Construction News Tracker is presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.
It’s a done deal. After a month of reconciliation the U.S. Senate passed 99-1 the Water Infrastructure Act and passed it to the White House for signing. Senate Environment Committee Chair Sen. John Borasso said the new legislation will cut Washington red tape, grow the economy and keep communities safe as well as give local communities better project control. This water bill will provide deeper ports and maintain inland waterways. A key feature of the bill is to give the Corps of Engineers authority to transfer permits to local communities for completion without having to obtain new ones. AASHTO Executive Director Bud Wright praised the bill as well as citing waterway improvements.
A new analysis of government data by AGC indicates construction spending increased by one-tenth of a percent from July to August and 5.3% for the eight months of 2018 combined. Spending figures continue to show strong construction demand. AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson said growth is well balanced among public, private nonresidential and residential projects even though the worker shortage persists. Spending year to date was 7% higher than in 2017 for public construction and 4.8% for private construction. Most major segments reported gains: highway construction was up 6.4%, transportation gained a whopping 15.9%, while single family home construction was up 7.9% year to date.
143,000 workers — that’s the current number of vacancies in the home construction industry, according to the National Association of Home Builders. In addition, the Commerce Department reports September housing starts fell 5.3% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.201 million units. Many in the industry see the weakening as a reversal of the housing bubble years, insisting more inventory is needed. The Association claims that 69% of its members are reporting difficulty in obtaining skilled workers and unable to complete projects on time.
All this after a recent analysis of government data shows that construction exceeded the $30 per hour pay rate for the first time ever in September. AGC reports its figures show the hourly pay rate in construction rose 3.1% from 2017 and average hourly earnings now have a 10.7% premium compared to all nonfarm private sector jobs. Construction employment showed an increase of 23,000 in September and grew by 315,000 since 2017 for a 10-year high. Even as head counts and pay increase, construction continues to be threatened by the lack of skilled craftsmen.
Hurricane season doesn’t end until November, but vigilant forecasters remain poised to present the latest predictions. Meanwhile, cleanup continues through the southeast as crews work to re-establish communities hard hit by Florence and Michael. Damage from Michael alone is expected to top $4.5 billion, while those for Florence remain elusive due to continued flood woes, with initial reports coming in the $17 TO $22 billion range.
Across central Texas, DOT officials are assessing damage caused by excessive rains that created monumental flooding that washed out roadways and bridges. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense has awarded California-based Contour Crafting a $3 million contract to develop a 3D large domain construction printer. The firm uses large lightweight 3D robotic printers to put down layers of building material to create entire buildings onsite in days for disaster relief.
The California Transportation Commission recently approved hundreds of road projects for funding under the 2017 state Senate Bill SB 1. $690 million from the Road Repair and Accountability Act was dolled out while an additional $1.3 billion for 150 maintenance improvement and construction projects statewide was given the green light under California’s Fix it First program. The controversial SB 1 plan is under intense scrutiny after the state passed the bill last year calling for higher fuel taxes and fees, with some opponents ready to seek repeal in the November elections. Transportation and infrastructure issues are on a number of ballots nationwide, with many of them in California ranging from the water tunnel program to the bullet train and the gas tax.
And finally, if someone were to pay ten cents for every kind word you ever spoke and collect five cents for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?
This is Construction News Tracker looking over the industry that makes the world a better place, presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.