The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 31, 2012


By The Building Tradesman

Construction still can’t turn to corner

New construction starts fell 10 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $401.2 billion, according to and Aug. 21 report by McGraw-Hill Construction.

After showing improvement during the spring, the pace of construction starts retreated over the past three months, with July coming in at the lower end of the recent range of activity.

Non-building construction, comprised off public works and electric utilities, fell sharply in July, while both nonresidential building and housing lost some of their earlier momentum. For the first seven months of 2012, the volume of total construction starts on an unadjusted basis was reported at $262.9 billion, holding on to a 4 percent gain compared to the same period a year ago.

“The construction industry is still struggling to gain upward traction, as construction starts continue to exhibit an up-and-down pattern,” stated Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. “The public works and institutional building sectors are still being adversely affected by the tough fiscal climate facing the federal, state, and local levels of government.

“Commercial building, which seemed to be in the very early stages of recovery, is seeing its faint upturn become more tenuous with the sluggish employment picture.  The upward potential for housing in the near term is also being dampened by the persistently hesitant U.S. economy.  Overall, the construction industry remains stuck for now in an extended process of turning the corner.”

For the January-July period, total construction in the Midwest was up 5 percent compared to the same period in 2011. It was the only region in the U.S. that was in positive territory.

NLRB’s pro-union ruling rejected, again

WASHINGTON (PAI) – A federal district judge has turned down the National Labor Relations Board’s request to reconsider and reverse his prior ruling killing – for now – the board’s planned rule to make union recognition elections fairer and more efficient.

The rejection by District Judge James Boasberg cheered the Radical Right, the Chamber of Commerce – which sued to stop the rule – and anti-worker House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn.   And it left the NLRB pondering its next move in the controversy.

Boasberg originally threw out the rule earlier this year because, he decided, the NLRB lacked a quorum when it passed the measure last Dec. 16.  The board’s two Democratic members voted for the rule, but its sole Republican, Brian Hayes neither opposed it nor abstained.  He didn’t vote at all.

The NLRB’s rule would deprive businesses of some of the time they use for some procedural tricks to delay and deny workers the right to vote on whether to unionize.  It would consolidate hearings, mandate hearings on voter eligibility be after the vote, and set a time limit for objecting to election procedures, among other things.

Hayes’ non-vote deprived the NLRB of its needed 3-member quorum for a decision on the rule, Boasberg said last month. That’s despite new evidence the NLRB introduced at the rehearing about how its electronic “voting room,” involving all three board members, works – and showing that Hayes voted on everything else electronically on Dec. 16.

The board even noted that Hayes wrote a dissent against the rule when it was sent for official publication.  Boasberg replied that Hayes, like the other board members, was under the “misimpression” that the rule passed and should be published.  But Hayes didn’t vote on it, so the rule wasn’t legally passed, the judge said.

“Hayes’ presence for and participation in other votes that day do not necessarily establish  his presence for the vote in question,” Boasberg wrote in his latest ruling.  “He must have been present for this vote to count towards this quorum,” the judge said (his emphasis).

The NLRB can still pass the rule, Boasberg reiterated, if it can find a quorum to do so.