Reshaping the Construction Industry

Heading into the new year, the federal government is ramping up efforts to educate employees and employers about the harms caused by worker misclassification. It’s a problem we’ve documented extensively over the years on Construction Citizen.

Our readers know very well that worker misclassification happens when a business pretends its employees are “independent subcontractors” with the intent of avoiding payroll taxes and benefits like workers’ compensation insurance and – thanks to reduced labor costs – are able to submit lower bids for projects, undercutting law-abiding companies. Of course, there are many legitimate and legal uses of contract labor. The problem arises when businesses abuse the designation with the intent of skipping out on taxes and providing benefits for people being utilized as employees.

The Department of Labor this month launched a new webpage devoted to the topic. The site makes the case that worker misclassification negatively impacts everyone: Workers, employers, and all taxpayers who have to pick up the slack when unscrupulous employers shirk their responsibilities.   Read more » about Labor Department Launches New Web Page on Worker Misclassification

Fewer metros post job gains; nonresidential starts are mixed; ABI hugs breakeven level

Editor’s note:  Construction Citizen is proud to partner with AGC America to bring you AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson's Data DIGest. Check back each week to get Ken's expert analysis of what's happening in our industry.

Construction employment, not seasonally adjusted, increased from November 2015 to November 2016 in 211 (59%) of the 358 metro areas (including divisions of larger metros) for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides construction employment data, decreased in 86 (24%) and was stagnant in 61, according to an AGC release and map on Tuesday. (BLS combines mining and logging with construction in most metros.) The number of areas with increases was the lowest for November since 2012. The largest percentage gains again occurred in Boise, Idaho (21%, 4,000 combined jobs), followed by El Centro, Calif. (17%, 600 combined jobs), Albany, Ore. (16%, 400 construction jobs) and Weirton-Steubenville, W. Va.-Ohio (16%, 300 combined jobs). As in October, Denver-Aurora-Lakewood (9,600 combined jobs, 10%) and Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (9,600 construction jobs, 15%) tied for the most jobs added; they were followed by Seattle-Bellevue-Everett (8,100 construction jobs, 9%) and Las-Vegas-Henderson-Paradise (7,900 construction jobs, 15%). The largest job losses again were in Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land (-12,700 construction jobs, -6%), followed by the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale division (-4,400 construction jobs, -3%) and Orange-Rockland-Westchester, N.Y. (-3,400 combined jobs, -8%).    Read more » about AGC's Data DIGest: December 19-21, 2016

Joy, happiness,
and peace to all of
our readers!
Read more » about Happy Holidays!

Something that’s probably underappreciated is the fact that builders across Texas and the nation are heavily invested in the communities they serve and go out of their way to give back, particularly during Christmas and the rest of the holiday season.

Companies and trade associations taking part in various charitable activities do not do it for publicity, which was made clear to me this past week when I started asking around about what sorts of things builders are doing in their communities. They just don't like to brag. So if they won't brag on themselves, the Construction Citizen team thought it would be appropriate for us to brag on them at least a little.

To get a list going, I asked the Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas what their chapters are doing to help people celebrate. This is, of course, not meant to be an exhaustive list of charities in which all construction companies are involved. There would simply be no way to mention all the good works happening right now.    Read more » about Merry Christmas from Builders Across Texas

Don't forget to wind up your clock!

Hi there. The Chamberlin Man here.

It’s the holiday season, with the whoop-de-doo and hickory dock. Sure enough Santa will be “coming down the chimney, down” and we’ll be ringing in the new year before we know it. My, my how the time does fly!

That means we’re having some fun here at Chamberlin. But don’t just take my word for it, take a gander at our 2016 year in review video. Just look at all those big toothy smiles. (Watch the 3-minute video below.)   Read more » about Whoop-de-doo and Hickory Dock

One of the things President-elect Donald Trump did not stress during his successful campaign for the White House is the need for those who are out of work to be trained for new careers. In fact, it is difficult to find any example of Trump discussing skills training at all. Any mention of workforce development and craft training was absent from Trump's major speeches on jobs and the economy. 

That is perhaps because his entire economic message – a message that resonated in states that made the difference for him in the Rust Belt – was centered on the idea that if you do not have a job it is because someone else took it from you. 

Trump’s political argument went something like this: If you don’t have a job, it’s because an unfair trade deal sent your gig to another country or an undocumented immigrant stole the job that you would hold here in this nation if an “illegal” wasn’t doing it instead of you.    Read more » about Trump Infrastructure Plan Should Include Skills Training

We recently attended a celebration and thank you party in the offices of the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP) in Partnership Tower.

The GHP honored and thanked those craft workers responsible for the build out of their offices designed by Kirksey Architects, built by Harvey Builders and a host of specialty subcontractors like Marek, Trio Electric, and Clunn.

The space, designed to be the “front door” for business visitors to Houston, is home to the largest business organization in the fourth largest city in the US. It will be a heavily utilized space and is designed to accommodate a variety of events from meetings of its large Board of Directors, to hosting foreign dignitaries, hosting events such as the elected officials appreciation party, and hosting corporate leaders from around the world.    Read more » about Who Built It? Celebration at Partnership Tower

34 states add jobs; PPIs for new buildings and construction inputs each rise 0.8%

Editor’s note:  Construction Citizen is proud to partner with AGC America to bring you AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson's Data DIGest. Check back each week to get Ken's expert analysis of what's happening in our industry.

Seasonally adjusted construction employment rose in 34 states from November 2015 to November 2016, declined in 14 states, and held steady in Montana, Nebraska and the District of Columbia, an AGC analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released today showed. Nevada led in percentage gain (12%, 8,400 jobs), followed by Iowa (10%, 8,300), Washington (9.4%, 16,500), Oregon (8.4%, 7,000) and Colorado (8.3%, 12,800). The most jobs added were again in California (35,100 jobs, 4.7%), Florida (23,200, 5.3%), Washington and Colorado. Kansas again had the steepest percentage loss (-5.9%, -3,600), followed by Wyoming (-5.7%, -1,300), Alabama (-4.4%, -3,600), Connecticut (-3.8%, -2,200), Maine (-3.7%, -2,200) and Kentucky (-2.9%, -2,200). New York lost the most jobs (-6,400, -1.7%), followed by Alabama and Kansas, then Kentucky and Connecticut. For the month, employment rose in 29 states and D.C., and shrank in 21 states. (AGC's rankings are based on seasonally adjusted data, which in D.C. and six states is available only for construction, mining and logging combined.)

The producer price index (PPI) for final demand in November, not seasonally adjusted, increased 0.1% from October and 1.3% year-over-year (y/y) from November 2015, the BLS reported on Wednesday. AGC posted tables and an explanation focusing on construction prices and costs.    Read more » about AGC's Data DIGest: December 12-16, 2016

Business Insider’s Tech writer Dana Varinsky posted 13 of the most stunning twisted towers around the world that visually documents some of the most interesting towers that have been built after “famed architect Santiago Calatrava designed the building known as the Turning Torso, (and) ushered in a new era of twisted designs.”

The buildings are visually striking statements of the visual design and are bold statements of the structural engineers and contractors who were able to make those designs a reality.

It will be interesting to hear the “twisted tales” of the users and residents of those twisted towers over the next decade as they become part of the landscape. It will be interesting to see how the buildings themselves age as the complex structural elements respond to the wind, rain and other elements.

They are striking and visually interesting.  We offer our kudos to the architects, engineers and contractors for their outstanding work. Special thanks to the owners and investors who were willing to take a chance on new structural designs that have made the built environment in cities around the world much more interesting than ever before.   Read more » about It is a Construction Tale with Many Twists

The following article is a guest piece by Jose Garza, Executive Director of Workers Defense Project:

Today, the middle class is out of reach for too many men and women working in the Texas construction industry.

That hasn’t always been the case.

After serving in the Pacific during World War II, my grandfather, Saul, returned to Texas in 1945 hopeful and optimistic about the future. He got his start working for a general contractor in San Antonio where he picked up the skills that would  lay the foundation for the life that he and his family hoped to build.

Eventually, through his hard work and good fortune, he was hired by the Texas Highway Department. There, he earned good wages and had access to benefits that allowed him to raise eight children and put several of them through college.    Read more » about Garza: Building a Better Texas, Together


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