SBE News

Capitol Update 10/9/2023

Payroll employment rises by 336,000 in September; unemployment rate unchanged at 3.8%

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 336,000 in September, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.8 percent. Job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality; government; health care; professional, scientific, and technical services; and social assistance.

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Aug. sees higher construction spending

Construction spending increased 0.5% in August, driven by single-family and multifamily housing, according to Commerce Department data. Spending on public construction increased 0.6%, with federal government projects up 7.8%, while spending on private construction increased 0.5%. Full Story: Reuters

Construction job gain a bright spot in Sept. economy

Construction jobs and pay increased last month, according to ADP, offering a bright spot among mixed economic indicators. Construction’s gain of 16,000 jobs contrasted with losses in other industries, and other categories of activity across the services and manufacturing sectors varied from growth to contraction. Full Story: For Construction Pros 

FHWA outlays $61B for states, others for fiscal 2024

The Federal Highway Administration plans to distribute $61 billion through 12 programs in fiscal 2024. The infrastructure funding gives states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., “flexibility they need to determine how to allocate funds for a range of transportation projects,” FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt says. Full Story: The Construction Broadsheet

DOT rolls out $1.4B for 70 rail upgrade projects

Seventy passenger and freight rail projects across 35 states and the District of Columbia stand to benefit from more than $1.4 billion awarded by the Transportation Department. The funding comes from the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program and serves to upgrade tracks, grade crossings and bridges. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)   Railway Age

Megaprojects seen sapping resources for others

Generators, electrical switch gears and other essential components are proving harder to find and are taking as long as two years to obtain for many projects, according to a report by Cushman & Wakefield. The difficulty is attributed to a boom in multibillion-dollar federal infrastructure projects and in net-zero projects, a surge that is cutting into the labor pool and affecting opportunities for growth for some companies. Full Story: Construction Dive

Citi CEO says economy headed for soft landing

Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser says corporate leaders have told her demand is softening, which might help the Federal Reserve with its battle against inflation. “We are paying attention to the lower FICO consumer, where there are cracks,” Fraser says. Fraser expects another interest-rate increase in November but hopes there is no need for it and sees the economy heading for a soft landing. “The recession, if there is one, is going to be very manageable,” Fraser says. Regarding Citi’s recent reorganization, Fraser says fourth-quarter earnings will disclose the scope of job cuts and expense savings. Full Story: CNBC   Reuters   Financial Times

Report gets a grip on embodied carbon

Embodied carbon and measures to minimize it are discussed in a report from the US Green Building Council and RMI. The Driving Action on Embodied Carbon in Buildings report explores the state of embodied-carbon data, how to reduce carbon with standard building practices and the carbon intensity of various materials. Full Story: US Green Building Council  RMI

Bill envisions clean energy corridors on Calif. highways

Highways lined with solar are becoming a big thing in many states, but California may go a step further with SB 49. The measure sitting on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk would direct the state Department of Transportation to evaluate opportunities for not only co-located renewables, but also transmission and distribution infrastructure. This piece explores the use of solar along highways in the US and how California could shake things up with clean energy corridors. Full Story: Canary Media

EPA provides definition of zero-emissions building

The Environmental Protection Agency has released an outline for zero-emissions building. The outline is based on three pillars: no on-site emissions, use of 100% renewable energy and compliance with energy-efficiency guidelines. Full Story: Popular Science  The Washington Post

Report: Damage to underground infrastructure growing

The past three years have seen growing damage to underground infrastructure, according to the 2022 Damage Information Reporting Tool report from the Common Ground Alliance. The report documents key damage indicators across the US and Canada, with damage on the rise as excavation increases. Full Story: Underground Infrastructure

How smaller contractors should approach technology

Small and midsize contractors contemplating adding technology should begin by identifying which functions need the most help, says Jit Kee Chin, chief data and innovation officer at Suffolk Construction. In an interview, Chin offers further pointers and shares Suffolk’s experience in overcoming difficulties in tech adoption. Full Story: Construction Dive  

26 US laws waived to build Texas border wall

Plans for a border wall in Starr County, Texas, are proceeding with the Biden administration’s waiver of 26 federal laws. The action eliminates the need for lengthy reviews and avoids lawsuits to address “an acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers and roads … to prevent unlawful entries into the United States in the project areas,” says Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Full Story: The Associated Press

OSHA cracks down on exposure to silica dust

Employers are facing an enforcement effort to protect workers from lung-endangering exposure to silica dust under an OSHA initiative. The agency is sending fact sheets to relevant employers with advice on controlling silica dust, providing information such as pointers on safer work practices for manufacturing, finishing and installation. Full Story: For Construction Pros

Data center construction at record high in N. America

A record amount of data center construction is underway in North America, driven largely by interest in AI, according to a CBRE report. Supply has risen 19.2% during the past year, despite power concerns, with Northern Virginia and the area of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, the most active regions. Full Story: Building Design+Construction

Low-carbon concrete required for all construction in N.Y.

New York will require all concrete used in state-funded construction or transportation projects to meet low-carbon standards in a move advocates say is an opportunity for the state to lead the country as it moves toward a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Beginning in 2025, concrete producers have to provide data for their materials’ lifetime impact on the environment in guidelines for greenhouse gas emission limits that are a first in the nation, the governor’s office said. Full Story: Bloomberg Law  Finger Lakes Daily News (N.Y.)

USACE offers $7.5B in lending for dam safety projects

Dam safety projects stand to benefit from a $7.5 billion loan program announced by the Army Corps of Engineers. The low-cost lending is available for projects topping $20 million to cover as much as 49% of the cost or as much as 80% in disadvantaged communities. Full Story: The Construction Broadsheet

Chula Vista, Calif., mandates project labor accords

The Chula Vista, Calif., City Council has decided to mandate project labor agreements for projects of at least $1 million on city property and for affordable housing developments that get at least $5 million in city funding. The City Council has also agreed to continue talks with the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council to standardize project labor agreements for major developments. Full Story: The San Diego Union-Tribune (tiered subscription model)

$298.3M project begins for I-605 in Calif.

Construction on the first of three segments of the $298.3 million Super 605 Freeway Enhancement Project has begun in California. The work brings extensive upgrades to Interstate 605 between Long Beach and the San Gabriel Valley, with pavement improvement expected to last 40 years. Full Story: Los Angeles Daily News 

Cost rises to $12.2B for 6.1-mile BART extension

The estimated cost of a plan by California’s Bay Area Rapid Transit to extend 6.1 miles to downtown San Jose has risen to $12.2 billion from $9.3 billion. Additionally, the estimated date of completion has changed to 2036, three years later than previously predicted, according to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, overseer of the project. Full Story: San Francisco Chronicle (tiered subscription model)  

First phase of UC San Diego Health project hits midpoint

Construction that began in late 2021 has reached the halfway mark in the first phase of UC San Diego Health’s nearly $3 billion Hillcrest campus expansion. DPR Construction manages the phase, which includes a 250,000-square-foot outpatient center and a nine-story parking structure. Full Story: KFMB-TV (San Diego)