Construction News Tracker is presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.
In a stunning report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics it’s reported the U.S. had 501,000 fewer jobs from 2018 to 2019 than previously reported. That’s the largest revision since the depression of 2009. The revised figure indicates the country did not realize any boost from the Trump tax cuts or higher federal spending. Economists say the monthly average of 223,000 new jobs seemed too good to be true in light of how hard it is to find employees - and qualified ones. It’s estimated the 223,000 jobs figure last year could be trimmed to 185,000 instead. Economists eagerly await the final numbers on wages.
A decision by the Nebraska Supreme Court is expected to kick start construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The decision greenlights the controversial $8 billion project, though opponents still have ongoing lawsuits pending in other jurisdictions. The TC Energy project, previously known as TransCanada, would carry crude oil through the provinces across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska to an existing pump station that is operating into Gulf Coast refineries.
When the union halls are empty what do contractors do to find skilled employees? They establish schools to train them. That’s what’s happening in Chicago. Clark Construction is one of five top Chicago construction employers, according to the Real Deal. It, along with Gilbane, Focus, Clayco, Magellan and Summit Design and Build, have set up a small business development program along with a loan fund to help women- and minority-owned firms expand their contracting abilities. Thus far, 94 local companies have had graduates in the program to get people into the trades.
Dodge Data reports that six of the top 10 metro markets for commercial and multifamily construction starts registered greater activity in the first half of 2019 compared with a year ago. But the dollar volume was off by 6% at $101.4 billion. The New York metro led the nation as it has for a number of years at $15 billion. Washington D.C. is ranked second. Boston, Los Angeles and Atlanta round out the top five markets.
Low mortgage rates spurred home construction in July 2.5%, according to the National Association of Home Builders. The sale rate of 5.42 million units was seasonally adjusted and an increase from June. The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed loan is now at 3.6% - the lowest in three years - and wipes out a track rate of 16 consecutive months of decline. None the less, new home prices in many markets have nearly doubled for those priced below the median scale. Rregioanlly, the west saw sales of 8.3% higher than the rest of the nation; though all but the northeast report modest increases.
A 2019 mobility report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute says it all. If you drive to and from work the time can be staggering. Spotting costly inefficiencies in commuting, the report measured a $17.8 billion loss in Los Angeles in 2017 in productivity and wasted fuel and 119 hours in lost time for motorists. Reading the mobility report produces more facts about straightforward solutions needed for additional infrastructure, transit, better balancing demand and land use to provide increased mobility. It’s a good read.
Can Louisiana handle $32 billion in construction projects? That’s a question no one can seem to answer. There are now 125 construction projects along the 1-10, 1-12 interstate corridor split between a dozen industries including LNG production, plastics and rubber, crude oil storage, natural gas and petrochemicals. Contractors faced with a lack of skilled labor are planning to beat the challenge by using modularization and offsite construction along with digitization and, in some cases, even robots.
Creating an environment to replace a facility less than half its proposed size is the goal of Salt Lake City Airport officials. Now the 23rd busiest airport in the nation with 26 million annual passengers, the $3.6 billion construction project is designed to add a new terminal building and adjacent runways, vehicle roadways for departures and arrivals, and additional parking. Federal grants and passenger fees are funding the entire new SLC complex set to see its first use next September.
Increasing materials prices and a slew of change orders has added $39 million to the Honolulu Rapid Transit System expansion project. Officials stress that the situation is covered as part of the new system’s $8.14 billion overall cost. HART, as the railway is called, has encountered a number of unseen contingencies as work has progressed - among them contaminated groundwater and utility relocation. The 20-mile-long railway with 21 stations on its route will cover the west side of Honolulu when completed in 2023.
In closing, self-confidence in itself, is of no value. It is useful only when put to work.
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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