The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, April 02, 2010

NEWS BRIEFS

By The Building Tradesman



Trumka: jobs bill is a ‘good start’

WASHINGTON (PAI) – The small, $15 billion jobs bill that a bipartisan Senate majority approved, 68-29, on March 17, is “a good start,” but not enough, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.  “Much more needs to be done,” he added.

The House voted 217 to 201 to approve the measure, which would give tax breaks to companies for hiring new employees. More than 30 Democrats voted against the measure. Liberals complained that it is too small and too focused on tax cuts rather than on spending.

“We need to restore the jobs lost to the financial debacle, and Wall Street should pay to create them,” Trumka said.  That includes investing in infrastructure and green jobs, maintaining money for state and local services and “the additional steps needed to extend unemployment insurance and health care lifelines to the unemployed.”

Building trend improves a bit

At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $440.9 billion, new U.S. construction starts in February climbed 5% from the previous month, according to a March 18 report by McGraw-Hill Construction.

Much of the lift was provided by the public works sector, reflecting strength for both transportation and environmental projects.  Residential building also showed improvement in February, but nonresidential building slipped back after January’s gain.  For the first two months of 2010, total construction on an unadjusted basis came in at $57.2 billion, essentially the same amount as reported during the first two months of 2009.

“The pattern shown during February is what’s expected for 2010 as a whole – more public works construction, improved activity for residential building, but further weakness for nonresidential building,” stated Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction.  “The public works sector in 2009 showed growth for highway and bridge construction, helped by the federal stimulus funding, and more broad-based expansion is expected this year. For nonresidential building, however, the tough environment for project financing remains a substantial constraint.”

Construction start statistics, Murray said, show that highway and bridge construction climbed 7 percent during 2009, and the early months of 2010 indicate that contracting is on track for an even larger gain this year.

By geography, total construction in the first two months of 2010 showed this behavior – the Northeast, up 31 percent; the Midwest, up 2 percent; the South Atlantic, down 1 percent; the West, down 6 percent, and the South Central, down 11 percent.