The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 30, 2012

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

A downer so far for 2012 construction

Construction activity is supposed to start inching upward in 2012. You wouldn’t know it by the first two months of the year.

New U.S. construction starts in February dropped 7 percent from January. And for the first two months of 2012, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis came in at $52.9 billion, down 14 percent from the same period a year ago.

A more favorable way to massage the statistics is as follows: for the 12 months ending February 2012 versus the 12 months ending February 2011, which lessens the volatility of the numbers –total construction starts were down 2 percent.

“The pace of construction starts during the first two months of 2012 was subdued, retreating to the lower end of its recent range,” stated Robert A. Murray, vice president

of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction, which crunched the numbers and released them March 20. “Renewed expansion for the construction industry is still struggling to take hold, with gains for a few project types such as multi-family housing being outweighed by declines for project types that are largely publicly financed. This was especially the case in February, when much of the downward pull came from weakness for public works and institutional building.”

Declines in public spending have been a big downer for the building trades.

“The factors affecting new construction starts for highways are generally negative,” Murray said. “Fiscal 2012 appropriations included a 5 percent cut to the federal-aid highway program, the lift from the federal stimulus act has run its course, states continue to deal with budget constraints, and the funding authority under the existing federal transportation legislation is set to expire on March 31. While Congress has taken steps to extend the funding authority by considering new transportation measures, such as the $109 billion two-year bill recently passed by the Senate, the uncertainty over the shape and timing of a new transportation package has added another negative to this year’s prospects for highway construction.”

Other large declines for public works in February were registered by water supply systems, down 18 percent; miscellaneous public works (including site work), down

21 percent; and sewers, down 22 percent.

Body of painter Kent Morton found

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office on March 24 identified a body found floating in the Detroit River as Kent Morton, a painter who fell into the water while painting the Ambassador Bridge on Jan. 11.

The body was recovered at the boat docks at Historic Fort Wayne near Zug Island.

Morton, 28, was working for Seaway Painting. He fell from scaffolding under the bridge where he was painting its ironwork. MIOSHA is still investigating the tragedy.

Kent is survived by his seven-year-old daughter, his mother, and several family members who are in the building trades.