Capitol Update 6/7/2022
US construction spending edged up 0.2% in April, less than expected due in part to a 0.7% decline in public spending, the Commerce Department reported. On the private side, spending was up 0.5%, buoyed by a 0.9% gain in residential. Full Story: Reuters
Unemployment rate stays steady at pandemic low of 3.6 percent
U.S. employers added 390,000 jobs in May, another month of blockbuster growth that points to sustained economic growth in the face of mounting head winds. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.6 percent, the Labor Department said Friday. “There are signs that the white-hot labor market is cooling,” said Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo. “But if you step back and look at the big picture, this is still an exceptionally strong pace of hiring. The burst of new jobs, which could contribute to heightened inflation, adds even more fuel to the Federal Reserve’s already aggressive plan to raise interest rates.
Payroll employment rises by 390,000 in May; unemployment rate remains at 3.6%
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 390,000 in May, and the unemployment rate remained at 3.6 percent. Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in professional and business services, and in transportation and warehousing. Employment in retail trade declined.
With labor scarce, construction spending has fallen for the second month in a row as contractors turn away new work, according to an analysis from the Associated General Contractors of America. With industry job openings up 40% in April from a year before, “nonresidential construction spending is being held back by a paucity of qualified workers, not a lack of projects,” says AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson.
Full Story: For Construction Pros
Job openings at record highs and growing employment and wages point away from a recession in the construction industry, according to Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. “Demand appears to be strong for infrastructure, many types of manufacturing facilities, energy and data centers,” Simonson says, noting that these sectors reflect confidence in long-term demand. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)
Outdoor temperatures topping 105 degrees Fahrenheit would trigger stiffer heat illness standards for workers in industries such as construction and agriculture under a bill proposed in the California State Assembly. The bill calls for the state Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to formulate ultrahigh heat standards and procedures that could require employers to more closely monitor employees for heat-related illness, ensure they get paid rest breaks every hour and have greater access to cool water. Full Story: KTXL-TV (Sacramento, Calif.)
A number of issues, including negligence, are cited in an injunction issued by a Florida judge affecting more than a dozen Brazilian mills that produce structural plywood used in the US. The plywood is said to be unsafe as it falls short of US standards, and wholesalers and retailers are required to either destroy the panels or eliminate their PS 1 stamps of approval. Full Story: The Construction Specifier
Punching out: The dire state of worker mental health
From February 2020 to February 2022, Google searches for same-day mental health services and centers for workplace mental health each grew by 1,300% and searches for “how to ask for a mental health day” grew by 1,000%, according to marketing platform Semrush. Searches for mental health strategy increased by 133%, mental wellness by 52% and emotional well-being, 23% during this same pandemic period.
These numbers show “the after-effect of people working extremely hard over the last couple of years, dealing with huge amounts of change,” said Nick Taylor, clinical psychologist, CEO and co-founder of Unmind, a London-based workplace mental health platform. “As they serve others, a lot of people relegate self-care. This is often fine episodically, but prolonged periods of neglecting self-care can turn small issues into more serious problems, which require serious help.”
For HR professionals and business leaders, this means understanding the added dimensions of mental health unique to the workplace, including among working parents of young children.
Amazon is constructing a warehouse in Ontario, Calif., that will be its largest. San Francisco-based logistics company Prologis is building the facility, which will enclose nearly 4.1 million square feet in five stories rising 97 feet. Full Story: The Orange County Register (Anaheim, Calif.) (tiered subscription model)
Five years of construction will culminate in the opening of Delta Terminal C at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Saturday, although completion isn’t expected until 2024. Nine out of 10 gates will be operational at the new terminal, which also includes one of Delta Air Lines’ largest Sky Clubs. Full Story: Bloomberg
Construction is formally underway on a new water purification program to recycle water in East San Diego County. The project is valued at a maximum of $950 million and is said to be drought-proof with the ability to generate about 30% of the system’s current drinking water demands. Full Story: KFMB-TV (San Diego)
A project-first mentality under the construction manager/general contractor delivery method is credited for delivery last fall of the Mid-Coast Extension of the University of California at San Diego Blue Line Trolley. The on-time and within-budget completion of the line, which extends from the US-Mexico border to University City, was due to extensive collaboration and “the kind of people and the culture that the job had,” says Eric Meisgeier, deputy project manager at contractor Mid-Coast Transit Constructors, a joint venture of Stacy and Witbeck, Herzog and Skanska. Full Story: Mass Transit
A $6 billion plan to widen the traffic-clogged, port-serving 710 Freeway in Los Angeles County has been abandoned as transportation officials express openness to finding other solutions. The authority’s decision to move on from the decades-old plan comes as state lawmakers consider a pioneering bill to bar freeway expansions in areas with high rates of pollution and poverty. Full Story: Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model)
A plan to build train tracks that run through Union Station in Los Angeles was expected to advance with Metro board approval of a pre-construction phase for the work. Proposed improvements also involve new bridge structures over and along the 101 Freeway and new tracks in and along a historic structure, bringing the estimated total cost to $2.3 billion. Full Story: Streetsblog