Construction unemployment drops while costs rise...
The pressure mounts for a long-term highway funding bill...
And a major mid-America building project underway...
That and more on Construction News Tracker brought to you by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.
The industry hired another 29,000 workers in February, the highest amount in six years, pushing the unemployment rate down to 10.6 percent. The overall job market improved by 5.3 percent or 321,000 new jobs in 2014. However, an estimated 906,000 people remain jobless in construction alone.
Fueled by lower gas and diesel prices, the Consumer Price Index fell only 7/10ths of a percent in February. But Engineering News-Record claims construction costs were up 2.9 percent for the same period. That includes both labor and materials. Rebar, wallboard and reinforced concrete pipe let the rise, and labor costs appear to be inching upwards.
The expansion of a data center at Council Bluffs, Iowa, has put 2,000 construction people to work. Google owns the massive site and has invested $1.5 billion over the last seven years with no announced end in sight. It's just one of many in the area that separates Council Bluffs from Omaha, Neb., along the Missouri River. Union leaders and contractors both have put out the call for skilled construction workers to help fill the voice. The Google site alone sits on 975 acres.
Much of the spring economic picture will be drawn by what the U.S. Congress does regarding the present Map 21 Highway Fund that expires the end of May. Currently, 284 congressmen have signed onto a bi-partisan letter to House leaders urging formulation of a long-term highway bill.
In the past week, ARTBA, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, has offered a plan to raise the gas tax 15 cents a gallon for six years. It would be offset with a 100 percent federal tax rebate for middle and lower income citizens. ARTBA claims the hefty increase would generate $401 billion dollars for infrastructure and provide a sustainable funding program for 10 years.
The latest Congressional Budget Office report shows the feds spent a paltry $96 billion on the nation's infrastructure in 2014 while state and local governments spent $320 billion. The CBO report claims real public spending on infrastructure for water and transportation dropped 23 percent in the 11 year span between 2003 and 2014.
If the topic were not so serious we could laugh at the funding mess. That's exactly what comedian John Oliver did recently on his HBO TV program. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver airs Sundays on HBO, and you can view it at YouTube.com.
Finally, if you don't climb the mountain you can't view the plains.
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