SBE News

Capitol Update 4/7/2023

Payroll employment rises by 236,000 in March; unemployment rate changes little at 3.5%

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 236,000 in March, and the unemployment rate changed little at 3.5 percent. Employment continued to trend up in leisure and hospitality, government, professional and business services, and health care.

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Interior Dept. allots $585M for Western water projects

Eleven Western states stand to benefit from $585 million from the Interior Department for 83 water projects aimed at drought resilience. The funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law go toward treating water for tribes, boosting canal capacity and maintaining aging buildings. Full Story: The Hill (4/5),  KVOA-TV (Tucson, Ariz.)

AGC: Construction jobs up in Feb. across 45 states

Texas led with a year-over-year gain of 37,900 as construction jobs increased in 45 states in February, according to an Associated General Contractors of America analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. New York followed with a 20,400 addition, and Florida was close behind with a 19,700 gain. West Virginia saw a 2,200 decline, the worst performer among the five states and Washington, D.C., losing construction jobs. Full Story: The Construction Broadsheet

AGC: Demand from manufacturing shines in Feb.

Manufacturing was a bright spot for construction spending in February, with a 2.7% increase, as overall expenditures declined 0.1%, according to a report from the Associated General Contractors of America. Single-family and public construction spending decreased, highway and street construction spending rose 0.3% and education construction spending dropped 0.9%. Full Story: Construction Dive

Multifamily construction sees modest improvement in Q1

Construction delays have become less common, price increases have moderated and the labor market has improved for multifamily projects, according to a first-quarter survey by the National Multifamily Housing Council. However, “supply chain constraints, still-high labor and material costs, and complex and expensive regulatory barriers continue to restrict the development of badly needed housing,” President Sharon Wilson Geno says. Full Story: Multifamily Dive

Firms have yet to see impact of higher interest rates

Most firms’ interest-rate burden remains low after a prolonged period of low rates, but that burden is likely to grow during the next year, given how much rates have risen. Nonfinancial corporations paid 3.6% interest as a share of outstanding debt in 2021, the lowest rate since the mid-20th century and nearly four times less than the 13.3% paid in 1990, according to Federal Reserve data. More than $500 billion in nonfinancial corporate debt matures this year, according to S&P Global Ratings, followed by more than $700 billion next year and more than $800 billion in each of 2025 and 2026. Full Story: The Wall Street Journal  

California Seeks to Ban Criminal Background Checks for Most Private Sector Employers

Existing California law regulates inquiries into and using criminal history information in hiring and personnel decisions. Existing California law also substantially impedes the ability of employers (and background check companies) to obtain such information from public records.  On February 17, 2023, two state senators introduced Senate Bill 809 (SB 809) to replace one of California’s primary laws with the “Fair Chance Act of 2023.”1 SB 809 is currently pending review by the Senate Judiciary Committee and contains eight sections, the primary ones summarized below. Because the bill seeks outright to ban criminal background checks by most private sector employers, employers should monitor the progress of this bill in Sacramento. Story

Coalition pressures Congress for permitting reform

A large group of industry organizations has urged Congress to act on energy permitting reform before summer’s end. The group emphasizes in a letter that the existing permitting process hinders infrastructure development and appeals for change to increase transparency, efficiency, predictability and stakeholder participation, without endorsing specific legislation. Full Story: The Hill

EPA allocates $775.8M for wastewater infrastructure

The Environmental Protection Agency has made $775.8 million available for work on wastewater treatment facilities. The money comes from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund under the fiscal 2023 omnibus spending measure. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)

Materials Cost Index up 18.6% year over year in 2022

Engineering News-Record’s Materials Cost Index registered an 18.6% year-over-year increase at the end of 2022, reflecting the effect of the housing market on the nonresidential sector. The Building Cost Index rose 9.4% year over year, and the Construction Cost Index climbed 5.6% year over year. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)  

USACE pressed to accelerate Calif. levee repair

Congressional members from California want the US Army Corps of Engineers to step up distribution of $149 million and provide further funds for rehabilitation and repair of the Pajaro River levee. They also want use of innovative delivery, such as design-build, for the levee, which had been due for rehabilitation but was breached before work could begin. Full Story: KSBW-TV (Salinas, Calif.)  

Senate clears bill to block expanded WOTUS purview

The Senate has approved a bill to block an expanded definition of waters of the US under the Clean Water Rule. The measure is co-sponsored by Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who says the Biden administration “is doing everything in its power to impose more red tape and more costs on our businesses, farmers, builders and communities.”

Full Story: E&E News  The Kansas City Star (Mo.) (tiered subscription model)

Regulation blamed for dearth of affordable apartments

The luxury segment accounts for a large proportion of a boom in apartment building, which reached a 50-year high last year, according to Yardi Matrix. However, the growth fails to address an affordability issue, and builders say they’re constrained by regulation, including zoning codes that limit land availability. Full Story: CNBC

US steps up drive for offshore wind power

To meet ambitious goals for anchored and floating turbines set for 2030 and 2035, the Energy Department is looking to resolve offshore wind power development issues. Efforts include financing of projects and technology demonstrations in cooperation with industry, says Jocelyn Brown-Saracino, the department’s offshore wind energy lead. Full Story: The Associated Press

4 Calif. contracts go to Flatiron

Various authorities in California have awarded Flatiron Construction four projects worth a combined $704 million. The projects involves safety improvements on the Interstate 80 and US 50 corridor in Yolo County, the second phase of the Interstate 15 French Valley Parkway project, water treatment maintenance for the East Bay Municipal Utility District and preconstruction work for a middle-mile broadband network for the California Department of Transportation. Full Story: Construction Dive

Kaiser to add tower at hospital in Roseville, Calif.

Kaiser Permanente plans to construct an inpatient bed tower at Roseville Medical Center in California. The $300 million project spans 278,000 square feet and adds 138 hospital beds. Full Story: KXTV-TV (Sacramento, Calif.)

Construction begins on San Jose, Calif., health center

Construction is underway on a behavioral health facility for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif. Webcor, SBay Construction and Thompson Builders are serving as general contractor/construction manager for the 207,000-square-foot project, which is expected to open in 2025. Full Story: Building Design + Construction (free registration)

Skanska USA picked for $120M Calif. road project

Skanska USA has won $120 million in work to improve the interchange at state routes 71 and 91 in Riverside County, Calif. Construction includes replacing a single-lane connector with a two-lane one, adding an auxiliary lane and realigning an on-ramp for state Route 91. Full Story: Construction Dive

Largest bridge replacement in San Diego history complete

Local and federal officials gathered Tuesday in San Diego to mark the end of the biggest bridge replacement in city history, the four-lane West Mission Bay Drive Bridge. The $148 million project, which had obtained $80 million from the bipartisan infrastructure law, has three lanes in each direction and has segregated facilities for bicyclists and walkers. Full Story: Times of San Diego/City News Service