Construction News Tracker is presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.
Private nonresidential spending has never been higher in the nation's history than right now — that from ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. Despite a dip on overall nonresidentail spending in March, ABC's analysis of Census Bureau statistics private nonresidential spending is up 2.1% on a year-over-year basis while private nonresidential spending is up 9% for 2019. Construction related to manufacturing facilities topped $70 billion for the first time since December of 2016, even though other building categories were off in March. Basu says that state and local governments show continued improvement and the federal government is throwing off signals it too must be a catalyst for infrastructure improvement.
And indeed it is. Congressional leaders met in late April at the White House and proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure legislation, but how to pay for it is the major road block in the way of agreement. Congressional Republican leadership is adamantly opposed to raising the federal gas tax, which has not been adjusted since 1993, and there appears to be even less desire for any type of vehicle mileage tax imposition. Legislative leaders are poised to meet again in coming weeks on the infrastructure issue, and we’ll keep you apprised of any movement.
Nationally 263,000 new jobs were created in April — topping the economists' forecast of 217,000. The result is an unemployment rate of 3.6%, a new 49-year low. Construction gained 33,000 new jobs in April, and the sector's unemployment rate has now dropped to 4.7% — the lowest since April of 2000. Overall, construction has added 256,000 jobs in the past year.
An unfortunate construction site accident in downtown Seattle recently claimed the lives of four people and left others injured. Crews were engaged in dismantling a tower crane from atop a building being constructed for Google when apparent high winds caught the device causing it to topple to the street below. Two of those who perished were iron workers. Preliminary investigation reveals that stabilizing pins had been prematurely removed and could result in human error as the chief cause.. General contractor GLY is working with authorities to determine the exact reason for the failure.
Construction prices on road projects have blown past estimates, and some states are being forced to ditch planned projects. At least that’s the word from Maine where the DOT even added 10% to construction estimates before advertising projects. Most of the inflated costs are being attributed to steel and aluminum tariffs. Maine DOT officals have deferred 10 projects from their 2019 list after bids came in at 30% to 60% above what they had estimated. AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson said this unfortunately is what the industry has been warning about and that it's really coming home to roost in terms of both labor and materials cost that contractors feel they now have to pass on. The FHWA estimated that highway construction costs rose 13% last year — the highest jump since 2008 — and they're not stopping.
Construction crews working on the new Las Vegas football stadium are engaged in one of the most dangerous aspects of the project. They are in the process of lifting 22 65-ton canopy trusses around the rim of the stadium, 120 feet above ground. Iron workers, engineers and contract management supervisors are fully engaged in what is being described as building a 17-acre Swiss watch because they have to weave the trusses between steel cables supporting a translucent tetra-flouro-theyelene roof that will encompass the 65,000-seat Raiders Stadium. The roof process is expected to be completed by the end of July.
Following months of site preparation the first steel columns supporting structure are underway at the new Mazda Toyota auto assembly plant near Huntsville, AL. During intial site work crews graded enough dirt to fill the Empire State Building twice and spread enough gravel to fill 46 olympic sized swimming pools. Upwards of 2,500 construction workers are expected onsite by summer. The joint Mazda plant will build Toyota Carollas and Mazda Crossovers at the rate of 300,000 vehicles a year when operational in 2021.
Foxconn Technology says it will begin construction this summer on its proposed massive semiconductor plant near Milwaukee, WI, after the state approved plans for footings and foundation of the 977,000 square foot plant. The so-called Gen 6 facility will manufacture liquid crystal display screens for all sorts of applications. Bid packages for contractors are expected to be going out any day now. Foxconn is expected to have a workforce of 13,000 when fully operational at the site south of Milwaukee. The state of Wisconsin has a contract with the Taiwan company permitting as much as $1.35 billion in refundable tax credits over 15 years.
In closing, nothing derails a train of thought more effectively than listening to a person with a one-track mind.
This is Construction News Tracker looking over the industry that makes the world a better place, presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.
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