SBE News

Capitol Update 1.29.24

PPI for final demand falls 0.1% in December; goods decrease 0.4%, services unchanged

The Producer Price Index for final demand fell 0.1 percent in December. Prices for final demand goods decreased 0.4 percent, while the index for final demand services remained unchanged. Prices for final demand rose 1.0 percent in 2023.

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Dec. jobless rates up in 15 states, down in 1; payroll jobs little changed in all states

In December, unemployment rates were higher in 15 states, lower in 1 state, and stable in 34 states and the District of Columbia. Nonfarm payroll employment was essentially unchanged in all 50 states and the District.

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Dodge: Dec. construction starts up 20%

A 37% jump in nonresidential construction starts led the way in December as overall starts rose 20% to an annualized rate of $1.12 trillion, Dodge Construction Network reported. Residential starts were up 8% for the month and nonbuilding starts picked up by 13%, but total construction starts for 2023 were down 4% from the previous year. Full Story: Dodge Data & Analytics

Construction markets surpassed expectations in 2023

A variety of factors since 2020 have contributed to surprising growth in construction, with markets surprisingly strong last year, writes Chris Sleight, managing director of Off-Highway Research. However, the pace of growth is unlikely to extend into 2024 as “construction backlogs are finally starting to fall, and the various confidence indicators and measures of expectations are pointing more clearly toward small increases in work and staffing levels.” Full Story: Construction Briefing

Buy America proves troublesome for IIJA projects

Buy America policies are squeezing contractors due to higher costs even as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has provided a boost in construction. And the outlook is for still more pressure on federal projects if rules to be published in April widely apply Buy America to manufactured products. Full Story: Construction Equipment Guide 

2023 ended with US hotel project pipeline at record high

As 2023 came to an end, the US hotel pipeline total was at a record 5,964 projects, topping the previous high set in 2008 as measured by hotel research company Lodging Econometrics. The total reflected 693,963 rooms, marking a 7% increase from a year before while the project total was up 9%.

Full Story: The Construction Broadsheet  

Gilbane CEO sees industry challenges as opportunities

Gilbane anticipates a “very strong trajectory forward” in each of its market sectors this year as the company enjoys a record backlog, CEO Adam Jelen says. Jelen sees recent industry difficulties also as opportunities, with plans to build “our talent at all levels of the organization.” Full Story: Construction Dive

Architecture billings remain down in Dec.

Architecture billings for December were basically flat and in negative territory with a 45.4 reading for the Architecture Billings Index by the American Institute of Architects, rounding out a challenging year. “Billings at firms declined for eight months of the year, and the last four months saw this overall weakness accelerate,” says Kermit Baker, AIA’s chief economist. “Fortunately, project backlogs at firms eased only slightly through the year despite the overall reported softness in billings.” Full Story: Archinect

US doling out $5B more for transportation projects

President Joe Biden has announced nearly $5 billion in funding to be made available for major transportation projects. Among the major projects to benefit will be the replacement of both the Blatnik Bridge linking Minnesota with Wisconsin and the Interstate 5 Bridge linking Washington with Oregon, as well as improvements to the Interstate 376 corridor in Pittsburgh and 10 miles of Interstate 10 in Arizona. Full Story: The White House  

Some things the civil sector should monitor this year

Civil contractors should expect progress this year on Buy Clean requirements and a finalized rule on cybersecurity standards for those who handle sensitive information, Julie Strupp writes. Alternative procurement methods are expected to see increased adoption this year. Full Story: Construction Dive 

New joint employer rule: Implications and challenges

Joint employer status is achieved if one employer controls even a single one of seven essential terms and conditions of employment regardless of whether that authority is exercised, under a final rule issued by the National Labor Relations Board. Richard Vitarelli and Dion Kohler review the details and possible effects of the rule, which faces a legal challenge by a coalition of business groups. Full Story: The National Law Review

Opinion: Misclassifying workers requires federal action

Misclassifying construction workers as independent contractors “requires a 360-degree approach from city, state and federal officials to stand up for workers’ rights and hold employers accountable,” this commentary concludes. The authors are Charlene Obernauer, executive director of The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health; Joseph Geiger, executive secretary-treasurer of the New York City District Council of Carpenters; and Joseph Byrne, executive secretary-treasurer at then North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters.Full Story: Crain’s New York Business (tiered subscription model)  

DOT grant to help build Calif. offshore wind terminal

The federal infrastructure law accounts for part of $426 million in grant funding approved by the Department of Transportation to build a marine terminal supporting construction and operation of offshore wind turbines along California’s Humboldt County coast. A deep-water port will be required as well as the terminal, with construction expected to begin no later than 2026. Full Story: The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.)

US DOT Approves $2.5B for Vegas-to-California High-Speed Rail

The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has provided a further infusion of financial help for a $12-billion high-speed passenger rail line from Las Vegas to southern California. DOT on Jan. 23 announced it is allocating $2.5 billion in private-activity bonds for the 218-mile Brightline West project.  The rail line would run mainly along the Interstate-15 median. Its Western terminus would be Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. DOT and Brightline say the trains could reach 186 mph, reducing travel time to two hours, which is about half the time it takes to drive. Plans call for the train to be powered by electricity and produce zero carbon emissions.

Golden Gate Suicide Deterrent Barrier Now Runs Full Span

Contractors working on the Golden Gate Bridge Physical Suicide Deterrent and Wind Retrofit project in San Francisco recently reached a milestone with the completion of barriers along the full 1.7-mile span, according to the owner, the Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District. Work on the remaining parts of the project is expected to complete in 2027. Most of the barrier consists of a marine-grade steel net 20 ft below and 20 ft out from either side of the bridge. Some portions instead have vertical fencing or a combination of both due to design and construction factors, according to the bridge district.

San Jose, Calif., institutes tough wage theft law

Violators of San Jose, Calif.’s new wage theft ordinance will be prohibited from completing their projects. The ordinance applies to buildings larger than 10,000 square feet and would bar issuance of certificates of occupancy until the wage issue is resolved.Full Story: San Jose Mercury News (Calif.) (tiered subscription model) 

Last of 4 dams breached on Klamath River

With three dams removed, crews began work on the last of four dams scheduled for destruction along the Klamath River. The process began with a hole blasted in the 120-foot-high concrete dam, sending a gush of sediment-laden water downriver in a project that in the long term is expected to produce benefits for fish and the environment. Full Story: Oregon Public Broadcasting