SBE News

Capitol Update 11/6/2023

US economic growth rate hits 2-year high in Q3

The US economy expanded at an annualized rate of 4.9% in the third quarter, the sharpest pace of acceleration since Q3 of 2021, according to the Commerce Department. Continued high levels of consumer spending are a key driver of the growth. Full Story: Reuters  BBC  The Associated Press

World Bank: War could ignite oil prices

Oil prices could increase 75% if the Israel-Hamas war spreads, the World Bank predicts. Prices could climb as high as $157 a barrel, according to the bank’s Commodity Markets Outlook report, which notes prices have increased 6% since the war began. Full Story: Construction Dive  

Construction spending extends gains in Sept.

Construction spending increased 0.4% in September compared with August, which had an upwardly revised 1% increase, according to the Commerce Department. September’s increase was in line with expectations, as an investment surge in factories began to slow, leaving spending up 8.7% year over year. Full Story: Reuters

Compensation costs up 1.1% Jun 2023 to Sep 2023 and up 4.3% over the year ending Sep 2023

Compensation costs increased 1.1 percent for civilian workers, seasonally adjusted, from June 2023 to September 2023. Over the year, total compensation rose 4.3 percent, wages and salaries rose 4.6 percent, and benefit costs rose 4.1 percent.

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Payroll employment rises by 150,000 in October; unemployment rate changes little at 3.9%

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 150,000 in October, and the unemployment rate changed little at 3.9 percent. Job gains occurred in health care, government, and social assistance. Employment declined in manufacturing due to strike activity.

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US to encourage office-to-residential conversions

The Biden administration seeks to address affordable housing shortages and empty office space with a multi-agency initiative. To encourage office conversions to apartments, the plan allocates more than $35 billion lending assistance from two Department of Transportation programs. Full Story: The Associated Press

Report notes progress in worker safety, health

Progress is being made but more is needed in the field of construction worker safety and health, according to a report by Dodge Construction Network and CPWR, a nonprofit focusing on occupational health issues in construction. The report explores issues of heat, mental health and preconstruction planning as well as contractors’ effective implementation of health and safety practices. Full Story: Dodge Data & Analytics

Latest tech not always applicable to construction

Many “killer apps” have come along for construction, but not all have panned out, according to a discussion during an architecture, engineering and construction podcast by Aarni Heiskanen. Experts offered observations, including Damon Hernandez, co-founder of Mixx Reality, who concluded that tech adoption should be motivated by purpose and value and not a focus on the tech ingredient itself. Full Story: Daily Commercial News (Ontario)

Exploring a way forward for autonomous equipment

Achieving autonomy in construction equipment is “a wide river to ford,” but progress is being made, especially with simpler tasks such as trenching and building wind turbine foundations, says Peter Bleday, head of autonomous vehicles for Danfoss Power Solutions. Danfoss is optimistic and is investing heavily in the field, Bleday says, as it confronts the challenge of knowing how quickly to proceed with research and design while “focusing on how we create value for our [original equipment manufacturer] customers.” Full Story: Construction Europe

Definition of “joint employer” expanded

Construction unions hail a final rule from the National Labor Relations Board that widens the definition of a “joint employer” under the National Labor Relations Act, but construction groups say the rule is unrealistic. “A contractor should be able to use and direct subcontractors without taking on joint-employer status provided that the contractor does not directly and excessively control essential terms and conditions of employment of the subcontractors’ employees and unless its participation in collective bargaining is essential to meaningful bargaining,” says Denise Gold, general counsel for the Associated General Contractors of America. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)

Stephen E. Sandherr retires as CEO of AGC of America

Stephen E. Sandherr will be stepping down in spring as CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America to be succeeded by Jeffrey D. Shoaf, the current chief operating officer, the organization announced. Sandherr has been CEO since 1996, and Shoaf says his new office will be a great honor and “heady responsibility,” citing Sandherr’s record enhancing “AGC’s stature within the construction industry and with key decision makers for more than 30 years.” Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)

Climate law projected to add 300K-plus construction jobs

More than 300,000 construction jobs are expected to be created as a result of major clean energy projects announced during the first year of the Inflation Reduction Act, according to an analysis from BW Research Partnership. The analysis has examined 210 projects announced in 38 states and has concluded they would add $156 billion to GDP during construction. Full Story: Solar Power World  

MARAD invests $653M for port projects nationwide

The Maritime Administration has invested more than $653 million for 41 port improvement projects across the nation under the Port Infrastructure Development Program. Notable contributions include $54.2 million for the Port of Tacoma’s $125.9 million terminal expansion and $52.6 million toward a $279.4 million upgrade at the Port of Long Beach. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)

FEMA targets $211M for dam safety projects

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has committed more than $211 million to go toward dam safety projects across the country. The funding comes under nearly $6.8 billion provided under the federal infrastructure law for resilience projects to brace communities against future disasters. Full Story: Department of Homeland Security  

New California Law Makes Non-Compete Agreements Unlawful, Not Just Void

Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1076 on October 13, 2023, which adds new Business & Professions Code §16600.1, making it unlawful to impose non-compete clauses on employees – which contractual restrictions already are void under Business & Professions Code §16600. AB 1076 codifies existing case law in Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP (2008) 44 Cal.4th 937, regarding the prohibition on noncompete agreements being broadly construed to void such agreements and clauses in the employment context when they do not meet specific exemptions. Story

San Diego adds funding for dozens of transit projects

San Diego amended its fiscal 2024 budget to add $643 million over five years in a mix of funding sources to advance more than 30 transit projects. The San Diego Association of Governments Board of Directors voted to approve the additional funds, which would address longstanding complaints of a lack of public transport to San Diego International Airport, while also contributing to the city’s existing $30.5 billion Central Mobility Hub plan. Full Story: KSWB-TV (San Diego)

First of 4 Klamath River dams removed in Calif.

Removal is complete of the first dam in a four-dam project along the Klamath River in California, with removal of the remaining three, larger dams scheduled for next year. “This work prepares the river canyon for consistent river flows, likely commencing within 30 days, which the canyon hasn’t seen in 98 years,” Klamath River Renewal Corporation CEO Mark Bransom said. Full Story: KDRV-TV (Medford, Ore.)

Progress highlighted on $2B Intuit Dome

The $2 billion Intuit Dome in Inglewood, Calif., is taking shape with the labor of 1,200 union workers, including three apprentices, the Building Trades noted in an update on the Los Angeles Clippers’ new home last week. “One day you walk through the building and you’re like, ‘Oh wow, we did all this. We did all this together, and it looks amazing’ and you’re proud of it,” said Monserrat Roldan, an apprentice iron worker for Schuff Steel. Full Story: KABC-TV (Los Angeles)

3 higher dams proposed to boost Calif. water storage

Two proposals and an approved plan to raise existing dams could boost water storage by 304,000 acre feet in California’s Central Valley. Plans to raise the B.F. Sisk Dam forming the San Luis Reservoir in Merced County are approved and would add 130,000 acre feet of water Full Story: Merced Sun-Star (Calif.)