SBE News

Capitol Update 11/07/2022

Fed lifts interest rates by another 75 basis points

The Federal Reserve announced another 75-basis-point interest-rate hike Wednesday, noting that it remains “strongly committed to returning inflation to its 2% objective.” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said policymakers would consider a smaller rate increase at the central bank’s December meeting but signaled the potential for high rates to remain in place longer than previously expected. “The question of when to moderate the pace of increases is now much less important than the question of how high to raise rates and how long to keep monetary policy restrictive,” Powell said. Full Story: The Wall Street Journal  The Associated Press  The Hill  NBC News

Yellen: GDP growth shows economy is sustainable

The 2.6% GDP expansion in the third quarter demonstrates that the US economy remains resilient despite global headwinds, said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. “We see here an economy that shifted from very rapid growth to now sustainable growth with the economy operating at its potential,” Yellen said. Full Story: BNN Bloomberg (Canada)  The Wall Street Journal 

4 major California employment law changes for 2023

California employers will see a number of changes affecting human resources in the new year.

Major themes include compensation and leave, but employers also will need to note legislation that adds new retaliation protections for workers, attorneys told HR Dive.

Pay transparency

SB 1162 takes effect the first of the year and requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide pay ranges when they announce, post, publish or otherwise make known an available job. Ben Ebbink, partner at Fisher & Phillips LLC, said this is the bill he’s hearing most about. “I’m fielding 15 to 20 questions a day from clients on that,” he said, because the statute is “not super extensive, and doesn’t have guidance or FAQs.” For employers with structured pay systems, “it’s going to be easier to get into compliance,” he added. But for companies that don’t have “a real set structure of steps that folks in different positions earn, there’s going to be a lot of work just figuring out where things are right now.” Mariko Yoshihara, legislative counsel and policy director of the California Employment Lawyers Association, said human resources professionals should be careful if they post jobs on aggregate sites, “making sure the pay scale is listed there” as well, she said. She also said many employers were nervous when Colorado’s pay transparency law went into effect Jan. 1, 2021, but job candidates sought out Colorado after. Recruitonomics found the labor force participate rate went up by 1.5% in Colorado compared to Utah from 2020 to 2021. 

Pay data reporting

That same law also will require that employers with 100 or more employees report to the state pay data including the total number of workers broken down by race, ethnicity and sex who fall within each pay band used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Within each job category, employers must include median hourly rate for each combination of race, ethnicity and sex.“It helped create a framework for [companies] auditing their own pay practices,” said Yoshihara. “So if for instance the hourly rate for White men is two to three times higher than Black women, they should be re-evaluating looking at their pay and promotion disparities.”


California employers will see two changes to leave requirements. AB 1949 requires that employers with five or more employees give workers up to five unpaid days of bereavement leave, available to employees who have worked at a company for at least 30 days. AB 1041 changes the California Family Rights Act, which grants workers the right to take up to 12 weeks of leave to take care of a family member. The bill extends the definition of who is considered a family member, which “breaks out of this very outdated heteronormative definition of family,” said Yoshihara. “Oftentimes your closest people in your care network are not necessarily your mom or dad. Maybe you don’t have children, so it reflects the reality of our care networks now.” An employer is allowed to limit an employee to one designated person per year. There isn’t any guidance on how to determine if the designation is appropriate, and Ebbink counsels clients not to. “I don’t think you as an HR person or employer have much ability to dispute who they’ve designated,” he said. “How you define that individual is on a case-by-case basis.”    

Retaliation in emergency conditions

SB 1044 prevents employers from retaliating against workers who refuse to report to or leave a workplace or worksite because an employee has a “reasonable belief” that their jobsite is unsafe, or who are under an order to evacuate a workplace, worksite, worker’s home or the school of a worker’s child. It covers natural disasters and something like an active shooter situation, said Ebbink, but not a health pandemic, so employees can’t use the law to say they’re not coming to work because they feel a company’s COVID-19 protocols are unsafe.  The law also makes it unlawful for an employer to stop employees from using their cellphones to seek emergency help or communicate with someone to make sure they’re OK in an emergency situation. This may drive employers to revisit any “no cellphone” policies they might have or are thinking of implementing.

Investment in structures tumbles in Q3

Investment in nonresidential structures fell at an annual rate of 15.3% in the third quarter and has now contracted in 10 of the past 12 quarters, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That decline, the steepest contraction since the second quarter of 2020, follows a 2.6% annualized rate growth in the U.S. GDP in the third quarter. Investment in the residential sector tumbled 26.4%, according to the ABC. Nevertheless, contractors remain optimistic about the construction outlook, said Anirban Basu, chief economist at ABC.

Despite OSHA’s efforts, construction’s death rate hasn’t budged in 10 years

The death toll in construction hasn’t changed in the past decade, raising important questions about the effectiveness of OSHA and what it would take to save more lives, according to an analysis by Construction Dive. Workers continue to die at the same rate — 10 out of every 100,000 workers didn’t come home between 2011 and 2020 — highlighting weak enforcement, meager inspections and fines, and the opioid epidemic. Funerals totaled 1,008 in 2020, the most recent data available. And three in five workers who perished consistently died from the same causes, known as the “Fatal Four.”  Falls and electrocutions still account for the most fatalities, along with accidents called “struck-bys” and “caught-in/betweens,” which cover a wide range of dangers, such as when a vehicle, piece of machinery or material strikes or traps a worker.

The 6 states with the highest construction unemployment rates

The amount of construction workers looking for jobs across the country has dipped since last September, from 4.5% to 3.4%, according to a state-by-state analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Thursday by Associated Builders and Contractors. Based on not seasonally adjusted data, 42 states had lower unemployment rates, Arkansas and Wisconsin were unchanged and six states were higher. Almost half of the states had estimated construction unemployment rates at or below 3%, according to the report. Oklahoma had the greatest yearly percentage increase in construction unemployment at 1.7% while Alaska had the largest year-over-year decline, down 4% from September 2021.

Calif. metros among most pricey for construction workers

The San Jose, Calif.; San Francisco; Los Angeles; and San Diego metropolitan areas top Construction Coverage’s list of US areas that require the greatest number of weekly hours that construction workers must put in to afford a median-priced home. The problem is compounded by inflation-adjusted wages, which have fallen since 2020, and rapidly rising mortgage rates. Full Story: Winston-Salem Journal (N.C.)  

Biden touts drive to develop infrastructure workers

More than 350 organizations across the US have agreed to contribute to the federal Infrastructure Talent Pipeline Challenge, President Joe Biden says. The goal is to generate a diverse pool of workers to help develop the nation’s infrastructure in three areas: broadband, construction and electrification. Full Story: Roads & Bridges

Construction spending picks up a bit in Sept.

Spending in the single-family category declined in September, but overall US construction spending rose unexpectedly, according to the Commerce Department. The gain of 0.2% marked a turnaround from August’s 0.6% decline, fueled by a 0.4% rise in private construction even as residential construction saw no change, with a 2.6% drop in single-family offset by a 0.3% gain in multifamily. Full Story: Reuters

Report: Costs soaring for data center projects

Average costs for data center projects have risen 15% this year from last year amid delayed deliveries of materials and labor shortages, according to a survey by professional services company Turner & Townsend. Five of the 10 costliest markets are in North America, where some clients are reported to be reconsidering locations. Full Story: Building Design + Construction (free registration)  

Study delves into the high cost of US transit projects

Researchers at New York University have compiled a massive database to help shed light on why the US is one of the world’s costliest places to build transit projects. In an interview, project leader Eric Goldwyn discusses ways to lower costs and cost factors identified so far such as politicization and the proliferation of consultants. Full Story: Governing

Payroll employment increases by 261,000 in October; unemployment rate rises to 3.7%

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 261,000 in October, and the unemployment rate rose to 3.7 percent. Notable job gains occurred in health care, professional and technical services, and manufacturing.

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Calif. officials provide update on high-speed rail

Three grade separations have been finished along 171 miles of California’s high-speed rail project currently under development, according to a fall update from the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Central Valley construction includes more than 30 active sites and so far has created nearly 9,000 construction jobs. Full Story: Railway Track & Structures

‘Unacceptable’ Injury Rate Suspends LA Purple Line Construction

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority ordered a temporary halt of work on its $2.4-billion Purple Line Section 2 subway extension project over “serious and ongoing safety concerns” that officials said contractor Tutor Perini/O&G has not adequately addressed.

The suspension will last until Nov. 7, as long as the joint venture of L.A.-based Tutor Perini Corp. and Torrington, Conn.-based O&G Industries Inc., takes action outlined by Metro in an Oct. 21 letter. Otherwise, the agency may extend the suspension and remove some contractor personnel under the terms of the contract, officials wrote.

Calif. express lanes opening on Highway 101

Express lanes have begun opening for restricted usage along California’s Highway 101, allowing transit officials the opportunity to study traffic flow along the stretch from Whipple Avenue in Redwood City to Interstate 380 in South San Francisco. Only vehicles with three or more passengers and motorcycles can currently use the lanes from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, although the lanes are open to all vehicles at other times and will open for full operation early next year. Full Story: San Mateo Daily Journal (Calif.) (tiered subscription model)

$4B entertainment district project advances in Calif.

The Anaheim, Calif., City Council has given the green light to a planned $4 billion sports and entertainment district to span 95 acres downtown. The ocV!BE project will include a 5,700-seat concert hall, and 50,000-square-foot market hall, two hotels, apartments and office space in an area that also includes a transit hub and hockey arena. Full Story: GlobeSt (free registration)