Capitol Update 04.05.2024

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from Mark Smith, Advocate, California Builders Alliance

Payroll employment rises by 303,000 in March; unemployment rate changes little at 3.8%

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 303,000 in March, and the unemployment rate changed little at 3.8 percent. Job gains occurred in health care, government, and construction.

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Construction spending slips 1% from Jan. to Feb.

Transportation was the outlier with a 0.7% gain in February as overall nonresidential construction spending declined by 1% from the previous month, according to the US Census Bureau. However, the February total of $1.03 billion for nonresidential construction put in place was nonetheless up a seasonally adjusted 14% from a year before. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)  

Stress index reveals jump in project abandonments

A rise in project abandonments noted in February continued into March, which saw a 7% increase as gauged by ConstructConnect's Project Stress Index. However, the stress index itself eased 2%, helped by a 14% decrease in the measure of work put on hold over the preceding 30 days, the biggest decline since the middle of last year, according to Michael Guckes, senior economist at ConstructConnect. Full Story: Construction Dive

Construction jobs rise by 11,000 in Jan.

Construction employment has continued its uptrend for a tenth consecutive month, with 11,000 new jobs in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Architectural, engineering and related services, which are classified separately from the broader construction sector, also saw a rise in January with 9,000 new hires. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)  

Key inflation gauge rose 0.3% in Feb., Fed weighs cuts

The US core personal consumption expenditures price index, an inflation gauge closely watched by the Federal Reserve, rose 0.3% month over month in February, aligning with economists' predictions and marking a slight decrease from January's 0.4% rise. The index, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, increased 2.8% year over year, maintaining its rate from January. Amid signs of a resilient economy and persistent inflation, the Fed is continuing to evaluate its interest-rate policy and potential cuts this year. Full Story: Barron's (tiered subscription model)   CNBC  

Fed officials suggest rate cuts not in immediate future

Loretta Mester, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said that interest-rate cuts are still likely this year, but she indicated that she would be unlikely to back rate cuts at the May meeting. Meanwhile, Mary Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said that there "is really no urgency" for the central bank to proceed with rate cuts. Full Story: The Hill   MarketWatch (tiered subscription model)   CNBC  

Is that worker still an independent contractor? New rule goes into effect

A new rule from the U.S. Department of Labor is broadly expected to result in more workers being classified as "employees" under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Although the final rule faces challenges in court, the rule on independent contractor classification took effect on March 11, 2024. Employers should review their relationships with workers currently classified as independent contractors to determine if they should be re-classified as employees. Misclassification could result in significant liability for unpaid wages (including unpaid overtime), employee benefits, unpaid employment, and other taxes. Learn more.

DOE introduces decarbonization plan for buildings

The US Department of Energy rolled out the first sector-wide strategy to slash carbon emissions from buildings. The Decarbonizing the US Economy by 2050: A National Blueprint for the Buildings Sector call-to-action aims to reduce building CO2 65% by 2035 and 90% by 2050, compared to 2005 levels. Full Story: Department of Energy  

Contractors object to new safety inspection rule

Construction employees will be allowed to have third-party representatives on hand during safety inspections under a new rule issued by the Department of Labor over the objections of contractors. The rule, which takes effect May 31, "essentially forces contractors to allow anyone -- regardless of their safety training and experience -- onto active jobsites," says Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives for the Associated General Contractors of America. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)  

More bridges may be vulnerable to vessel strikes

Safety measures are lacking for a bridge just 20 miles downstream from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, making the Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Annapolis, Md., also vulnerable to a strike by a container vessel. A review of more than a dozen bridges spanning major shipping channels found many protected by deflective barriers but some that weren't. Full Story: CNN

4 areas where AI will change construction

As with many other industries, artificial intelligence and machine learning are poised to transform construction. Burcin Kaplanoglu, head of Oracle Industry Labs, examines four key areas where these technologies are likely to have the greatest effect: driving efficiencies on site and off; multi-cloud interoperability; high-compliance data security, and fabrication and automation. Full Story: For Construction Pros  

The role of AI in construction safety

The hazardous conditions created by trench excavations, electrical danger and equipment unexpectedly starting up can be decreased by the implementation of AI to analyze and assess risk. Not only can the technology behind AI help decrease safety issues, it can also simulate training for workers on how to handle dangerous situations, according to David Cain, a Washington, D.C. patent attorney. Full Story: Daily Commercial News (Ontario)  

Teichert picked to tackle Calif. Highway 1 washout

Sacramento-based Teichert has been tapped to carry out $1 million in initial stabilization and safety work to clear an Easter weekend washout on Highway 1 near Big Sur. Later, K-rail will be added to the highway's centerline and further stabilization efforts will be considered. Full Story: Construction Dive  

San Diego airport terminal project on schedule

An effort to add 30 new gates at San Diego International Airport's Terminal 1 is on schedule and about 60% complete, an airport spokeswoman says. The first half of the work is expected to be completed next year, with the remainder likely to wind up three years later. Full Story: KNSD-TV (San Diego)

Calif. purified-water project making progress

Construction is "well underway" on the East County Advanced Water Purification Program in California's San Diego County and should be delivering purified drinking water to residents in 2026, says program director Mark Niemiec. The project involves construction of 30 miles of pipeline serving water treatment facilities north of Santee Lakes. Full Story: KUSI-TV (San Diego)  

Fitch: LAX people mover completion delayed to 2025

Los Angeles International Airport's Automated People Mover will be completed at least two years later than expected in October next year, according to Fitch Ratings. The project, a key part of the ongoing $30 billion overhaul of the airport, has been delayed by disagreements and unresolved negotiations, Fitch says, leading to a downgrade of the project's bond rating. Full Story: Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model)  


Mark Smith
California Builders Alliance
5370 Elvas Avenue ǀ Sacramento, CA 95819
Cell: 916.335.5072

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