ABC: State Construction Unemployment Is Down in 32 States From a Year Ago

By Tile Letter | Originally posted on TileLetter.com

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6—The not seasonally adjusted national construction unemployment rate dropped 0.6% in December 2022 from a year ago, down from 5% to 4.4%, according to a state-by-state analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released today by Associated Builders and Contractors. Thirty-two states had lower unemployment rates over the same period, Iowa and Missouri were unchanged and 16 states were higher.

National NSA payroll construction employment was 242,000 higher than in December 2021. From March through December 2022, seasonally adjusted construction employment was above its February 2020 pre-pandemic peak of 7,624,000, except for a slight dip in April. As of December, it was 153,000 greater than its pre-pandemic peak.

Residential construction employment has fully recovered, while nonresidential construction employment is still below its pre-pandemic peak. December SA residential payroll construction employment was 198,000 above its pre-pandemic peak while nonresidential payroll construction employment was 45,000 below its pre-pandemic peak.

In December 2022, 36 states had lower construction unemployment rates and 14 states had higher rates compared to December 2019.

“High interest rates are negatively affecting demand for single-family housing, yet construction employment continues to rise as builders work on their backlog of projects,” said Bernard Markstein, president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “However, developers, builders and contractors are still facing a shortage of skilled workers. So far, construction employers are holding on to their workers as they look beyond current slowing construction demand to the eventual upturn in demand for new projects. Meanwhile, nonresidential construction employers fully expect demand to rise over this year and next as more state and local projects tap into federal funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and move from the planning stage to the execution stage.”

Recent Month-to-Month Fluctuations

National and state unemployment rates are best evaluated on a year-over-year basis because these industry-specific rates are not seasonally adjusted. However, due to the changing impact of COVID-19, high and rising interest rates and other national and international disruptions, month-to-month comparisons offer insight into the rapidly shifting economic environment for construction employment.

In December 2022, nine states had lower estimated construction unemployment rates than in November, 38 states had higher rates and three (Georgia, Indiana and Tennessee) had the same rate.

The Top Five States

The five states with the lowest December 2022 estimated NSA construction unemployment rates were:

  1. Colorado, 1.2%
  2. Tennessee, 2%
  3. Utah, 2.1%
  4. Florida, 2.2%
  5. Nebraska, 2.6%

With the exception of Utah, all of these states posted their lowest December estimated NSA construction unemployment rate on record. Utah had its third lowest rate, behind 2021’s 1.7% and 2015’s 2%.

The Bottom Five States

The states with the highest December 2022 estimated NSA construction unemployment rates were:

  1. Illinois, 7.1%
  2. Ohio, 7.4%
  3. Minnesota, 7.6%
  4. Wyoming, 10.4%
  5. Alaska, 13.3%

Alaska had its second lowest December estimated construction unemployment rate behind 2020’s 11.8% rate and the third largest year-over-year decline in its rate among the states (tied with Pennsylvania), behind Rhode Island and Hawaii, down 2.3% from December 2021. The other four states each had their third lowest December unemployment rate on record.

COVID-19 May Be Over, but Fight Over the Federal Contractor Vaccine Mandate Is Not

By Aron Beezley, Patrick Quigley | Originally posted on jdsupra.com

On January 30, 2023, the Biden administration stated that it intends to extend the previously declared COVID-19 national emergency and the separately declared public health emergency until May 11, 2023, and then end both emergency declarations. This statement comes in response to Congressional attempts to declare an earlier end date to the emergencies with the Pandemic is Over Act and a joint resolution. Regardless of what happens politically, however, nearly three years after the original March 13, 2020, national COVID-19 emergency declaration, multi-state litigation is still ongoing to stop the implementation of a federal contractor COVID-19 vaccine mandate pursuant to Executive Order 14042.

Background

We have reported on this issue previously, but the order, issued on September 9, 2021, directed federal executive agencies to amend solicitations and contracts, in effect, to include a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for federal contractors and subcontractors. Nearly as soon as the president issued the order, various individuals and organizations filed suit to oppose it. The most effective suits have been filed by the attorneys general of 26 states in the Eastern District of Kentucky, the Southern District of Georgia, the Eastern District of Missouri, the Western District of Louisiana, the Middle District of Florida, the Southern District of Texas, and the District of Arizona.

The Biden administration has lost these cases across the board at both the district and appellate levels, although several appellate courts have narrowed the injunctive relief granted by the district courts. The states’ main argument has been that the president exceeded his authority under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act (Procurement Act), 40 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., when he issued the order. The Procurement Act’s purpose is “to provide the Federal Government with an economical and efficient system” for procuring and supplying property and various nonpersonal services.

The following is a summary of the statuses of the adjudicated cases:

  • On November 30, 2021, in Kentucky v. Biden, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky enjoined enforcement of the vaccine mandate in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. The United States appealed to the Sixth Circuit, which, on January 12, 2023, affirmed the district court’s preliminary injunction but narrowed its scope “to prohibit the federal government from enforcing the contractor mandate against the parties only” and not against non-party contractors in the plaintiff states.
  • On December 7, 2021, in Georgia v. Biden, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia enjoined enforcement of the vaccine mandate nationwide. The state plaintiffs here are Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia. The United States appealed to the Eleventh Circuit, which, on August 26, 2022, affirmed the district court’s order to the extent that it enjoined federal agencies from enforcing the vaccine mandate against the state plaintiffs (and a separate trade organization plaintiff, Associated Builders and Contractors), but otherwise vacated the preliminary injunction.
  • On December 16, 2021, in Louisiana v. Biden, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana enjoined enforcement of the order in contracts between the states of Louisiana, Indiana, or Mississippi or their agencies and the federal government. The United States appealed to the Fifth Circuit, which, on December 19, 2022, affirmed the district court’s preliminary injunction.
  • On December 30, 2021, in Florida v. Nelson, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida enjoined enforcement of the order in Florida. The United States initially appealed to the Eleventh Circuit but then, on October 24, 2022, moved to dismiss its appeal voluntarily.
  • The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas is the only court to have denied a motion for a preliminary injunction. It did so, however, in an order issued on October 20, 2022, only because Texas had failed to show imminent harm, due to the federal government’s public guidance to contractors that agencies would not enforce the vaccine mandate while cases were still pending.

Two appeals remain unresolved:

  • On December 20, 2021, in Missouri v. Biden, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri enjoined enforcement of the order in Missouri, Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, which are the state plaintiffs. The United States appealed to the Eighth Circuit, which heard oral argument on September 21, 2022, but has not yet issued a decision.
  • On January 27, 2022, in Brnovich v. Biden, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona enjoined enforcement of the order in Arizona by federal agencies. The United States appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which has scheduled oral argument for March 7, 2023.

Takeaway

The COVID-19 pandemic may have (finally) mostly ended, but that is probably not the end of the issue of whether the federal government can compel contractor employees to get vaccinated, based on the president’s authority under the Procurement Act, which prescribes policies and directives to promote an economical and efficient federal government contracting system. The Fifth Circuit and Eleventh Circuit decisions included dissents that noted the prior Executive Orders of similarly broad scope have been upheld. It would, therefore, not be surprising to see the matter ultimately go to the Supreme Court.

Bradley will continue to monitor this issue and provide further updates as appropriate.

Education Bills Seeking to Overhaul School Curriculum Advance in Indiana Legislature

By Casey Smith | Originally posted on Yahoo.com

Broad career readiness initiatives, changes to K-12 literacy curriculum and incentives for up-and-coming teachers are at the heart of multiple education bills advancing through the Indiana legislature.

State lawmakers in House and Senate education committees collectively took up more than a dozen bills on Wednesday. Most of those measures advanced or are scheduled for committee votes next week.

Here’s a snapshot of the latest education-related developments at the statehouse.

The House education committee approved, 8-4, a wide-ranging bill that seeks to “reinvent” high school curriculum. Bill author Rep. Chuck Goodrich, R-Noblesville, said his proposal — a priority bill for the caucus — aims to narrow the “skills gap” between Hoosiers and employers.

The bill seeks to expand work-based learning in Indiana high schools, like apprenticeships and internships.

It would also create career scholarship accounts that are similar to Indiana’s school choice voucher program. Grants could be used by students in grades 10-12 to pay for career training courses, apprenticeships and certifications outside of the student’s school district.

The amount each participating student can receive to pay for apprenticeships, coursework, or certification would be based on a calculation of the state dollars that their school receives.

Democrats pushed back on the bill, however, saying language around credentialing programs is still too vague.

New teacher incentives

House lawmakers additionally supported two bills that seek to increase state scholarship dollars available to future teachers.

One of the proposals would increase certain scholarship amounts in an effort to attract more students into teaching — particularly black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC).

Attracting educators of color has been an ongoing concern for local schools and policy makers. Indiana had 79,120 full-time teachers in the 2019-20 school year, according to state data. Of those, 92% were white.

Those who testified in support of House Bill 1637 said the increased dollars would help BIPOC educator recruitment — good news for Indiana’s ongoing teacher shortage. Supporters said the bill would also provide much-needed support to address achievement gaps among Hoosier students of color.

The bill passed 12-0 out of the House education committee.

A separate measure, House Bill 1528, would allow Hoosiers in an alternative teacher certification program to apply for up to $10,000 under the Next Generation Hoosier Educators scholarship program.

The bill passed 13-0 with an amendment to limit the program to $1 million. Democrats expressed concern that the funding won’t be enough. Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, who chairs the committee, said the current spending ceiling is intended to keep the bill from getting killed in the the fiscal-minded ways and means committee.

Automatic enrollment for 21st Century Scholars program

Another bill heard in the House education committee would automatically enroll eligible Hoosier students in the 21st Century Scholars program — a statewide grant program that funds student attendance at two- and four-year schools.

House Bill 1449, authored by Rep. Earl Harris Jr., D-East Chicago, unanimously passed the committee and now heads to the full House for further consideration.

“Thousands of students a year miss out on opportunities that 21st Century Scholars can provide for them,” Harris said. “Not having this funding there to help with education — for a lot of a lot of people — means they do not continue their education … it affects the future of our workforce here in the state of Indiana.”

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb made automatic enrollment in the 21st Century Scholars program a priority within his 2023 legislative agenda. Administration officials said auto-enrollment shouldn’t be a cost to the state for six to seven years.

Science of Reading bill draws mixed testimony

Senate Bill 402, filed by Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, would define the “science of reading” and require schools to adopt such curriculum.

The “science of reading” is defined in both bills as the successful integration of concepts such as phonics, vocabulary and comprehension in reading.

Although Indiana lawmakers and education advocates have repeatedly said the state needs to take action to improve the state’s dismal literacy rates, some provisions in Freeman’s bill drew hesitation, especially from teachers.

The Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), the state’s largest teachers union, specifically pointed to language in the bill that directs schools to post reading materials online for inspection by parents.

“Our main point of contention in this bill is a requirement that every single material used in connection with K-8 reading must be placed on a website at the beginning of the school year and updated each semester,” said Jerell Blakeley, ISTA’s director of government, community, racial and social justice. “I think there’s an opportunity for us to get to a common sense solution that furthers the agenda of the bill, as well as to — I can’t believe I’m saying this — deregulate aspects of teaching in Indiana.”

Freeman told the committee he’s meeting with teachers and education groups to address concerns about that portion of the bill. The proposal could come up for a committee vote as soon as next week.

Other bills on the move

In the Senate education committee, lawmakers approved a bill to bring the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program to the entire state. The bill passed 11-0 and now goes to the appropriations committee.

Additionally, Senate Bill 480 passed narrowly, 7-6, onto the full Senate. The bill seeks to streamline numerous teacher regulations. Democrats and teacher union representatives said it also makes “concerning” changes to discussable items during collective bargaining.

All four Democrats on the committee voted against the bill, along with GOP Sens. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, and Dan Dernulc, R-Highland.

Sen. Jeff Raatz’s SB 380 also passed the committee in a 9-4 vote and heads to the Senate chamber. State senators heard mixed testimony last week on the bill, which places restrictions on high school graduation waivers and doubles down that schools can have dress codes.

An amendment to the bill approved by the senate committee on Wednesday would further require districts to post high school graduation rates online. The latest draft of the bill also sets a 10% cap on the number of students who can graduate from a school with a waiver before July 1, 2027. After that, the cap drops to 5%.

Another bill that seeks to help Hoosier students regain access to their college transcripts was put on hold, however. Raatz said lawmakers are continuing to have discussions about provisions in the bill.

Construction trades rank & file continue union exodus

By concreteproducts.com | Originally posted on concreteproducts.com

Sources: Associated Builders and Contractors, Washington, D.C.; CP staff

The Union Members Survey from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics finds the percentage of construction industry wage and salary workers belonging to unions dropped to a record low of 11.7 percent in 2022, versus 12.6 percent the prior year. The recently published document shows construction unions lost 5,000 rank & file over the past year, decreasing from 1.024 million members in 2021 to 1.019 million in 2022. That trend contrasts with an industry headcount that grew to 8.67 million in 2022, up 514,000 year over year.

An Associated Builders and Contractors analysis shows that a historically high 88.3 percent of the 7.6 million-plus U.S. construction industry workforce did not belong to a union last year. Additionally, ABC finds that there has never been a smaller percentage of union members in the construction industry since the BLS began tracking the data in 1973.

“Year-over-year construction union membership dropped despite robust overall job growth, suggesting that industry workers are not enthusiastic about joining a union when given a choice to do so,” says ABC Vice President of Regulatory, Labor and State Affairs Ben Brubeck. “This illustrates why the administration should not continue to advance controversial policies specific to the construction industry that require its workers to join a union and/or pay union dues, as well as contribute into union benefits plans, as a condition of employment on a taxpayer-funded federal project.”

“For example, Executive Order 14063, which requires federal agencies to mandate anticompetitive and wasteful project labor agreements on federal construction projects of $35 million or more—and other policies promoting PLAs on federally assisted state and local government infrastructure projects—are expected to result in more infrastructure jobs for unionized contractors and more jobs for union members at the expense of taxpayers and the 88.3 percent of the U.S. construction workforce that freely chooses not to join a union.”

Research shows that PLA mandates increase the cost of construction by 12 percent to 20 percent and result in the confiscation of 34 percent of a nonunion construction worker’s compensation package unless he or she joins a bargaining unit and becomes vested in union plans.

“Instead of encouraging unions to improve their product and value proposition to employees, contractors and developers,” Brubeck contends, the White House “continues to implement administrative and regulatory actions favoring unions––and push legislation such as the PRO Act––in an effort to increase union membership, which is in historical decline.”

Law ending Biden’s COVID vax mandate for healthcare workers passes U.S. House

By The Iowa Standard | Originally posted on theiowastandard.com

On Tuesday, Congressman Jeff Duncan’s Freedom for Health Care Workers Act passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support (227 to 203). This legislation would end the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers and nullifies the rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on November 5, 2021. Congressman Duncan introduced similar legislation (H.J. Res. 67) in 2021, and introduced H.R. 497 last week with over 70 Republican cosponsors. Click HERE for Congressman Duncan’s remarks on H.R. 497 on the House floor.

“The bipartisan passage of the Freedom for Health Care Workers Act in the House is a win for medical freedom and individual liberty,” said Congressman Jeff Duncan. “Over the past few years, far too many Americans were forced to get this shot against their will to keep their job, while others were fired or forced to walk away from their profession altogether. I began leading the charge against Joe Biden’s authoritarian vaccine mandate in 2021 when the frontline workers who were praised as heroes in the early days of the pandemic were forced to get to the shot or get out, even as we struggled with a nationwide staff shortage in the health care industry.”

“Imposing the COVID shot on our health care workers is unscientific and un-American, especially as we now know the COVID shot is ineffective at preventing transmission,” said Congressman Jeff Duncan. “Joe Biden’s draconian COVID authoritarianism has no place in this country, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to ‘follow the science’ and see this legislation through. While this is an important step, the fight is far from over, and I will continue fighting to end all of Joe Biden’s remaining COVID mandates.”

What Other Stakeholders are Saying:

Freedom Works:“FreedomWorks has consistently believed that the decision on whether to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or not should be left up to the individual and not the government. Congress should also be the branch that writes laws that impacts every American, not unelected bureaucrats. Hospitals and health care systems across the country are facing staffing issues that are directly impacting the quality of care Americans receive and keeping qualified individuals from working only worsens the crisis and harms more people. We thank Rep. Duncan for being a leading voice for Freedom through his service in Congress.”

“Associated Builders and Contractors has consistently opposed the Biden administration’s insistence on imposing unnecessary and overreaching COVID-19 vaccination mandates on our nation’s construction workforce,” said Kristen Swearingen, ABC’s Vice President of Legislative and Political Affairs. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, ABC member employers consistently demonstrated their commitment and willingness to create safe and healthy jobsite conditions because health and safety are always our No. 1 priority. H.R.497 would eliminate unnecessary compliance costs and burdens imposed on contractors that provide vital services to our nation’s hospitals and health care facilities and would ensure work opportunities for thousands of experienced, skilled construction workers throughout the country.”

“To continue the vaccine requirements continues to hamstring our ability to serve older adults in need. The restrictive nature of these requirements creates significant headwinds in each community’s ability to hire the best caregivers,” said David Buckshorn, CEO/President of a Continuing Care Retirement Community in South Carolina andChair of Public Policy for LeadingAge South Carolina. “In this time of great inflationary challenges and skilled worker shortages, the layering of requirements on the application process ties our hands behind our back.  As we have fought for a dwindling pool of willing skilled employees, our wages have increased beyond our consumers’ ability to pay.  Adding vaccine requirements, which many feel are actually putting them at greater health risk than the virus itself, limits our pool that much more.”

Biden’s big union policies are a double-whammy to my small business

By Mario Burgos | Originally posted on foxnews.com

In 2009, at the height of the Great Recession, my family business pivoted to focus on federal construction opportunities made possible under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama. Our company, Burgos Group, became a vehicle for realizing the American Dream of two brothers who are first-generation Americans—our father emigrated from Ecuador and is now a U.S. citizen.

Under the Obama and Trump administrations, our company grew from two to 195 employees with a track record of completing over 100 sustainability, renovation and modernization projects for 13 different federal agencies from coast to coast. Our growth landed us on the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies list six years in a row—something achieved by only three percent of the companies on that list.

However, since President Biden came to office, our workforce has shrunk by 40 percent! Never in my life have I experienced the economic or regulatory challenges that I am facing right now.

Construction materials prices are up more than 36 percent since the start of COVID-19. Recently, we asked a supplier to rebid electrical transformers for a project and the price came back more than double what it had been the last time it was quoted. Even worse, there is a 105-107-week lead time, meaning a potential project delay of two years.

Additionally, construction business owners like me are facing a workforce shortage of over half a million workers nationwide.

Instead of removing barriers to winning work, the Biden administration advances anti-competitive policies that shut the door to opportunities for businesses like mine to participate in the largest investment in infrastructure this country has ever seen. President Biden’s policies are a double-whammy to my community. They will raise the costs of the projects, which means more money on fewer projects, to the detriment of our neighborhoods.

New Mexico is a minority-majority state comprised predominantly of minority-owned small businesses, particularly in the construction industry. 90 percent of construction workers in New Mexico choose not to belong to a union. So, when President Biden mandates project labor agreements on federal construction projects over $35 million in New Mexico via Executive Order 14063, they are steering contracts and jobs away from the New Mexico construction community to large, out-of-state unionized contractors from Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

The union leaders who will profit from anti-competitive PLA defend the policy by saying it is only for large projects over $35 million. What they conveniently leave out is the fact that all federal projects that go to large businesses require small business subcontractors. Merit shop small businesses like mine will be forced to either watch the work go to out-of-state firms from big city, union hot spots, or will have to tell the majority of their workers they cannot work on the contract because President Biden has mandated that we hire from union halls.

Worse, cities like Albuquerque are following the administration’s lead in an even more punitive manner. When the Biden administration created new policies pushing PLAs on hundreds of billions of dollars of federally assisted projects procured by state and local governments, the mayor of Albuquerque vetoed the City Council rejection of a PLA mandate and put it place for every city project at less than one third of that the federal threshold—$10 million—in an attempt to curry favor with the administration and win more federal agency infrastructure grant money.

Forced PLA agreements keep small businesses small and move the American Dream further from the grasp of minority communities.

Under a mandatory PLA policy, our company would not have had the same opportunity for growth. Instead of hiring employees, finding work and growth opportunities for them from one project to the next, our company would have been forced to shift the work from our employees to labor from union halls for the length of the project. When the project is done, those union workers will go back to the hall to work for other contractors, and our small business will no longer have a base of existing employees with which to build and grow our business. In the unlikely event a PLA allows a small number of my existing nonunion employees to work on a PLA project, they would have to pay as much as 34 percent of their paychecks in union dues and union benefits and lose all contributions unless they join a union and become vested in those plans.

In addition, research has found PLA mandates increase the cost of construction 12 percent to 20 percent. In short, PLAs are a lose-lose for taxpayers, the vast majority of America’s construction workforce and quality small businesses like mine. Despite having a strong track record as a federal contractor that has resulted in awards from the Small Business Administration, Burgos Group will not bid on projects with PLAs in place. This means one less qualified and proven minority-owned small business competing for work.

The Biden administration is giving big city unions exactly what they want, and my community is suffering.

Associated Builders and Contractors Institute Names Ladd Henley Occupational Safety and Health Director

Originally posted on citybiz.co
Associated Builders and Contractors Institute Apprenticeship College (ABCI), the education and training arm of Associated Builders and Contractors Florida East Coast Chapter, is pleased to announce that Ladd Henley has joined as Occupational Safety and Health Director.

In this role, Henley will be responsible for safety-related membership services such as various forms of safety training, third-party jobsite inspection and safety program development and review. In addition, he will lead activities to enhance and grow the Institute’s safety presence in preapprenticeship, construction education and apprenticeship programs offered in Florida.

“Ladd has a proven track record in construction safety and will be an asset as we look to round out our construction safety curriculum,” said Nathan Ferree, Chief Operating Officer of ABCI.

Henley has nearly 30 years of construction experience with 18 being dedicated exclusively to construction safety. His overall commitment is to developing relationships, assisting construction companies with safety hazard mitigation and helping to protect the workforce from accidents along with assistance protecting employers from costly delays due to incidents or accidents. He speaks fluent Spanish.

Prior to joining ABCI, Henley served as a Regional Safety Manager for Kast Construction as well as Corporate Safety Director for Burke Construction Group, Inc.

Associated Builders and Contractors Institute is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to providing diverse, affordable and high-quality classes, apprenticeships and other construction industry-related programs throughout South Florida and the Space Coast. Since 1950, ABC has been working to attract and retain a quality construction workforce and invests more than $2.6 million locally each year to construction education and training.

Michigan Legislature Sets Stage for Policy Battle

By Scott McClallen | Originally posted on tennesseestar.com

Michigan Democrats filed bills aiming to fulfill a 40-year pending wishlist, which include restoring the prevailing wage and repealing right to work.

Other bills filed include repealing the retirement tax, boosting the earned income tax credit, and repealing the 1931 abortion ban despite a constitutional amendment voiding the law.

“House Democrats are committed to supporting Michigan families, guaranteeing the rights of all Michiganders are protected and respected, ensuring workers know they are valued, protecting and investing in our future, and promoting safe and strong communities,” House Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit, said in a statement. “Our commitment to make good on our promise to advance the priorities of the people is made clear with the introduction of these first bills of the session.”

In 2018, Michigan’s GOP-majority Legislature repealed the prevailing wage measure that required contractors to pay union wages on state construction projects. However, in 2021, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the Department of Technology, Management and Budget to require contractors be paid the prevailing wage on jobs worth more than $50,000.

The announcements were met with pushback from the private sector, which would pay higher costs for construction, along with the government.

The trade association Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan opposes restoring the prevailing wage. ABC Michigan CEO and President Jimmy Greene said that if the prevailing wage was restored, it would set 100,000 different wage mandates for Michigan construction.

“Usurping local control by forcing this mandate on local governments, schools, community colleges, and universities is not defendable,” Green said in a statement. “Regardless of where someone stands on the economic debate over prevailing wage requirements, nobody is seriously of the opinion that navigating 100,000 wage mandates every year makes sense. If this issue is going to be debated let’s have the thoughtful conversation that needs to take place and agree there is surely a more common-sense way to address public construction wage and benefit requirements than attacking workers and builders with 100,000 new requirements.”

Whitmer tweeted on Thursday that the bills would help Michiganders hit hard by inflation.

Her tweet read, “Michiganders are feeling the pinch with the high cost of essential goods like gas and groceries. We’re introducing new legislation that will cut costs for working families and support our seniors. We’re putting Michiganders first and getting things done!”

Michigan Freedom Fund Executive Director Sarah Anderson said the group plans to defend the right-to-work law. Enacted in 2012, the rule says nobody can be required to pay dues or fees to a union to hold a job.

“Politicians in Lansing have barely been on the job a week and they’re already declaring war on more than 150,000 Michigan workers who’ve exercised their constitutional rights over the last 10 years,” Anderson said in a statement. “Repealing right-to-work would strip working families of their rights, stifle wage growth, kill jobs, and make Michigan dramatically less attractive to new employers.”

How Technology Bridges the Construction Trade and Talent Gap

By Doron Klein | Originally posted on forconstructionpros.com 

The construction industry is experiencing an ongoing hiring drought, and the challenge of hiring has led to a loss of business for many general contractors. A recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index indicated that 92 percent of contractors reported difficulty finding construction workers. Of those, 42 percent said that this has caused them to turn down work.

According to the Associated Builders and Contractors, the second half of 2022 will expand the construction hiring issue due to inflation, federal spending, an aging workforce, and persistent shortages. As we combat these obstacles, it becomes necessary to prioritize recruitment, retention, employee training, and workplace safety. Investing in technology solutions is key to the construction industry’s success.

Technology Positively Impacts Worker Retention

Construction is known to be a physical profession, which creates real workforce problems as individuals age out of the work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of a construction worker is about 42 years old, and 36 percent are between the ages of 45 and 64. Advanced technology solutions help to elongate the careers of construction workers and retain this crucial segment of aging talent.

The stress of making decisions on the fly that impact quality, schedule, and cost is alleviated when technology provides certainty via real-time data. For example, before pouring the concrete, digitally verifying installation progress, quality, and dimensional layouts would enable the identification of errors and omissions in the slab relative to the plans and shop drawings. Subcontractors can then use that data to make relevant corrections before concrete is poured and utilize it as a source of truth for the future. This precision eliminates decisions based on second-guessing inherent in today’s manual quality control processes, leading to increased productivity and schedule acceleration.

Technology that increases construction accuracy and reduces mistakes will unlock the potential for a higher degree of communication, certainty, schedule, and cost. Accurate, real-time data equips teams to identify errors, gain heightened accountability, and collaborate better because the insights show where attention is needed now, rather than having to tell a team member that mistakes were made after the fact. This eliminates finger-pointing when an error is identified and creates a more positive environment that boosts morale and employee retention.

The Key to Unlocking the Future Workforce’s Potential

The early adoption of technology, such as plan verification software that provides real-time actionable insights on a project, will improve the construction work environment and potentially attract more professionals in the near future. A new superintendent typically needs up to six years of field management work to become fully trained in how to forecast errors. With technology-enabled data, contractors can cut that process down to as little as two years. The checks and balances provided by data-informed reports identify a variety of issues and alert field mistakes as they happen, equipping the superintendent to know what to look for and getting them up to speed in the field quicker.

Trade schools were once seen as a “fallback” option in the 1980s and ‘90s but are now more attractive for those who graduated high school mid-pandemic. According to ECMC Group, a teen’s likelihood of pursuing a four-year degree decreased 23 percentage points between May 2020 and September 2021, down to 48 percent from 71 percent. Given the tools to succeed, construction can become a more attractive job option for recent graduates.

When we equip trades with cutting-edge tools, the construction industry becomes a more attractive career path, especially for younger individuals who have an easier time adopting new technology. While we train the future workforce to use data effectively on the jobsite, we’re teaching them how to adapt to new technologies and better prepare them for their future.

Accurate data-based technology allows management to accelerate lessons learned for employees before it’s too late, showing them solutions rather than just problems. If a worker is repeatedly improperly spacing panels or installing crooked components, real-time documentation allows the project manager to identify where retraining is needed. Documenting errors along the way equips the team to improve work processes and instruct workers on how to succeed moving forward when reporting mistakes.

Leveraging Technology to Improve Worker Safety

Over 40 percent of American workers report experiencing increased mental distress due to the pandemic, and over 85 percent say that work impacts their mental health, according to the National Safety Council. Prolonged workplace distress causes fatigue and impacts worker safety. The risk this presents extends to construction trades. According to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), decreased alertness from worker fatigue has factored into industrial disasters, prime examples being the 2005 Texas City BP oil refinery explosion, the 2009 Colgan Air Crash, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, and the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

The most significant contributor to construction workplace safety incidents is unplanned work, with an estimated 70 percent of safety incidents happening during rework. When workers aren’t in a planned workflow, like during the rework process, they are contending with heightened risk and stress. The uncertainty leaves them more vulnerable to making mistakes that can cause financial losses within the project or, even worse: increase the likelihood of injury. With the proper tools and actionable data insights that catch problems before they happen, general contractors avoid rework and improve the well-being of trades.

Technology Improves Productivity and Accuracy

Contractors orchestrate a project according to a schedule, and when a schedule slides, it affects costs and penalties and limits their teams from moving on to the next project. By leveraging technology and data, industry professionals will streamline the construction process by speeding up tasks, ensuring better quality, and protecting budgets.

For example, façade installation is complicated to inspect and ensure quality control. Any unseeded gasket and missing coupling bar will cause structural issues and warranty concerns if unattended. Digital verification platforms enable confirmation of every square inch of the exterior without superintendents having to do it from the ground level and balconies manually. By shifting the weight of this obstacle to data-informed technology, general contractors can reduce risk and eliminate errors, saving time and resources through greater efficiency. This process allows general contractors to more precisely understand how to budget for contingency time, which should be reserved for unavoidable circumstances like weather delays. Through this heightened efficiency, industry leaders maximize the productive time of workers, freeing them from endless hours of manually checking every detail and allowing them to focus on more significant parts of the work.

Data-driven processes better equip construction decision-makers to combat the prevalent labor shortage through tools that improve worker retention, training, and worksite safety. Whether improving workplace morale by providing certainty and eliminating errors or streamlining the construction process by freeing up the team to complete more meaningful tasks, technology is the key to bridging the construction trade and talent gap and accelerating the industry forward.

ABC: Construction Employment Up By 28,000 in December

Originally posted on constructionbusinessowner.com 

The construction industry added 28,000 jobs on net in December, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) analysis of data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On a year-over-year basis, industry employment has risen by 231,000 jobs or 3.1%.

Nonresidential construction employment increased by 17,900 positions on net, with growth in all three subcategories. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 10,200 net new jobs, while nonresidential building and heavy and civil engineering added 5,800 and 1,900 jobs, respectively.

The construction unemployment rate rose to 4.4% in December. Unemployment across all industries declined from 3.6% in November to 3.5% last month.

“This employment report indicates that contractors collectively remain in expansion mode despite rising costs of capital and fears of recession,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Consistent with upbeat assessments of construction activity late last year, nonresidential contractors continue to ramp up staffing in the context of elevated backlog. In ABC’s Construction Confidence Index, contractors indicated that both sales and employment would continue to rise over the next six months.

“There was additional good news emerging from the overall U.S. economy,” said Basu. “Though the labor market remains strong and job creation persists, there are indications that wage pressures are easing. Nonetheless, the Federal Reserve will continue to raise interest rates to restore inflation to its 2% target, with the implication that a recession remains a real possibility in 2023. Based on historical precedent, that could produce more challenging times for contractors in 2024 and/or 2025.”

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