The current and future economy, trends in design and construction, political influence – sometimes we have something to say about topics which may be signs of things to come.

The construction industry has begun to place an even greater focus on safety on the jobsite.  According to the latest National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2010 conducted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, that effort is beginning to pay off in fewer workplace fatalities.

According to the study, “The number of fatal work injuries in the private industry construction sector declined by 10 percent in 2010.  Fatal work injuries in construction have declined every year since 2006 and are down nearly 40 percent over that time.  Economic conditions may explain much of this decline with total hours worked having declined another 6 percent in construction in 2010, after declines in both 2008 and 2009.  Even with the lower fatal injury total, construction accounted for more fatal work injuries than any other industry in 2010.”   Read more » about Safety Works

According to Reuters, “A leading indicator of nonresidential construction in the United States, [the American Institute of Architects Billings Index,] fell for a fourth straight month in July, in a sign that demand for offices and other commercial properties is weakening.”

That is not a good sign for the shrinking backlogs of construction companies around the country and might point to a really tough next 6 months and even into 2012.

The index dropped to 45.1, and since anything under 50 speaks to a weakening economy, we may be looking at more consolidations and mergers in both the design and construction firms around the country.

The billings index usually leads the construction indexes by 12 months or so, those pundits who Read more » about AIA Billings Index Drops for the Fourth Month

An eye-opening article in Britain’s Construction Enquirer this week reported on the looming predicament the construction industry is facing: the aging workforce and the resulting imminent shortage of skilled craftsmen.  Editor Aaron Morby interviewed Mark Farrar, Chief Executive of CITB-ConstructionSkills about the latest statistics reported by that company.

The numbers paint an ominous picture of an impending skilled workforce shortage.  The article reports:

“The number of workers aged 55 years and over in the industry has increased by 65% since 1990, while those aged 24 and under has fallen Read more » about Skilled Workforce Decrease Threatens Construction Future

The Career Advisory Board and DeVry University recently teamed with the folks at Harris Interactive to do a poll on “The Millennials”, identified as adults ages 21-31, and report on their current expectations for the future of their careers in the workforce.

I found it interesting that the survey was “conducted online within the United States between December 29, 2010 and January 10, 2011.”  According to the report Future Of Millennial Careers:

“The survey participants included 500 U.S. adults age 21-31 who are either employed or plan to seek employment in the future.  They also included 523 U.S. adults age 18+ who are Read more » about The Future of Millennials’ Careers

Owners, developers and contractors have a new critical issue to add to their list of concerns about the hiring of illegal labor on their projects – human trafficking victims.

We were alerted to the seriousness of the issue by Brandon Darby, a subcontractor and human rights activist who has been investigating human trafficking in the U.S., its impact on the construction industry and its toll on human lives.  Darby is best known for his work with law enforcement agencies on anti-terror issues.  We followed up with Darby and asked him a few questions.

Why did you contact Construction Citizen about this issue?

“When I found Construction Citizen and realized that many construction industry organizations and leaders are working to hold their own industry accountable, I wanted to alert them to another issue that exists in our industry, one that is undermining the image and future of the industry, the issue of human trafficking and slave labor in construction.”    Read more » about Slavery on Your Construction Site?

Daniel W. Rasmus, blogger for the online magazine Fast Company, is focused on the uncertainties that companies will face.  Our companies.  Our industry.  Our uncertainties.

Issues like wellness, generational change and conflict, technology, leadership, skills gaps and worker shortages will plague those companies who do not take the initiative today to create action and contingency plans to address each of the issues before they demand an immediate solution.

About the possibility of a skilled worker / talent shortage, Rasmus writes:

“If nationalistic tendencies prevail, then the outcomes of individual education systems, public and private, and training programs provided by firms and immigration policy will combine to determine the available talent pools.  Read more » about Fast Company Blogger Talks About the Challenges of our Future Organizations

According to the latest industry figures from the Associated General Contractors Association (AGC):

“The construction industry added 5,000 jobs in April while the industry’s unemployment rate declined slightly to 17.8 percent, nearly twice the national average, according to an analysis of new federal employment data released [earlier this month] by the Associated General Contractors of America.  Association officials said the figures continue a year-long trend of little change in construction employment after years of steep declines and predicted the stagnation is unlikely to change soon.”

In a press release from the AGC, their chief economist, Ken Simonson, states:

“The construction industry may have stopped bleeding jobs, but there is no sign that employment Read more » about Lots of Construction Workers Still Looking for Work

2011 has begun with more optimism, for sure.  It is supported by some encouraging facts and activities involving Houston’s energy companies, the real estate community, architects and engineers, even lenders.  However, as it relates to actual non-residential contract awards the facts are still sobering; the market is still significantly depressed.  Data from McGraw Hill suggests that 2011 will be only slightly better for non-residential construction than 2010, well behind 2009, and light years behind the pre-recession 2008 numbers.  While we expect the market to improve over the coming months, it will be gradual, and may not be truly discernible until the 4th quarter of this year.

So what gives reason for optimism?

There are several “front end conditions” that are significantly better than a year ago.  If they continue, they will promote new commercial construction projects over time.  Specifically, the overall Houston economy is better, thanks mainly to the health of the energy companies. Read more » about Strategic Realities