‘Lean In’ circles help women in construction to face prejudice

Originally Posted on www.compsmag.com

The three women shared their stories over Zoom during a Lean In Circle for Tradeswomen, one of 76 launched nationwide and in Canada this year by the North America’s Building Trades Unions and Lean In, the women’s advocacy group started by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. About 700 tradeswomen are participating the program, designed to help them navigate persistent bias and harassment on construction sites, from unwanted sexual advances to being assigned lesser duties like traffic control or fire watch.

Jordyn Bieker, an apprentice sheet metal worker in Denver, said she felt uncomfortable that her foreman asked her pointed questions about being gay. Yunmy Carroll, a veteran steamfitter, said a worker at a training session declared that women in construction are “whores.” It’s a culture industry leaders are fighting to change in the hopes of recruiting more women into a sector with an aging workforce that faces chronic labor shortages.
As spending on infrastructure rises, construction firms will need to hire at least 430,000 new skilled laborers in 2021, according to an analysis of federal data by the Associated Builders and Contractors. Right now, only 4% of construction laborers in the U.S. are women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“We are really only employing from half the workforce,” said Brian Turmail, the Associated General Contractors of America’s vice president of public affairs, who also spearheads workforce development. “We are struggling with labor shortages with one hand tied behind our back.” This comes at a time when the pandemic has exacted a disproportionate toll on jobs where women dominate, like restaurant servers and cashiers. Nearly 2.5 million women lost jobs and stopped looking for work during the pandemic. Meanwhile, much of the construction industry was deemed essential, sparing it from mass layoffs. For advocates, it is evidence that more women should aspire to construction careers, which start with paid apprenticeships and can lead to unionized jobs with middle-class wages.

The median salary for plumbers and electricians, for instance, is about $56,000 a year, with the top 10% of earners making $98,000. But only about 2% of plumbers and 3% of the country’s electricians are women. “We see this all the time. When jobs are higher paid, when jobs have more security, when jobs have higher benefits, they often go to men,” said Sandberg, who partnered with NABTU to bring her signature “Lean in Circles” program to tradeswomen after meeting Liz Shuler, now the president of the AFL-CIO, and Judaline Cassidy, a New York plumber and union leader who had formed a Lean In Circle on her own in 2017. The good news is that gains already made by women appear to have held steady during the pandemic, in contrast to the Great Recession that hit the industry hard.

Help wanted: 430,000 construction workers

By DAVID HELVESTON, President & CEO, ABC Pelican Chapter  |  Originally posted on www.bicmagazine.com

Construction companies need to hire 430,000 more workers in 2021 than they employed in 2020, according to an ABC analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

That jaw-dropping number could potentially grow to 1 million or more over the next two years to meet demand.

An ABC Pelican instructor helps a studentduring a hydroblasting course at the association’straining center.

ABC chapters across the country are working to supply the next generation of craft professionals with the tools they need to succeed and excel in the construction industry. America’s economic engine is fueled by a workforce equipped with durable and transferable skillsets, and ABC is providing the right tools to the construction workforce to cultivate long-lasting and rewarding career opportunities.

In Louisiana, the ABC Pelican Chapter will educate and upskill 2,000 new construction craft professionals by the end of this year. Through training centers in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, we educate students in crafts such as welding, electrical, millwright, pipefitting, heavy equipment operation, instrumentation and more. Men and women of all ages come to ABC Pelican to learn a new craft or perfect their current one. ABC Pelican also has partnerships with local high schools that allow current students to begin craft training while still in school.

October is Careers in Construction Month, a national effort to educate the public about the opportunities available for a craft professional. Throughout the month, schools, contractors and other organizations will partner to host events that raise awareness and introduce students and young professionals to careers in construction. ABC Pelican is proud to partner with like-minded organizations such as Build Your Future, a nonprofit aiming to be the catalyst for recruiting the next generation of craft professionals, during Careers in Construction Month to encourage more young adults to consider career paths in the construction industry.

For 14 years, ABC Pelican has partnered with Build Your Future, Louisiana contractors, industry professionals, suppliers and other educational entities to host Build Your Future Day for current high school students across Louisiana so they can learn from industry professionals about the career opportunities available in the construction industry. We anticipate that more than 1,000 students from over 60 high schools across the state will learn about different construction career opportunities through handson demonstrations and conversations with industry leaders this year.

With the increasing need for more workers in the construction industry, I hope you and your business can participate in Careers in Construction Month to shed a positive light on and paint a realistic image of the construction industry. Reach out to your local high school, technical college or ABC chapter to see how you can get involved.

For more information, contact David Helveston at (225) 753-2590 or dhelveston@abcpelican.com.

Construction dented by inflation

By Jonathan Garber  | FOXBusiness  |  Originally posted on www.foxbusiness.com

Mounting inflationary pressures held back nonresidential construction spending in July, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

Nonresidential construction spending edged up 0.1% in July to $786.7 billion but was negative when adjusted for inflation. Spending fell on a monthly basis in six of 16 subcategories and was unchanged in three categories.

Total nonresidential spending was down 4.2% from the year prior.

“The nonresidential construction spending numbers are meaningfully worse than they initially appear,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

“Higher materials prices and worsening skills shortages represent primary culprits,” he added. “Many project owners are delaying projects due to elevated construction service delivery costs.”

Construction input prices were 23.1% higher in July than the year prior as the combination of a rebounding economy, supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19, stimulus measures and labor shortages sent costs soaring.

Last month, prices for steel mill products shot up 10.8%, iron and steel prices climbed 7.8% and natural gas surged 13.5%. Those products have seen respective price increases of 108.6%, 89.2% and 146.7% over the past year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Prices for other input costs, including fabricated structural metal products and lumber, were also sharply higher compared with year-ago levels.

It remains to be seen how long the inflationary pressures may last.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell at his Jackson Hole symposium speech last week said inflation at these levels is a “cause for concern” but reiterated the central bank’s belief that the current pressures are temporary. 

Powell signaled the Fed could begin tapering its asset purchase program before the end of this year but said rate hikes were further out on the horizon.

Fed fund futures traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange are fully pricing in the first rate hike to occur in January 2023.

Business groups call on congressional delegation to reject federal tax increases

By ROI-NJ Staff (New Jersey)  |  Originally posted on www.roi-nj.com

Eleven N.J. employer groups and trade associations this week called on the state’s congressional delegation to reject increases to the federal corporate tax rate and the Global Intangible Low-Tax Income rate.

While the recently passed $1.2 billion infrastructure agreement included no broad-based tax increases on American businesses, the groups — in an open letter to the delegation — said the prospect of massive tax hikes remains on the table during reconciliation.

Such a move, the groups said, would be a crushing blow to many New Jersey businesses.

“If increased, the ability of workers and businesses across the Garden State to properly rebound from the pandemic could be severely hampered, with our competitiveness on the global stage impacted in the process,” they wrote. “Particularly considering that New Jersey’s tax rates are already among the very highest in the nation, potential hikes at the federal level are cause for concern.”

The following groups signed the letter:

  • African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey
  • Associated Builders and Contractors of New Jersey
  • Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey
  • Chemistry Council of New Jersey
  • Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey
  • Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey
  • Insurance Council of New Jersey
  • New Jersey Bankers Association
  • New Jersey Business & Industry Association
  • New Jersey Gasoline, C-Store, Automotive Association
  • New Jersey Chamber of Commerce

The letter reads as follows:

Dear Members of the New Jersey Congressional Delegation,

We are writing to affirm our shared commitment to delivering New Jersey’s economy out of this current turndown, and to urge your support in this endeavor.

We were encouraged to see that the $1.2 billion bipartisan infrastructure agreement included no tax increases on American businesses. However, discussions are still ongoing for a budget that would be passed through reconciliation — and we understand that the prospect of tax hikes remains on the table.

Specifically, some federal officials have proposed raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and the Global Intangible Low-Tax Income rate from 10.5% to 21%. If increased, the ability of workers and businesses across the Garden State to properly rebound from the pandemic could be severely hampered, with our competitiveness on the global stage impacted in the process. Particularly considering that New Jersey’s tax rates are already among the very highest in the nation, potential hikes at the federal level are cause for concern.

We are wary of such tax increases and believe they would do more harm than good to New Jersey’s businesses and communities today. New Jersey experienced many lows during the pandemic, including reaching a record 16.2% unemployment rate during the peak of the pandemic and seeing about 30% of the state’s small businesses close their doors, according to some reports. There is clearly a long way to go in our recovery and we must do everything we can to support and boost economic revival in our communities.

But raising the corporate tax rate only serves to further set us back. Such a hike would affect businesses of all sizes, not just the big corporations. As we’ve seen before, tax hikes can ultimately fall onto the Main Street businesses and small shops that form the backbone of local economies across the state. A recent analysis by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that 1.4 million small businesses employing 13 million Americans would be forced to pay the higher rate.

And doubling the GILTI rate from 10.5% to 21% poses a host of additional challenges. A study by the National Association of Manufacturers found that up to 1 million jobs could be lost and nearly $20 billion in economic activity may be forfeited.

To protect our state’s economy and ensure a swift recovery, we urge your offices to avoid adding further tax burdens to our business community at this time.

Construction input prices up 23.1 percent from last year

Originally posted on www.cdrecycler.com

ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu says today’s input price increases can meaningfully affect contractor fortunes by trimming margins and delaying the onset of projects.

Construction input prices rose 0.6 percent in July, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Producer Price Index data released today. Nonresidential construction input prices increased 0.8 percent for the month.

Construction input prices are 23.1 percent higher than a year ago, while nonresidential construction input prices increased 23.4 percent over that span.

Energy prices continue to experience substantial year-over-year price increases. The price of natural gas is up 146.7 percent, while crude petroleum and unprocessed energy materials prices are up 102.9 percent and 93.8 percent, respectively. Prices for steel mill products increased 10.8 percent for the month and are up 108.6 percent for the year.

“One’s definition of transitory needs to evolve with these data,” says ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “While it is quite likely that there will be less inflation a year from now, a rebounding economy, ongoing supply chain disruptions and limited productive capacity have conspired to generate rapid price increases.

“Many economists insist that the current situation is merely temporary; still, today’s input price increases can meaningfully affect contractor fortunes by trimming margins and delaying the onset of projects.”

According to Basu, the good and bad news is that the economy is flush with liquidity.

“Injections of money supply by the Federal Reserve, which has yet to indicate when it will begin to moderate its quantitative easing program, have helped create large pools of investable money,” he says.

A significant fraction of that money is also being invested in real estate, which Basu says will often translates into construction projects. That is consistent with the stable-to-rising backlog observed in recent months as well as ongoing confidence among contractors, reflected in ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator and Construction Confidence Index. However, Basu warns that liquidity also serves to help push prices higher.

“One can only conclude that the economy will continue to run hot into 2022 despite the malign impacts of the delta variant, producing both hefty advances in gross domestic product and unusually elevated inflation,” says Basu. “The fact that steel prices are rising is not only an indication of the recovery transpiring in goods-producing industries like construction and manufacturing, but also of the difficulty global suppliers are having keeping up with demand.

“That dynamic does not appear poised to change substantially in the very near-term, though there was some evidence of moderating inflation in the most recent Consumer Price Index report. Contractors should assiduously build contingencies into their contracts to protect themselves from additional materials price spikes. Given that construction firm services are in high demand, contractors should have enough negotiating leverage to accomplish that under most circumstances.”

Concrete and Cement Industries Brace for Demand Boom From $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

Originally posted on www.nbcmiami.com

Concrete is the foundation of just about everything. It’s used to construct buildings, highways, bridges, roads and more.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, concrete fell victim to the same phenomena impacting other essential materials and goods: snarled supply chains and labor shortages. And demand for concrete — and its essential ingredient, cement — appears to have only increased, after the Senate passed the $1 trillion infrastructure package to upgrade America’s roads, bridges and tunnels.

“In the short-term, we continue to have the supply chain difficulties, particularly in certain markets, and so prices are rising,” Anirban Basu, chief economist for the national construction industry trade association Associated Builders and Contractors, told CNBC. “So right now, apparently, supply is not rising up to meet demand.”

The industry also faces labor shortages of skilled workers and truck drivers. And the recent housing boom means more demand for concrete and cement, putting more pressure on the industry to increase capacity.

On top of all of this, there’s also a push to reduce the amount of carbon emissions that come from the industry. A study published by the National Academy of Sciences in 2019 estimates that global cement production accounts for 8% of global carbon emissions, making it the largest single industrial emitter of carbon dioxide.

Construction Industry Gains 11,000 Jobs in July as Jobless Rate Falls

Originally posted on www.enr.com

Construction’s unemployment rate dropped in July on a monthly and year-over-year basis to its lowest level in 17 months, as the industry added 11,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.

But the latest monthly BLS report on the nation’s employment picture, released on Aug. 6, also showed job losses in some parts of the industry’s nonresidential sector.

Construction’s unemployment rate for July declined to 6.1% from June’s 7.5%. Last month’s rate also improved sharply from the year-earlier level of 8.9%, BLS figures show.

July’s rate was the lowest since February 2020’s mark, the last month before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Notably, construction’s July jobs increase followed  three months of downturns.

The residential building category recorded the strongest July jobs results, adding 8,300.

The nonresidential sector overall was up by 2,900 positions, but a gain of 7,500 in the nonresidential specialty trade contractors segment masked declines of 2,500 in nonresidential building and 2,100 in heavy and civil engineering construction.

For the 12 months ended July 31, construction overall added 224,000 jobs, an increase of 3.1%, BLS data indicate.

The bureau’s jobs figures are adjusted for seasonal differences, but its unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted.

ABC, AGC Economists’ Analyses

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, traced the big upturn in nonresidential trade contractors to “considerable work underway” in upgrading existing facilities.

Basu said in a statement, “That helps explain why nonresidential specialty trade contractors added thousands of jobs last month while general [nonresidential] contractors did not.” ABC focuses on nonresidential construction.

He also pointed to liquidity in the economy as a key factor behind the recovery. Some of that capital is being invested in real estate, he said, “which translates into additional construction work.”

Still, Basu acknowledged, new construction remains “suppressed” in such segments as lodging and office buildings, due to dislocations from the pandemic.

The Associated General Contractors of America pointed out that total nonresidential construction employment is running far behind pre-pandemic levels.

Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist, said in a statement, “Contractors are plagued by soaring materials costs, long or uncertain delivery times and hesitancy by project owners to commit to construction.”

Simonson added, “Recovery has been especially slow in infrastructure construction,” noting that contractors in that category have regained only 37% of jobs lost in the pandemic.

Overall, the U.S. economy added 943,000 jobs in July, and the unemployment rate edged down to 5.4%, from June’s 5.9%.

ABC-Led Coalition Announces Six-Figure Advocacy Campaign

Originally posted on gxcontractor.com

WASHINGTONBuild America Local, a coalition of construction industry and business organizations led by Associated Builders and Contractors, today announced a six-figure issue advocacy campaign aimed at educating Americans and members of the U.S. Senate about controversial government-mandated project labor agreements that reduce competition and increase costs for the construction of taxpayer-funded affordable housing, clean energy and infrastructure projects across America.

The campaign urges senators to oppose government-mandated PLA schemes as bipartisan infrastructure negotiations continue between a select group of Senate Republicans and Democrats and the Biden administration.

“As Congress works to craft infrastructure legislation, it is critical for the U.S. Senate to oppose government-mandated PLAs so all qualified contractors and construction workers have the ability to fairly compete and build America’s infrastructure,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs. “Ensuring fair and open competition on taxpayer-funded construction projects will ultimately result in savings to taxpayers, more opportunities for all qualified small businesses, minorities and women in the construction industry, and the construction of more quality infrastructure projects so America can Build Back Better and faster.”

When mandated by the federal government, PLAs exacerbate the U.S. construction industry’s skilled labor shortage, effectively prevent the 87.3% of the U.S. construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor union from fairly competing for contracts and drive up the cost of critical infrastructure projects by 12% to 20%, resulting in fewer construction projects and local jobs.

The Build America Local website houses a variety of educational and social media materials and also gives constituents access to a grassroots tool to tell their elected leaders to support local workers and businesses by opposing government-mandated PLAs in federal infrastructure legislation.

The Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan infrastructure outline encourages Congress to tie federal investment of taxpayer dollars in infrastructure to costly PLA requirements. Other Biden administration policies encourage state and local governments to mandate PLAs on infrastructure projects receiving federal dollars. It has been reported that the Biden administration is also working on an executive order encouraging the use of PLAs on federal contracts for construction services.

Controversial terms in typical government-mandated PLAs discourage competition from qualified union and nonunion contractors and result in a rigged bidding process that forces contractors to:

  • Use union hiring halls to obtain most or all workers instead of their existing workforce.
  • Obtain apprentices exclusively from union apprenticeship programs.
  • Follow inefficient union work rules.
  • Pay into union benefit and multi-employer pension plans that any limited number of nonunion employees permitted on the project will be unlikely to access unless they join a union and vest in these plans.
  • Require their existing workforce to accept union representation, pay union dues and/or join a union as a condition of employment on a PLA job site and receiving benefits, resulting in an estimated 20% hit to the paychecks of local craft professionals.

ABC to Senate: The PRO Act Is a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Associated Builders and Contractors | Originally posted on amerisurv.com

Washington, July 22—Ahead of today’s U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions’ hearing on the Protect the Right to Organize Act, Associated Builders and Contractors released the following statement:

“The PRO Act legislates away the basic employer and employee freedoms and choices that create long-term careers and make the construction workforce safer and more productive,” said ABC Vice President of Legislative and Political Affairs Kristen Swearingen. “Make no mistake: the PRO Act is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and the American public deserves to know that it is nothing more than an attempt to strip workers of their privacy, freedom and choice.

“Among the many harmful provisions in this dangerous piece of legislation, the PRO Act tips the scales against workers and small businesses in union elections, eliminates basic employer and employee rights and imposes unbearable burdens on job creators,” said Swearingen. “Lawmakers must fully reject this bill and instead focus on creating legislative solutions that offer more freedom for workers to achieve their career dreams, not eliminating their choices. The workforce, and America, wins when people have that choice.”

Ahead of the hearing, ABC sent a letter opposition to the Senate HELP Committee.