SBE News

Capitol Update 5/20/2024

Safety Week to highlight fall prevention

Fall prevention is the theme for this year’s Construction Safety Week, with more than 70 major contractors taking part in the US and Canada. Related materials will be distributed daily, and many participating companies will join OSHA’s fall safety stand down Wednesday during which contractors are urged to pause work for a toolbox talk.

Full Story: Construction Dive

April jobless rates down in 5 states, up in 2; payroll jobs up in 6 states

In April, unemployment rates were lower in 5 states, higher in 2 states, and stable in 43 states and the District of Columbia. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 6 states and was essentially unchanged in 44 states and the District.

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Consumer price index up 3.4% in April from previous year

The consumer price index rose 3.4% in April from a year ago, Labor Department data showed. Core prices, excluding volatile food and energy items, climbed 3.6%, the lowest increase since April 2021. Both results were in line with expectations. On a monthly basis, the CPI increased 0.3% from March, slightly below the Dow Jones estimate of 0.4%.

Full Story: CNBC   The New York Times   The Wall Street Journal   Bloomberg 

Construction job count rises, albeit slower, in April

Nonresidential specialty contractors accounted for 6,600 of the 9,000 jobs the construction industry added in April. The overall number is down from the 40,000 jobs added in March, but the overall gain marked 13 straight months of rising employment, averaging 22,000 per month over the past 12.

Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)  

Offering H.O.P.E. to reduce suicide rate

H.O.P.E. Certification can be a powerful tool to bring down the tragically high suicide rate among construction workers, writes Adrienne Selko. “The benefit of this process can be compared to what LEED Certification does for promoting environmental health,” with its 12-month program of quarterly training and coaching based on proven practices to foster psychological health and safety.

Full Story: EHS Today  

Rising profits show economy not in downturn

Job growth may have slowed in April, but corporate profits are increasing, meaning an economic downturn is not necessarily impending. Most companies’ first-quarter results show profit growth is on the rise, indicating the economy remains resilient, despite lingering concerns about a potential recession.

Full Story: The Wall Street Journal 

CPI for all items rises 0.3% in April; shelter and gasoline up

In April, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 0.3 percent, seasonally adjusted, and rose 3.4 percent over the last 12 months, not seasonally adjusted. The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.3 percent in April (SA); up 3.6 percent over the year (NSA).

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PPI for final demand rises 0.5% in April; services increase 0.6%, goods advance 0.4%

The Producer Price Index for final demand rose 0.5 percent in April. Prices for final demand services increased 0.6 percent, and the index for final demand goods moved up 0.4 percent. The index for final demand advanced 2.2 percent for the 12 months ended in April.

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Calif. rushes $3.3B to homelessness project

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is freeing up $3.3 billion early to address the state’s homelessness crisis. The funding will go to counties and private developers for construction of behavioral health treatment centers as part of an overall $6.4 billion plan to build 4,350 housing units with a further mandate for counties to direct two-thirds of revenue from a tax on millionaires to housing and related programs.

Full Story: The Associated Press

Jacobs expects IIJA, CHIPS Act to fuel growth

During Jacobs’ second-quarter earnings call, CEO Bob Pragada provided an optimistic outlook on demand for construction in the transportation, water and energy sectors, partially due to investment enabled by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Pragada also says money from the CHIPS Act “has now been delivered” to many promising semiconductor manufacturing projects.

Full Story: Construction Dive

“Outsized demand” for data fuels construction momentum

The Dodge Momentum Index rose 6.1% in April to 173.9, surpassing the revised March reading of 164.0. “Outsized demand to build Cloud and AI infrastructure is supporting above-average activity in the sector,” said commented Sarah Martin, associated director of forecasting at Dodge Construction Network. “Most other categories, however, faced slower growth over the month. Across these industries, it’s likely that owners and developers are grappling with uncertainty around interest rates and lending standards.”

Full Story: Dodge Data & Analytics

OSHA panel calls for national heat stress rule

The prospect of a new national standard for heat stress on work sites is advancing with a unanimous recommendation by the OSHA Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health. The panel calls on the Labor Department to publish a rule, informed by public and stakeholder input solicited by OSHA.

Full Story: Construction Dive  

Construction industry shifts focus in interest rate hopes

In a persistent high interest rate environment, the construction industry is no longer focusing on when rates may come down but rather on hopes the Federal Reserve won’t raise rates further. In that scenario, observers say, a steady situation could be considered a positive that sustains the recent rebound in business.

Full Story: Construction Dive  

ConstructConnect index indicates lower project stress

The number of abandoned construction projects nationwide fell 6.7% over the past month, but paused projects rose 10.1%, according to ConstructConnect’s Project Stress Index. Delayed bid activity was down 0.4%, and in combination with the other numbers, this left the overall index up 0.2%, an encouraging result as “we traded a more severe form of stress for a lesser form of stress,” says Michael Guckes, ConstructConnect senior economist.

Full Story: Construction Dive

ASCE: Infrastructure funding must continue post 2026

If after 2026, infrastructure funding returns to levels like those prior to passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, it will cost the US $637 billion, according to a report by the American Society of Civil Engineers. “Federal action has made substantial progress in stopping the growth of our needs, but this is just the beginning,” said ASCE President Marsia Geldert-Murphey.

Full Story: American Society of Civil Engineers

Why mixed-use developments are still so popular

Developers facing a challenging environment are undeterred when it comes to mixed-use projects, with their variety of uses providing a kind of hedge to attract investors, observers say. These projects are “having their moment,” says Matt Silvers, vice president of Texas-based Project Management Advisors, as “the inherent diversity of uses in mixed-use developments makes them attractive to investors, developers and municipalities” alike.

Full Story: Shopping Center Business

Costs to build hospitals up 20% in 4 years

Across the US, the average cost per square foot for hospital construction today has grown 20% since 2020, according to Gordian’s RSMeans Data Online Building Models. A wide assortment of factors have contributed to the rise, including shortages of skilled labor and challenges particular to hospitals including integration of new technologies and protocols for infection control that affect budgets and schedules.

Full Story: Building Design+Construction  

AI system reduces HVAC costs, emissions

An AI system integrated with HVAC controls at a Loyola University building in Chicago has cut related energy costs and carbon emissions by 10%, according to the school. The yearlong trial using the BrainBox AI system drew on WattTime’s marginal emissions data to assess the environmental effect of power usage at different hours of the day.

Full Story: Facilities Dive  

What the infrastructure law has produced so far

More than 56,000 projects nationwide have benefited from about $454 billion allocated so far under the bipartisan infrastructure law, according to an Infrastructure Week update from the Biden administration. A White House fact sheet offers some spending highlights, including 13,000 projects underway to repair bridges and 257,000 miles of roadway with $300 billion to be distributed over five years.

Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)

HUD targets $5B to 1,200 communities for housing

Twelve hundred US communities stand to benefit from more than $5 billion allocated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for affordable housing and related issues, with most of the sum provided under three existing programs. In all, 2,400 grants will be channeled through Community Development Block Grants, the HOME Investment Partnerships Program and the Housing Trust Fund.

Full Story: The Construction Broadsheet

3-part webinar series: Navigating cannabis in the workplace

With almost every state authorizing the recreational and/or medical use of marijuana or cannabidiol (CBD), employers nationwide face a maze of legal changes. Recent marijuana laws include language that limits what employers can do with workplace drug testing. This is a trend that we see continuing at a rapid pace. Sign up today!

Webcor, Herrero, Boldt break ground on UCSF hospital

A joint venture of Webcor, Herrero Builders and The Boldt Co. have begun construction on a $4.3 billion hospital at the University of California at San Francisco. UCSF has committed to a 30% local hiring goal for the project.

Full Story: Construction Dive 

Renderings show mixed-use L.A. apartment complex

Renderings released by co-living developer Six Peak Capital depict a five-story mixed-use apartment complex planned for Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood. Plans include commercial space on the ground floor and a subterranean parking garage as well as the building’s 121 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Full Story: Urbanize Media

$300M project breaks ground at UC Merced

Construction is formally underway on a $300 million Medical Education Building on the campus of the University of California Merced. Turner Construction is the construction management at-risk contractor for the project, which is expected to be completed in the fall of 2026.

Full Story: The Construction Broadsheet

3 retail-to-residential projects planned in Calif.

Grubb Properties has planned retail-to-residential conversions on three sites in Southern California. The sites of a mall in Santa Monica, a former Dollar Tree in Hollywood and a strip mall in North Hollywood will become apartment complexes, adding to 16 similar Grubb projects nationwide.

Full Story: Multifamily Dive

$65M Calif. highway project nears finish line

More than two years of construction on the $65 million Merced SR-99 Pavement Rehabilitation Project is nearing completion, the California Department of Transportation announced. Extensive work has been involved, including repair and replacement of AC dikes and curbs and metal beam guardrails and placing approach and departure slabs as well as replacement of a 5-mile stretch of Highway 99.

Full Story: Merced Sun-Star (Calif.)

Iron Gate dam removal begins on Klamath River

Deconstruction of the Iron Gate embankment dam on the Klamath River has begun. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission cleared work to remove the first 13 feet of the 173-foot-high earthen structure and finish other major parts of the project.

Full Story: Capital Press (Salem, Ore.) (tiered subscription model)