest-rate cuts will be possible if inflation continues to decline toward the Federal Reserve’s 2% target, Fed Governor Michelle Bowman says. “Should inflation continue to fall closer to our 2% goal over time, it will eventually become appropriate to begin the process of lowering our policy rate to prevent policy from becoming overly restrictive,” Bowman says. However, Bowman says “we are not yet at that point.” Full Story: Reuters   Bloomberg

Dodge Momentum Index makes overall climb in 2023

The monthly Dodge Momentum Index, which tracks the value of nonresidential building projects going into planning, shows a 3% rise in December, contributing to the progress made through the year. Sarah Martin, Dodge Construction Network’s associate director of forecasting, said the index “ended the year 11% below the November 2022 peak, ultimately stabilizing as the year progressed. Regardless, the DMI averaged a reading of 184.3 in 2023, hitting levels of activity that haven’t been recorded since 2008.” Full Story: Dodge Data & Analytics  

US construction spending up 0.4% in Nov.

US construction spending increased 0.4% in November to $2.04 trillion, fueled by both public and private projects, according to the Commerce Department. The gain marked 11 consecutive months of increases, amounting to 11.3% for that period, although the November figure fell short of Wall Street forecasts. Full Story: MarketWatch (tiered subscription model)

AGC chief economist: “Slowdown is likely” in 2024

Strong demand for manufacturing facilities and data centers should help offset anticipated declines in multifamily and developer-supported nonresidential development in 2024, but overall, “a slowdown is likely,” says Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. Simonson believes the inflation rate will be “subdued” this year compared to 2021 and 2022, but feels it will be challenging to reach the 2% target the Federal Reserve wants to hit before it feels comfortable cutting interest rates. Full Story: Equipment World  

What are contractors expecting in 2024?

Rising interest rates and a forthcoming economic slowdown are among the top worries for contractors in 2024, but labor also ranks as a high concern, with 69% of contractors expecting to increase headcount in the new year, according to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America and Sage. Contractors are optimistic about most markets, especially water and sewer, transit, and bridge projects, but the markets for lodging, retail and private offices appear “bearish,” says Ken Simonson, chief economist at AGC. Full Story: Finance & Commerce (Minneapolis)   Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model) 

2024’s likely winning, losing construction sectors

Factories, roads and bridges are expected to be among the winners in construction sectors this year with growing activity, as illustrated in charts of spending patterns over the past 14 years. Meanwhile, losers will include offices and warehouses. Full Story: Construction Dive

New leader named for IIJA implementation

Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who oversaw the rollout of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act implementation, will turn his focus to President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign. The Associated General Contractors of America says it will work with Landrieu’s replacement, Natalie Quillian, “to find ways to accelerate review and approvals for many of the infrastructure projects that have had funding announced but are still awaiting the completion of their federal reviews,” says AGC spokesperson Brian Turmail. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)

Labor Dept. releases final rule on independent contractors

The Department of Labor released the final version of its rule addressing when workers are classified as independent contractors under federal law, establishing a six-part test. The rule, which is set to go into effect March 11, rescinds the independent contractor rule issued under the Trump administration that focused on two factors of the economic realities test. Full Story: Law360

Federal construction workforce programs challenged

Last year’s Supreme Court ruling striking down affirmative action in college admissions may also affect workforce goals for federal construction. Joe Bousquin examines several lawsuits challenging the practice, including one aimed at the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program setting a goal of awarding at least 10% of federal contracts to DBEs. Full Story: Construction Dive  

5 areas where contractors will adapt and thrive this year

With rumblings about a slowdown in many construction markets, contractors have an opportunity to simulatenously adapt and innovate in 2024. Procore’s Kris Lengieza and PlanHub’s Ro Bhatia explore five areas that will enhance business: preconstruction, construction technology education, conversational AI, networking and carbon tracking. Full Story: SmartBrief/Infrastructure  

Study notes heat danger for workers on cooler days

Even cooler summer days can pose heat dangers for construction workers, according to a study by Turner Construction. The study found that workers often arrive on site dehydrated and with potentially dangerous elevated core temperatures. Full Story: Construction Dive

List: Top 20 US banks with construction loans

With $3.94 billion each, First Horizon and Pinnacle Financial Partners lead a list of the top 20 US banks with construction loans. In total, the 20 banks had $71 billion worth of construction loans and leases outstanding as of Sept. 30. Full Story: American Banker  

Lego-like blocks speed, simplify apartment construction

It took 11 unskilled laborers two months to build a 96-unit apartment building in Palm Springs, Fla. The key was the use of Lego-like interlocking blocks — made of a recyclable blend of repurposed glass and plastic, calcite dust, and resin — that could simply be hammered into place.

Full Story: Fast Company (tiered subscription model)  

How construction can advance to cleaner energy

Sustainable solutions are emerging to slash the construction industry’s environmentally costly reliance on diesel. CEMEX Ventures’ Alfredo Carrato examines two promising alternatives in the form of zero-emission hydrogen and battery-electric vehicles as well as how companies can advance the transition through collaboration. Full Story: For Construction Pros 

Software serves to ensure concrete quality

A wide variety of software to address all aspects of construction is now available to ensure the quality of concrete projects and avoid costly rework. Charles Rathmann takes a look at software for construction project management and specialty contractors as well as reality-capture products. Full Story: For Construction Pros

Gauging the emissions of building materials

The federal Inflation Reduction Act, the US Green Building Council and some states are stepping up to address the issue of embodied carbon in building materials, a significant factor in climate change. Andrew Chase provides an overview of efforts to fill the knowledge gap in this area, which is estimated to account for about 11% of all global emissions. Full Story: US Green Building Council

FTA grants $1B for Inglewood, Calif., transit project

A grant of just over $1 billion from the Federal Transit Administration will cover half the expected cost of the Inglewood Transit Connector Project in Inglewood, Calif. The engineering phase has been approved to proceed for the project, which will extend 1.6 miles and add three stations. Full Story: KCBS-TV/KCAL-TV (Los Angeles)   LAist (Los Angeles)