SBE News

Capitol Update 2/09/2024

Latest jobs report shows strong economic growth

The U.S. economy added 353,000 jobs in January, making 14.8 million jobs since President Biden took office. With the unemployment rate at 3.7%, this continues the longest stretch of the jobless rate staying below 4% in more than 50 years.  Watch: Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su on the economy    Watch: Chief Economist SJ Glynn on the jobs report

Construction jobs rise by 11,000 in Jan.

Construction employment has continued its uptrend for a tenth consecutive month, with 11,000 new jobs in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Architectural, engineering and related services, which are classified separately from the broader construction sector, also saw a rise in January with 9,000 new hires. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)

Construction jobs up in Jan., but more workers needed

The construction industry defied severe weather and added 11,000 jobs in January, reaching 8.137 million workers, according to the Associated General Contractors of America’s analysis of government figures. The industry is becoming increasingly attractive as companies raise wages, but AGC officials are still concerned about the ongoing shortage of qualified labor resulting from a lack of construction education and training programs. Full Story: REJournals

Why do young people in the trades leave the industry?

Even when young people enter the trades they may end up leaving for a variety of reasons, writes Fulton Cure, a quality control manager at Jordan Foster Construction in Dallas. Cure narrows most of those reasons to three factors — impatience with training, the physically tiring nature of the work and difficult managers — and makes some recommendations. Full Story: Construction Dive

Powell: Fed expects 3 rate cuts but unlikely from March

The Federal Reserve plans to make three quarter-point rate cuts in 2024, Chair Jerome Powell said on CBS’ “60 Minutes”. Markets have been anticipating six rate cuts beginning in March, but Powell has reiterated that the Fed needs more time to make sure inflation is down. “[T]he prudent thing to do is to, is to just give it some time and see that the data continue to confirm that inflation is moving down to 2% in a sustainable way,” Powell noted. Full Story: The Wall Street Journal   CBS News   Bloomberg    Financial Times  

Kashkari: US on track to hit inflation target

The US is on track to get back to its 2% inflation target but is “not all the way there yet,” Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari said. Three- and six-month inflation measures are basically at 2%, Kashkari said. Full Story: Bloomberg  

DHS tightens H-1B selection process

The Department of Homeland Security will select H-1B registrations according to the unique beneficiaries rather than by registrations in a bid to curb fraud under new rules to take effect in March. The selection change addresses complaints that some employers were unfairly submitting multiple applications for single applicants. Full Story: Construction Dive  

Labor Dept. seminars to review federal wage rules

The Labor Department plans to hold seminars February, May and August to explain to federal contractors the new rules on prevailing wages and other laws as they pertain to infrastructure projects. The sessions come after the department’s recent moves to enforce such provisions under the Davis-Bacon Act and other statutes. Full Story: Bloomberg Law

Roller compacted concrete gains popularity

Asphalt remains the primary choice for most paving applications, but rolled compacted concrete is increasingly considered a viable alternative known for its versatility. Brandon Noel explores the potential benefits or RCC in certain applications, including in large industrial projects or slow-moving traffic areas, and details its properties and how to get started with RCC. Full Story: For Construction Pros  

EPA ramps up enforcement on rules to phase out HFCs

The Environmental Protection Agency in October finalized one rule and proposed another to curb hydrofluorocarbons in the US and has begun using fines and other actions to hold accountable companies that illegally import the materials. Companies are permitted to use a specific amount of HFCs under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020, but must comply with reporting requirements and can secure a higher allowance only under certain conditions. Full Story: Chemical & Engineering News (tiered subscription model)

AI construction startup wins Series A funding

The startup say it will use $7 million in new Series A funding to advance its technology leveraging artificial intelligence to sharpen bidding for landscaping and construction services. The workflow technology automates site measurements using Automeasure and allows manual uploads of blueprints to calculate material quantities while also providing for the addition of geo-tagged notes.

Full Story: TechCrunch (tiered subscription model)  

AI shows potential to guide heavy equipment

A truck-mounted crane guided by data transmitted by an aerial drone managed to correctly place a large concrete block for building a wall. The demonstration in British Columbia illustrated the potential for transforming heavy construction equipment into smart machinery with the application of artificial intelligence. Full Story: Daily Commercial News (Ontario)

Contractor sees benefits of digital whiteboard scheduler

California Engineering Contractors’ choice of Planera’s digital whiteboard software for collaborative scheduling has slashed the time needed to build schedules, says Wahid Tadros, president of the Pleasanton, Calif.-based heavy construction company. “Due to the ease of use of the platform and its native collaboration features, Planera allows everyone to participate in the planning and pursuit phase of a project, including the estimators and project managers,” Tadros says. “We don’t need to rely on our dedicated scheduling team to operate the legacy scheduling software.” Full Story: Construction Dive  

US pipeline development plans face major roadblocks

Plans to build pipelines for carbon dioxide and hydrogen transport in the US as part of climate change mitigation efforts are facing growing opposition from landowners and farmers alarmed by the track record of property damage and regulatory lapses associated with past pipeline projects. Despite government support for cleaner energy infrastructure, concerns persist over environmental impacts, eminent domain use and the equitable distribution of benefits among affected rural communities. Full Story: St. Louis Public Radio  

DOE issues RFP for projects to add grid capacity

The Department of Energy has issued a request for proposals for the second round of its Transmission Facilitation Program, which was created to build interregional transmission lines that could help the country meet its goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035. The RFP allows DOE to buy up to half of the maximum capacity of a transmission line through capacity contracts for to late-stage and “shovel ready” projects. DOE hopes this approach will curtail risk of under-building. Full Story: Power Technology  

High-speed rail finally becoming a reality in Calif.

Major construction is underway in California’s San Joaquin Valley on the state’s long-disputed and delayed high-speed rail project. Melissa Gomez examines progress along the 171-mile route between Merced and Bakersfield, which so far has created more than 12,000 jobs on the way to bullet-train testing expected to begin in four years and full operation as soon as 2030. Full Story: Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model)