Capitol Update 2.5.24
Payroll employment rises by 353,000 in January; unemployment rate remains at 3.7%
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 353,000 in January, and the unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent. Job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, retail trade, and social assistance. Employment declined in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction.
Compensation costs increased 0.9 percent for civilian workers, seasonally adjusted, from September 2023 to December 2023. Over the year, total compensation rose 4.2 percent, wages and salaries rose 4.3 percent, and benefit costs rose 3.8 percent.
US GDP grew at an annual rate of 3.3% in the fourth quarter, down from 4.9% in Q3, and data suggests the economy will continue to grow. Consumer spending accelerated 2.8%, and capital spending also increased. The job market is strong and inflation is cooling, which is likely to bolster consumer spending for the next few months, and sentiment is improving, meaning the outlook for the economy remains positive despite fears of a recession. Full Story: The New York Times The Wall Street Journal The Washington Post
The US Federal Reserve opted to leave its benchmark federal-funds rate unchanged at the conclusion of its meeting, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell suggested that cuts might not be coming at the next meeting. “Based on the meeting today, I would tell you that I don’t think it’s likely that the committee will reach a level of confidence by the time of the March meeting,” Powell said. Markets fell in response to the news, with the S&P 500, Nasdaq Composite and Dow Jones Industrial Average all down for the day. Full Story: CNBC Bloomberg The Wall Street Journal Yahoo
Numbers suggest the manufacturing construction boom is easing, but major contractors say they’re still optimistic about the sector’s outlook. “Manufacturing construction in 2024 should surpass 2023. Contractors have a healthy backlog from previous years and there is a lot of Inflation Reduction Act, CHIPS Act and similar dollars being spent right now,” says Brent Strength, manufacturing market leader at JE Dunn. Full Story: Construction Dive
More workers are retiring and leaving the construction industry than are joining the trades, posing a severe skilled labor shortage just as the nation needs 7 million more homes. Robbie Sequeira examines the extent of the problem and possible solutions at a time when “the biggest challenge that the construction industry is facing, to put it tongue in cheek, is that people don’t want their babies to grow up to be construction workers,” says Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives at the Associated General Contractors of America. Full Story: Missouri Independent (Jefferson City)
Artificial intelligence has been around since the 1980s but the technology is only now entering a new era in construction comparable to the introduction of mobile phones, according to Wyatt Jenkins, chief product officer at Procore. Philip Russo looks at the current AI landscape in the industry and examples of how the technology is being put to use in combination with such advances as computer vision and robotics. Full Story: Commercial Observer
With World of Concrete in the rearview, SmartBrief dives into a handful of notable industry developments and trends, starting with a major change in the upcoming 2024 International Residential Code regarding the design and construction of post-tensioned, slab-on-ground floors. Other noteworthy trends include increased demand for transparency around EPDs, a growing acceptance of performance-based design enabled by AI, and a push for DOTs to embrace material competition to support project bottom lines. Full Story: SmartBrief/Infrastructure
Amid high interest rates, inflation and political uncertainty, investment in construction technology fell 44% to $3 billion last year from the previous year, according to a report by Cemex Ventures. Nonetheless, the number of deals was up slightly as the sector nearly doubled its share of overall venture capital investment. Full Story: Construction Dive
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it plans to compensate local and state governments that have found it necessary to install solar panels at schools and hospitals when natural disasters threaten their energy supplies. “FEMA will now cover the costs of net-zero energy projects since they are the single most effective measure FEMA can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the climate crisis,” said Administrator Deanne Criswell. Full Story: The Hill
A lighter tax burden is the goal of a federal bill introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith, R-Mo. Attorneys from Proskauer review key provisions of the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024 pertaining to individual taxpayers and businesses. Full Story: JD Supra/Proskauer – Tax Talks
More than $728 million in federal funds has been awarded to 37 intermodal freight infrastructure projects around the country. The money comes from the second round of National Infrastructure Project Assistance, which totals $5 billion over five years. Full Story: The Trucker
2024 California Contractors License Law & Reference Book Now Available
The 2024 edition of the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) California Contractors License Law & Reference Book (Law Book) is now available. CSLB introduced a streamlined law book that includes essential information for the California construction industry. The Law Book can be purchased directly from the publisher, or the online PDF version can be viewed or downloaded at no cost on the CSLB website. The Law Book can only be purchased directly from publisher LexisNexis online or by calling (877) 394-8826. The price is $54.00 plus tax, shipping, and handling. The Law Book is available as a PDF on the CSLB website and can be downloaded for free.
Bill to Require Speed Limiters in California Cars Introduced in Senate
A bill to require all cars sold or made in California after 2027 to have devices limiting their top speed to only ten miles per hour above the speed limit was introduced in the State Senate. Senate Bill 961, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would specifically require certain vehicles, commencing with the 2027 model year, to be equipped with an intelligent speed limiter that would limit the speed of the vehicle to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. The bill would exempt emergency vehicles from this requirement and authorize the Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol to disable the system on other vehicles. Story This is like federal efforts to mandate speed limiters on commercial vehicles. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s new Significant Rulemaking Report, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration plans to publish a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking in May. Previously, the agency projected to unveil the speed limiter proposal in June and December last year. The rulemaking fell apart in 2016 and was resurrected by FMCSA in 2022 when the agency issued an advance notice of supplemental proposed rulemaking. The notice suggested that commercial motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more and equipped with an electric engine control unit capable of being governed would be subject to the mandate.
Trader Joe’s “NLRB Unconstitutional”
Bloomberg reports that Trader Joe’s joined the growing collection of employers in the National Labor Relations Board’s crosshairs that have gone to federal court to argue that the 88-year-old agency is unconstitutional. “The structure and organization of the National Labor Relations Board and the agency’s administrative law judges is unconstitutional,” the company’s attorney Christopher Murphy said, according to a transcript of the proceeding that Bloomberg News obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The broadside at the Jan. 16 hearing came less than two weeks after SpaceX filed a federal suit in Texas challenging the NLRB, arguing both that its use of administrative law judges and the board’s insulation from the White House violate the constitution’s separation of powers doctrine, signaling a quickly spreading willingness to defang a main antagonist. Story
A National Labor Relations Board judge is set to hear arguments in a case that will serve as a big test of General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo’s ambitious push to curtail the use of non-compete agreements. Abruzzo issued a memo last May detailing her position that non-compete agreements violate workers’ federal labor rights when they deny employees “the ability to quit or change jobs by cutting off their access to other employment opportunities that they are qualified for based on their experience, aptitudes, and preferences as to type and location of work.” The agency has also targeted what it and some worker advocates call TRAPs—or training repayment agreement provisions—in which employers seek to recoup certain costs from employees who leave under certain conditions. “She was pretty clear where she wanted to take the board,” said Maribeth Meluch, a partner at the Ohio-based business law firm Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. “The NLRB wants employees to be able to leave if the employment terms and conditions are not agreeable.. In September, the NLRB issued a complaint along both these fronts against a national medical spa chain, Juvly Aesthetics, alleging that the company forced employees into unlawful non-compete and confidentiality requirements and demanded two employees pay $50,000 and $60,000, respectively, to recoup training costs. Critics of such repayment conditions, which have received increased attention in recent years, argue that they unfairly restrict workers’ ability to change jobs and that the costs demanded are oftentimes exorbitant relative to an employee’s pay. Attorneys for Juvly have argued in legal filings that the NLRB is exceeding its authority and denied wrongdoing. Following the hearing, the ALJ would likely rule later this year, though that decision can be appealed to the agency’s board—and from there, in federal court.
2022 Energy Code Fact Sheets Now Available
The California Energy Commission has developed new solar photovoltaic (PV), battery storage, and electric ready online fact sheets to support the 2022 Energy Code. The fact sheets are available via the Online Resource Center:
Autodesk, Kreysler & Associates, Factory_OS and MBH Architects are teaming on a plan to create affordable housing on the site of a former steel plant in West Oakland, Calif. Autodesk’s Forma conceptual cloud tool was used in the planning, which calls for 316 units using an innovative combination of prefabrication and alternative building materials that include a fiber-reinforced polymer facade incorporating mycelium insulation. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)
An airport in Burbank, Calif., is building a $1.2 billion terminal near a nearly century-old existing terminal. The new terminal, scheduled in open in October 2026, will be in compliance with an FAA safety determination with a location farther from an active runway. Full Story: KABC-TV (Los Angeles)
Construction is expected to begin as soon as late summer to rebuild California’s Pajaro River levee system, according to Mark Strudley, executive director of the Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency. Initial work will focus on Reach 6, which now has no levees, Strudley says. Full Story: Santa Cruz Sentinel (Calif.)