Capitol Update – 11/15/2021
‘Once-in-a-generation’ $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill heads to Biden’s desk
The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill Friday night by a vote of 228 to 206, marking the next to last stop before the long-awaited $1.2 trillion spending package becomes law. President Joe Biden is expected to quickly sign the legislation, which will fund a range of civil construction projects across the country. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed the Senate in August but was subsequently delayed by infighting among Democrats. Progressive and centrist members struck a deal late Friday, paving the way for the largest new investment the federal government has made in infrastructure in a generation. The IIJA includes $550 billion in new civil works spending, including funds for roads, bridges, airports and rail systems. Members of the construction industry largely applauded the bill’s passage, saying it provides much-needed resources to modernize the country’s aging and overburdened infrastructure.
Industry Pulse: The latest construction data and statistics
Construction spending remains high, and the industry added 22,000 jobs in September. Additionally, RLB’s most recent crane count signals uncertainty for future construction in major U.S. cities. This is the hub, updated twice a month, for the metrics that matter most to the commercial construction market.
Inflation presents a potential hurdle to Build Back Better
Rising consumer prices present a potential obstacle to passage of the Build Back Better plan, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., stating that inflation “is not ‘transitory’ and is instead getting worse.” The plan, along with the recently passed infrastructure bill, could add an average of 0.3 percentage points to inflation between 2022 and 2024, according to Moody’s Analytics, though the White House counters that these investments will help address inflation-causing supply chain bottlenecks.
Infrastructure bill includes money to upgrade buildings
The recently passed federal infrastructure bill includes investment in energy-efficient retrofits, weatherization assistance and guidance for municipalities to update building codes. “Accelerating innovation in low-carbon buildings through deep energy retrofits and building electrification are critical steps toward creating the clean energy economy of the future,” says Narada Golden from WSP USA.
Full Story: Fast Company (tiered subscription model) (11/9)
Should employers wait out OSHA’s vaccine mandate? ‘If you’re a gambler.’
Who pays for testing? Which legal arguments are likely to come up in court? Attorneys tackled these questions and more in the aftermath of Thursday’s announcement. In the hours after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration unveiled its emergency temporary standard requiring some employers to implement COVID-19 vaccine mandates, a key question emerged: How exactly is an agency of approximately 1,850 inspectors supposed to enforce something this sweeping? It is something employers are considering ahead of the Jan. 4 deadline — though much of what the gigantic, 490-page document requires will actually need to be put in place 30 days from the date of publication, said Alana Genderson, associate at Morgan Lewis. The 30-day deadline applies to all sections of the ETS except for paragraph (g), which requires employees who are not fully vaccinated to be tested for COVID-19. “Savvy employers are working on these policies now,” Genderson added. “These deadlines are going to hit and they are going to hit quick.”
As vaccine mandates loom, small firms offer workers a unique perk: No shots required
Despite a temporary stay to new federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates, small firms are emphasizing an enticement their bigger competitors just can’t match. Usually, the largest construction companies can offer the best perks to attract workers. But as deadlines for federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates draw closer, small firms are emphasizing an enticement their bigger competitors just can’t match: No shot? No problem. That’s what construction pros are seeing in the wake of the White House’s executive order mandating vaccines for federal contractors, and OSHA’s new emergency temporary standard, which applies to businesses with 100 employees or more.
PPI for final demand advances 0.6% in October; goods rise 1.2%; services increase 0.2%
The Producer Price Index for final demand increased 0.6 percent in October, as prices for final demand goods rose 1.2 percent and the index for final demand services moved up 0.2 percent. The final demand index rose 8.6 percent for the 12 months ended in October.
CPI for all items rises 0.9% in October as most indexes increase
In October, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers rose 0.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis; rising 6.2 percent over the last 12 months, not seasonally adjusted. The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.6 percent in October (SA); up 4.6 percent over the year (NSA).
Unemployment Insurance Claims
Initial claims eased 4.3% for the week ending November 6 in California, while rising 8.4% in the rest of the US largely due to increased claims in states with substantial vehicle manufacturing as that industry has cut production due to the current supply chain blockages. The seasonally adjusted number reported for the US dipped 1.5%, reaching a new pandemic low. While the shift in the November 6 data showed some marginal improvement in the state’s position, California still contained 22.3% of all new claims that week. Reflecting California’s lagging recovery progress, the week’s claims were 40% above the average in pre-pandemic 2019, but only 18% above in the rest of the states.
Helmets to Hardhats exec: Veterans can help combat construction labor issues
As the country celebrates Veterans Day, the organization’s new executive director discusses how former service members can help solve the industry’s worker shortage. After coming back from deployment as an enlisted soldier, Martin Helms was struggling. He had a young family, work, school and a military obligation. Then he sat in a five-minute presentation for Helmets to Hardhats and, as he tells it, his life changed. “[Joining] the organized trades was what I needed to move forward and achieve a lot of goals,” Helms said. Helms eventually graduated from the Akron Area Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (AAEJATC) becoming a journey-level electrician in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 306 and then a foreman. In 2017, Helms took on a new role as the training director of the AAEJATC. As he worked his way up through the AAEJATC, Helms’ military career also progressed. In 2013, he became a construction engineer technician in the Ohio Army National Guard, using that expertise in deployments to the Middle East and ongoing state missions. Now, Helms is bringing his training, management, military and recruitment experience back to the organization that helped give him a career direction. He is taking over as the executive director of the Helmets to Hardhats program, a nonprofit organization established in 2003. The Washington D.C.-based program is administered by the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment, and Veterans Employment. “Our mission is to recruit military veterans into the skilled trades,” Helms said. “We do this in a number of ways.”
Plans set for infrastructure bill signing ceremony
President Joe Biden plans to hold a signing ceremony on Monday for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that was passed by Congress last week. Guests at the ceremony will include “representatives of the incredibly diverse coalition that pushed for the bill across the country,” according to a White House statement. Full Story: CNN
Survey: Slow payments a costly drag for contractors
The cost burden of slow payments in the construction industry is likely to jump about 36% this year to $136 billion, as indicated in a September survey by software firm Rabbet. Eighty-six percent of general contractors surveyed said payment delays impinge on project deadlines, while 74% said they needed to pay or charge more for labor or to meet a deadline in the past 12 months. Full Story: The Construction Broadsheet
Infrastructure funds to prioritize clogged ports
Clogged US ports are taking priority as the Biden administration seeks to quickly distribute $17 billion provided in the infrastructure bill for that purpose. A change in grant allocation rules will allow Georgia’s congested Port of Savannah to speed cargo shipments, and a modernization plan and better port highway connections will be targeted with $240 million in grants in the next 45 days, according to the White House. Full Story: NBC News
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