SBE News

Capitol Update 3/22/24

California’s unemployment rate is the highest in the nation. Slower job growth is to blameSACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s unemployment rate is now the highest in the country, reaching 5.3% in February following new data that revealed job growth in the nation’s most populous state was much lower last year than previously thought. California lost a staggering 2.7 million jobs at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, losses brought on by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order, which forced many businesses to close. The state has added more than 3 million jobs since then, a remarkable streak that averaged just over 66,000 new jobs per month, according to the state Employment Development Department. But a recent analysis of unemployment data by the federal government revealed that job growth slowed significantly last year. The federal government releases job numbers each month that state officials use to measure the health of the economy. Each year, the federal government analyzes these numbers to see if they match payroll records. Normally, the revisions are small and don’t impact the overall view of the economy. February jobless rates up in 3 states, down in 3; payroll jobs up in 4 statesIn February, unemployment rates were higher in 3 states, lower in 3 states, and stable in 44 states and the District of Columbia. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 4 states and was essentially unchanged in 46 states and the District.HTML | PDF | RSS | Charts CPI for all items rose 0.4% in February; gasoline and shelter upIn February, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 0.4 percent, seasonally adjusted, and rose 3.2 percent over the last 12 months, not seasonally adjusted. The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.4 percent in February (SA); up 3.8 percent over the year (NSA).HTML | PDF | RSS | Charts | Local and Regional CPI January jobless rates up in 4 states, down in 2; payroll jobs up in 8 statesIn January, unemployment rates were higher in 4 states, lower in 2 states, and stable in 44 states and the District of Columbia. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 8 states and was essentially unchanged in 42 states and the District.HTML | PDF | RSS | Charts Inflation, economic factors could affect Fed’s timingThe Federal Open Market Committee finishes a two-day meeting today, and investors are watching for signals about the course of interest-rate policy. Inflation readings continue to come in above the Federal Reserve’s target, but officials also have to consider whether waiting too long to cut rates adversely affects the economy. Full Story: Barron’s (tiered subscription model)   The Wall Street Journal  The New York Times   CBS News   Fed expected to stick with 3 rate cuts in 2024Inflation has picked up in the US recently, but economists don’t think this will change the Federal Reserve’s forecast of three rate cuts this year. Economists expect the Fed will hold rates next week before cutting them for the first time in June, while a majority of economists surveyed by Bloomberg said they expect three or more cuts in 2024, with over a third expecting two or fewer. Full Story: Bloomberg Architecture billings improve in Feb.The monthly Architecture Billings Index rose near the break-even mark of 49.5 last month, hinting that the months-long slowdown may be ending. Cooling inflation and an expectation of lower interest rates were factors raising the index from 46.2 in January, according to AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, who also noted a stronger index for new project inquiries at 56.0.Full Story: The Architect’s Newspaper Feb. construction starts down 8%US construction starts fell 8% in February, leaving starts for the latest 12 months with a 2% gain from a year before, according to Dodge Construction Network. The seasonally adjusted annualized rate of $1.07 trillion in February included a 16% decline in the nonresidential building category and a 2% decline in residential while nonbuilding was down 3%.Full Story: Dodge Data & Analytics Housing market faces changing dynamicsHousing prices remain significantly higher than they were before the pandemic, but recent developments could change the trajectory of the market. Economists expect cost increases to be moderate over the next year, but macro trends are still fueling demand. Interest-rate cuts, changing broker practices, new policies and a continued supply and demand imbalance are set to influence the market this year. Full Story: The New York Times Where does NIST’s Surfside investigation stand?The National Institute of Standards and Technology expects to disseminate a draft report in May of 2025 on the 2021 partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla. Evan Milberg examines NIST’s testing and modeling and what it has learned so far in its investigation as it takes the time needed to produce a report that could have major and lasting implications nationwide. Full Story: SmartBrief/Infrastructure OSHA fall-prevention event coming in MayOSHA is rolling out new tools and other resources to help companies as they prepare for May’s annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. The Stand-Down addresses a stubborn but preventable problem that in 2022 accounted for 395 of 1,069 construction deaths. Full Story: Construction Briefing   Last form of asbestos still used in US is now bannedThe use of chrysotile asbestos, the only type of asbestos still used in the US, has been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency. The ban will take affect for most asbestos-containing sheet gaskets in two years, and facilities who use asbestos to produce chlorine and sodium hydroxide will have five years to find an alternative material. Full Story: CNN   $1B in upgrades planned for land ports of entryThe General Services Administration will spend $850 million on low-carbon materials and $60 million on technologies to improve 38 federal land ports of entry. Work will feature water systems, electric power conversions and low-carbon concrete. Full Story: Construction Dive JLL: Demand for green buildings expected to growWith more companies working to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, demand for green buildings is expected to intensify in the next couple years, according to JLL. “For real estate tenants, this growing need to show progress against carbon commitments will lead to price friction and a race for low carbon buildings,” says JLL’s Guy Grainger. Full Story: Reuters Insurance costs evening out, but pressures remainNatural catastrophes last year, along with persistent concerns over inflation and interest rates, will continue to put pressure on construction project insurance costs that are beginning to stabilize, according to a first-quarter report by Willis Towers Watson. The report notes total economic losses last year came to $350 billion and “as a result, underwriting scrutiny, increases in pricing and limited capacity in Nat CAT-exposed areas, with special attention on secondary perils such as convective storms, wildfires, droughts and floods, will continue.” Full Story: Risk & Insurance   Calif. high-speed rail project surpasses 13,000 jobsCalifornia’s north-south bullet-train project has created more than 13,000 construction jobs over the nine years since work began, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority. More than 10,000 of those jobs have come in the past five years, with about 1,400 workers on site each day, the majority coming from disadvantaged communities. Full Story: Railway Track & Structures Electric compactor gets a tryout in L.A.Skanska is giving a German-made electric compaction roller a tryout on a transit project in Los Angeles. The pre-production HAMM HD 12e VV roller made by Wirtgen Group is at work compacting subgrade and crushed aggregates at a metro station, with Skanska assessing the zero-emission machine for sustainability, performance and operator preference. Full Story: Construction Dive 400-foot-tall Calif. bridge build passes halfway pointConstruction that began in 2022 has reached the halfway point on the $93 million Mosquito Bridge project in Eldorado County, Calif. The new span over the canyon of the South Fork of the American River will extend 1,180 feet at a height of 400 feet supported by two 200-foot-tall concrete piers. Full Story: KTXL-TV (Sacramento, Calif.)  Work to begin on $130M Port of L.A. projectSkanska is starting work this month on a $130 million project to redesign a major interchange at the Port of Los Angeles. The project, which is expected to last through 2026, includes modifications to an interchange that incorporates State Route 47, the Vincent Thomas Bridge, Front Street and Harbour Boulevard, along with new curbs and storm drain improvements at Front Street and Harbour Boulevard. Full Story: Port Technology (UK) (tiered subscription model)