The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 12, 2014

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Trying times on Labor Day

We’ve had occasional rain on our Labor Day celebrations in Detroit, and we’ve had the occasional visit from presidents and vice presidents over the years.

The Labor Day visit by Vice President Joe Biden was most welcome – the vice president chose to come to Detroit when he could have gone to just about any holiday parade in the country.

Unfortunately, the Veep’s visit and speech – complete with the closure of roads and heightened security brought by the Secret Service – delayed the parade by two hours. That delay created a perfect storm with the weather, as a deluge of rain soaked paraders right in the middle of the march.

The vice president’s speech had a good message. Unfortunately the timing and logistics couldn’t have been much worse. I will work with the parade’s organizers to make sure there is a better set up for VIP visits in future years.

Thank you to everyone who attended the Detroit parade, even if you didn’t end up marching behind your union’s banner. We hope to see you again next year and in future years.


Construction still climbing, slowly

All major categories of construction spending increased in July and total construction reached the highest level since December 2008, according to an analysis released Sept. 2 by the Associated General Contractors of America.

AGC officials said they welcomed the robust spending figures, but cautioned that growing demand will put new pressure on an already tight labor market.

“It is encouraging to see signs of a broad-based recovery in private construction along with a recovery—at least for now—in public construction investment,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Private nonresidential construction should remain strong through the rest of 2014 and beyond, while residential spending is likely to keep growing, though at a more moderate pace. However, funding is still inadequate for needed public infrastructure improvements.”

Construction spending in July totaled $981 billion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, up 1.8 percent from the June total, which was revised substantially higher than the initial estimate, Simonson noted. The July total was 8.2 percent higher than in July 2013.

Public investment in construction continues to hold back the industry – for the first seven months of 2014 combined remained 0.1 percent below the total for the same period in 2013.

Building trades unions maintain that worker shortages are mostly a myth, but not the AGC. “As demand for construction rebounds, many firms are finding that the pool of available workers is pretty shallow,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.  “Retiring older workers, strong demand in other sectors of the economy and few younger people seeking careers in construction are combining to create workforce shortages for many construction firms.”

The AGC said that a survey the association conducted with SmartBrief found that 25 percent of responding firms report they have already turned down projects because of labor shortages while two-thirds say they are having a hard time finding workers.