Associations

Homebuilding Tumbles in August, Other Spending is Mixed; Steel, Lumber Prices and Supplies Improve

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Submitted by the AGC

Construction spending (not adjusted for inflation) totaled $1.78 trillion in August at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, down 0.7% from the upwardly revised July rate but up 8.5% year-over-year (y/y), the Census Bureau reported today. However, without a deflator, it is impossible to say how much of the y/y gain is in units vs. price. Private residential construction spending declined 0.9% for the month, dragged down by a 2.9% plunge in single-family homebuilding. Multifamily construction spending rose 0.4%, while owner-occupied improvements increased 1.0%. Private nonresidential construction spending inched down 0.1% from July. The largest private nonresidential segment (based on seasonally adjusted spending in August 2022)—commercial—was flat for the month (including warehouse, down 0.8%, and retail, up 0.5%); followed by power, down 0.9% (with electric power up 0.4% and oil and gas field structures and pipelines down 5.1%); manufacturing, down 0.6% (including computer/electronic/electrical, up 3.7%, and chemical and pharmaceutical, down 1.2%); and office and data centers, up 0.3%. Public construction spending decreased 0.8% for the month. The largest public segment, highway and street construction, declined 1.4% for the month. Public education and transportation construction each slipped 0.4%.

Pricing and availability for some steel, lumber, and plastic construction products have stabilized or improved in recent weeks. Steel Dynamics notified customers today that it is “reducing the published price for parallel flange products, structural merchants, and bar products by $3.00/cwt ($60/ton),” effective today. “Rebar has remained flat through August and thus far through September,” New South News reported on Thursday. “With current rebar demand remaining steady, but not at the high pace of prior months, domestic mills have been able to adequately keep up with distribution and market consumption levels. Most high-volume buys are still being scheduled based on rebar production rollings, but spot needs and low volume requests between rollings have mostly been able to be fulfilled with shorter lead times….Inventory and availability also remain strong with regards to wire mesh reinforcing.…most requests for material [are] able to be fulfilled within two weeks….The lumber market continues to bump along the bottom. Slight pricing increases or decreases are occurring almost every week, but typically only last for the week. One specific grade and size may see a $20 increase one week and then see a decrease near the same amount the next. [Polyethylene sheeting] lead times for standard sizes and mill thicknesses are currently running two to three weeks. Occasionally this lead time can even shrink down to a week. Recent pricing is reflecting the current availability with manufacturers willing to move on pricing…” Readers are invited to send pricing and availability information to ken.simonson@agc.org.

Construction employment, not seasonally adjusted, rose from August 2021 to August 2022 in 246 (69%) of the 358 metro areas (including divisions of larger metros) for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) posts construction employment data, fell in 57 (16%) and was unchanged in 55, according to an analysis AGC released on Wednesday. (BLS reports combined totals for mining, logging, and construction in most metro areas, to avoid disclosing data about industries with few employers. AGC treats the changes as being solely from construction.) Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land again added the most jobs (33,500 construction jobs, 16%), followed by the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett division (8,800 construction jobs, 8%) and the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale division (8,300 construction jobs, 6%). The largest percentage gain, 20%, occurred in Muskegon, Mich. (750 combined jobs) and Bloomington, Ill. (600 combined jobs), followed by a 17% rise in Danville, Ill. (100 combined jobs). The largest loss again occurred in Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (-5,500 construction jobs, -7%), followed by Richmond, Va. (-3,500 combined jobs, -8%) and Austin-Round Rock, Texas (-2,800 combined jobs, -4%). The largest percentage decline, -8%, occurred in Richmond; Charleston, W. Va. (-500 combined jobs); and Ithaca, N.Y. (-100 combined jobs).

Demand for income-producing properties has been mixed recently but new construction is likely to be held down by rising financing costs. Apartment “vacancy rates remain low but have risen for three straight quarters alongside an elevated pace of new completions and moderating net absorption,” Wells Fargo Economics posted on September 26. The marked rise in rents and other inflation pressures are leading to renter consolidation and slower demand. [Office] vacancy rates ticked up to 12.3% in Q2 [the second quarter of 2022] as a wave of new deliveries offset a modest improvement in net absorption. A glut of sublease space continues to weigh on rent growth, although rents rose at the fastest annual pace since 2020 in Q2. Looking ahead, cooling job growth will prolong the office market recovery further. [New retail] construction has failed to keep pace with the post-pandemic upswing in demand. Vacancy rates ticked down to 4.4% in Q2, close to the previous cycle low hit in 2018. Rents rose 4.4% year-to-year, the highest since at least 2008 when records began. Demand for retail space is poised for a slowdown as high inflation hits the brakes on consumer spending over the next several years. [The warehouse vacancy rate in Q2 fell] to 3.9%, a new low. Consumer goods spending pulling back will certainly test the…market in the near term. The structural shifts of e-commerce integration and global supply chain reorientation, however, are likely to support demand in the longer run. [Hotel] occupancy rates are hovering near pre-pandemic levels. Leisure and corporate travel are likely to downshift under the weight of rising travel costs and slowing economic growth. The soaring [dollar] will lengthen the recovery in international travel.”

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Home Builders Charitable Foundation Commemorates 25 Years of Giving

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Nearly $3.9 Million to Shelter-Related Charities

On Wed., Sept. 28 at Bellerive Country Club in Ladue, Mo., the Home Builders Charitable Foundation (HBCF) celebrated its 25th anniversary with a dinner program honoring the foundation’s greatest supporters. Since 1997, HBCF has donated nearly $3.9 million in donations, materials and labor to almost 90 local charities. Jim Brennan, President of McKelvey Homes and the HBCF Board, emceed the program. Representatives and beneficiary families from Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis and Rebuilding Together St. Louis also addressed attendees.

“Over the past 25 years of partnership with Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis, you invested over $245,000 and helped us as an organization construct over 425 affordable housing units and welcome home more than 450 families …. Your investment provided unmatchable good starts as well as a stronghold to a life well lived. Thank you all for your support, and congratulations on 25 years effecting real change in our shared community,” said Harper Zielonko, director of resource development for Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis.

HBCF is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing housing assistance to people or organizations with special shelter needs and the charitable arm of the Home Builders Association of St. Louis & Eastern Missouri, a local trade association of nearly 600 member firms representing the residential construction industry.

Photo Above: (L to R): Current and founding HBCF Board Members Jim Brennan (McKelvey Homes), Pat Sullivan (Retired HBA Executive Director), Ken Stricker (Consort Homes), John Eilermann (McBride Homes), Harold Burkemper (1st Capitol Construction), 2022 HBA President Jeremy Roth (Elite Development Services/McBride Homes), John Fischer (Fischer & Frichtel Homes), Rick Sullivan (Strategic Advisors LLC), Lee Allen (Allen Roofing & Siding), Craig McPartlin (Con-Tech Carpentry LLC), David Griege (Paramount Bank) and Randy Mayer (Mayer Management).

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IBEW Electrical Workers Minority Caucus Ramps Up Annual Coat Drive

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The IBEW Electrical Workers Minority Caucus is ramping up its annual coat drive with the goal of distributing 700 coats to the needy.   The minority caucus is part of the Electrical Connection, a partnership of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1 and the St. Louis Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association.

“We’ve been tapping the generosity of our partners and friends to meet our goal this year,” said Sylvester Taylor, director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Electrical Connection.  “This is the 18th year of our coat drive and our commitment only grows stronger as our members are out in the community and witness so many in our distressed neighborhoods needing basic necessities.”

Since launching the drive in 2004, the IBEW Minority Caucus has given away more than 15,000 coats to families in need, 12,000 of them new coats.

Working with the Electrical Connection partnership, the minority caucus will be giving coats to various agencies to distribute to children in need throughout the fall and into the winter.  

If you would like to support the coat drive, the IBEW Minority Caucus is looking for new coats or used coats in good condition that are appropriate for children up to the age of 18.  You can drop off coats at the IBEW Local 1 union hall at 5850 Elizabeth Ave. in St. Louis or you can send a donation to:

IBEW Electrical Workers Minority Caucus

C/O Sylvester Taylor

5850 Elizabeth Ave.

St. Louis, Mo.63110

Make the check out to “EWMC Coat Drive.”

The Electrical Connection partnership provides safe and reliable commercial, industrial and residential electrical construction, maintenance, repair and replacement services across Missouri, the nation and the world. It is an important resource for business and civic leadership for new technology, including disruptive technologies, advancing electrical and communication infrastructure.  Learn more at www.electricalconnection.org.

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St. Clair County Transit District Awards $13.5 Million Contract to Poettker Construction for New Public Safety Center at Emerson Park Transit Center

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Project is Being Made Possible by “Rebuild Illinois” Grant

St. Clair County Transit District’s Board of Trustees has selected Breese, Ill. – based Poettker Construction to oversee construction of a new 16,000-square-foot Public Safety Center project planned at Emerson Park Transit Center in East St. Louis. The contract is valued at $13,584,000 and is being funded by a $9.975 million “Rebuild Illinois” grant received from Illinois Governor JB Pritzker earlier this year, along with funding from St. Clair County Transit District and Bi-State Development. It will be owned and operated by St. Clair County Transit District. Construction will commence later this year and is expected to be completed in 2024.

The state-of-the-art, two-story facility will house office space for St. Clair County MetroLink Sheriff’s Deputies, Metro Transit Operational Control Center and the St. Clair County CENCOM West 9-1-1 Emergency Dispatch Center. The goal of the new space is to help bolster communications and security collaboration among Metro Transit, the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, Metro Transit Public Safety, the Bureau of Transit Police and other public safety partners. The facility will also include office space for St. Clair County Transit District and Chestnut Health Systems – a not-for-profit health and human services organization spearheading a pilot program to assist transit riders with mental health issues, homelessness and more – and will feature improved rider amenities, including public restrooms for riders and operators of the transit system.

“Safety and security are top priorities,” commented Herb Simmons, Chair of the Board of Trustees of St. Clair County Transit District. “This facility, amenities and operations within will combine to better serve transit riders in St. Clair County and across the region’s entire integrated public transit system that encompasses 59 MetroBus routes, 46 miles of MetroLink light rail and 38 Metro Transit Centers in eastern Missouri and southwestern Illinois. We are grateful to Governor Pritzker for his foresight and willingness to invest in this resource that will help to positively influence all our local communities.”

This construction project comes on the heels of the completion of the “Transit Stop Transformation Project” at the site. In August of 2021, Citizens for Modern Transit, AARP in St. Louis, St. Clair County Transit District and Metro Transit converted the concrete area between bus bays and MetroLink entrance into an interactive, colorful, engaging space that boasts a vibrant-colored jazz theme, spaces to gather, greenery, shaded seating, canopies and a mural. St. Clair County Transit District has also made parking lot updates and implemented a $71,000 LED lighting program to improve security and cost savings.

To learn more about this project and St. Clair County Transit District, visit www.scctd.org.

Founded in 1981, St. Clair County Transit District contracts with Bi-State Development to provide public transportation services in St. Clair County, Ill., by way of 11 Metro Transit Centers; 12 MetroBus routes; on-demand, shared-ride services and more – connecting individuals to jobs, education, healthcare, entertainment, the MetroBikeLink and other destinations. Those with questions about service, they can call (618) 628-8090 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit www.scctd.org

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Home Builders Association Donates $20,000 to Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis

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On behalf of the Home Builders Charitable Foundation (HBCF), 2022 HBA President Jeremy Roth (Elite Development Services/McBride Homes) (left) and HBA Executive Vice President Celeste Rueter (right) presented a $20,000 donation to Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis’ resource development operations manager Dierdre Schaneman.

The donation will go toward the building of 16 new homes in the organization’s second and final phase of development in the Lookaway Summit neighborhood on the northern tip of St. Louis City. Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis helps people living at or below 50% of the area median income who are living in substandard rental housing to build and purchase their first home. Prospective home buyers provide sweat equity volunteer hours to help build their homes and also take coursework covering subjects including finance, budgeting, insurance and home maintenance.

The HBA is a local trade association of nearly 600 member firms representing the residential construction industry. The Home Builders Charitable Foundation, the HBA’s charitable arm, is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing housing assistance to people or organizations with special shelter needs.

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St. Louis Region Wraps up $222M Project Doubling Capacity on Merchants Bridge

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The 133-year-old Merchants Bridge celebrated its official grand reopening September 15, following the completion of a landmark $222 million project to replace the vital artery that links Missouri and Illinois near downtown St. Louis. Dating back to the 1890s, the Merchants Bridge serves six Class I railroads and Amtrak as a bridge crossing across the Mississippi River at St. Louis, and replacement of the structure has been the bi-state St. Louis region’s top freight infrastructure priority since 2016.

The event marked the culmination of almost a decade of planning and advocacy and four years of reconstruction to modernize this critical infrastructure over the Mississippi River, which is one of the nation’s primary east-west rail corridors serving one of America’s largest rail hubs by car interchange volume and gross tonnage. This project will double the capacity on the bridge, so it can facilitate two freight trains at the same time and move freight faster, more cost effectively and more reliably, providing a viable alternative to larger congested rail hubs like Chicago.

Elected officials and transportation leaders from Illinois and Missouri gathered with representatives from Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA), Bi-State Development/St. Louis Regional Freightway, Bank of America St. Louis and Walsh Construction for the celebration, which was attended by approximately 150 invited guests. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator Amit Bose were unable to attend but sent their congratulations in the form of a video message shared during the official program.

“By renovating the Merchants Bridge, the Terminal Railroad Association has brought it into the 21st century so it can remain a significant part of our freight network,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). “The newly reconstructed bridge will move freight faster, reduce delays for motorist and emergency vehicles, and provide reliability for Amtrak passengers. I’ll keep working to bring federal dollars back home to Illinois to support more infrastructure projects.”  

“The improvements made to the Merchants Bridge will further strengthen the St. Louis region’s critical role in moving goods around the country,” said U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). “Missouri’s location is one of our greatest economic advantages. The Mississippi River Valley is the biggest piece of contiguous farmland in the world and our state is where the nation’s major waterways, highways, and railways come together. I was proud to advocate for the investment necessary to improve this historic bridge and double its freight capacity. I congratulate all of the local leaders and stakeholders who were instrumental in getting this project done and look forward to seeing its positive impact on the region for decades to come.”

“Merchant’s Bridge is a vital link for freight and passenger rail in St. Louis and Illinois and beyond, and this reopening is a shining example of how the private sector, States, and the federal government can work together to deliver impactful projects,” said FRA Administrator Amit Bose. “FRA will support many more projects like the Merchant’s Bridge, and thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re going to keep investing in faster, safer, and more accessible rail infrastructure.”

Freight infrastructure needs and supply chain challenges have been top of mind in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but TRRA’s work to deliver this project began long before the pandemic disrupted global supply chains in ways never before seen.

“In our 133-year history, TRRA had never previously built a bridge, but we were looking to the future and the growth in freight volumes expected in the next 30 years and knew that replacing the Merchants Bridge and adding the needed capacity would be essential for us to capture some of that increased volume and solidify the region’s positioning as global freight hub,” said Asim Raza, Chief Legal Officer, Director of Corporate Affairs for Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis, which owns the bridge. “Our collaboration with the St. Louis Regional Freightway to position this project as the region’s #1 infrastructure project priority helped garner the national attention needed to secure federal funding, and today’s celebration is a signature moment to highlight the success of the bi-state, bi-partisan, public-private partnership that made this project possible.”

The Merchants Bridge required reconstruction due to speed, clearance and load restrictions. Not replacing the Merchants Bridge would have resulted in rail traffic being rerouted out of the bi-state St. Louis region, potentially limiting shipping options for area rail-reliant businesses, increasing costs and lost jobs, and adding stress to an already over-burdened U.S. supply chain network.

“Illinois is the transportation hub of North America, with the Metro East at the center of a robust multimodal network that’s crucial to the country’s mobility, supply chain and freight activity,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “Under Gov. Pritzker, we have been reinvesting in this critical asset in Illinois, creating and retaining jobs while keeping the state and the region competitive in the global marketplace. The new Merchants Bridge not only fixes an existing problem, but sets the stage for continued economic opportunity in the Metro East for generations to come.”

“Rebuilding this bridge was a must for Missouri and the nation. With Missouri’s central location and St Louis’ status as one of the nation’s largest rail terminals by interchange and volume, Americans depend upon this connection,” said Jerica Holtsclaw, Director of Multimodal Operations for the Missouri Department of Transportation. “This crucial crossing is vital to Missouri farmers and businesses providing access to markets and connecting them to the global economy.”

The added capacity of the new bridge will help reduce the frequency of mile-long blockages along the St. Louis Riverfront and address one of the chokepoints in the nation’s supply chain network, positioning the St. Louis region to accommodate growing freight demands.

“Replacement of the 132-year-old Merchants Bridge was essential to strengthen our region as a world-class freight hub benefitting all modes of transportation, and to improve the nation’s freight network and support future competitiveness and growth. We salute TRRA and the various partners who helped to deliver the region’s highest priority freight infrastructure project and believe this project demonstrates just how much we can accomplish as a region when we work together,” said Mary Lamie, Executive Vice President – Multi Modal Enterprises at Bi-State Development. Bi-State Development launched the St. Louis Regional Freightway in 2014 with a key goal of advancing infrastructure projects that support the movement of freight through the bi-state St. Louis region.

The Merchants Bridge also serves Amtrak and is a main component of the Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail corridor. The ability to utilize both the eastbound and westbound tracks at the same time upon completion will be an advantage during delays on the route, helping to increase average Amtrak speeds through the downtown St. Louis portion of the trip. Prior to the reconstruction, only one train could cross the bridge at a time due to weight restrictions. 

“Our railways serve as a key connector between St. Louis and other regions for travel and commerce,” said St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones. “I am glad to see this modernized project finally come to completion so we can welcome more visitors into St. Louis.”

“Today, we celebrate the public-private partnership that has delivered this magnificent new bridge. It is a structure built to meet projected future freight and passenger rail demand. It is critical for continued economic growth in our region,” said Tyrone Echols, Mayor of the City of Venice, Illinois.

The overall project included the removal and replacement of the three river-span trusses, seismically retrofitting the existing river piers, and improving the east approach. As a design-bid-build project, led by General Contractor Walsh Construction, reconstruction of the bridge used innovative project delivery methods that have improved safety and speeded completion while limiting bridge and river traffic outages. Through careful planning and coordination, the project team was able to limit the number of days of rail outages to just 30 days over the four years of the project. TranSystems and Burns & McDonnell served as the lead project engineers, while the steel was fabricated by Veritas Steel in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

“Walsh Construction is proud to work with TRRA and our project partners to unveil the latest renewal of American infrastructure – Merchants Bridge; a revived, high-quality and sustainable connection that is ready to accept freight and commuter rail traffic simultaneously,” said Matt Walsh, co-chairman at The Walsh Group. “The men and women of this project have delivered an engineering marvel; from retrofitting the existing piers to installing three nine-million pound trusses, all while adhering to the highest standards of safety and quality.”

In 2020, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) awarded TRRA a $21.45 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant toward replacement of the Merchants Bridge. TRRA is providing 90% of the construction costs, making this project a model for public-private partnerships. The construction financing was secured through Bank of America.

“Throughout our 175-year history in St. Louis, Bank of America has been honored to play a role in so many initiatives critical to the success of St. Louis. The new Merchants Bridge is another example which showcases the success that results from collaboration among so many entities,” said Marilyn Bush, President, Bank of America St. Louis. “We’re excited to see the positive impact this will have on St. Louis and the supply chain needs across the country.”

TRRA President Brent Wood highlighted the importance of the Merchants Bridge to the regional and national supply chains and shared insight on the regional economic impact of the project to replace it.

“This project supported 1,100 construction-related prevailing wage jobs as the work progressed over the past four years to deliver a new structure with increased national rail and multi-modal capacity, resilience and redundancy, and the economic benefits of this new bridge will be both immediate and long lasting,” said Wood. “Just as important, we estimate TRRA’s economic impact in the region will almost double, as we generate more than $456 million in local economic activity over a 20-year period.”

TRRA further anticipates the region will see more than $370 million in operational savings from reductions in delays, rerouting and operations and maintenance. Even as TRRA celebrates the conclusion of its first major infrastructure project, the organization is already working on an additional expansion of its operations in the bi-state St. Louis region. The planned $52 million St. Louis Multi-Modal Freight Yard Expansion at Madison Yard (IL) will expand railcar capacity by approximately 1,500 cars, further strengthening the region’s rail freight and supply chain networks.

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Input Costs in August Decline Overall But With Wide Variation

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Job Totals Rise In 31 States

Submitted by the AGC.

Contractors’ input costs declined again on balance in August, while bid prices rose, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data posted on Wednesday. Specifically, the producer price index (PPI) for material and service inputs to new nonresidential construction slid 1.1% for the month, while the PPI for new nonresidential building construction—a measure of the price that contractors say they would bid to build a fixed set of buildings—rose 0.3%. The bid-price index rose 23.9% year-over-year (y/y), while the input index climbed 13.0%. Despite the recent decline in some input prices, the y/y gain still exceeds the increase that consumers or most businesses have experienced: the consumer price index rose 8.3% y/y and the PPI for final demand (all industries) climbed 8.7%. Furthermore, input costs varied greatly. Major declines occurred last month in the PPIs for diesel fuel, -13.4%; steel mill products, -5.7%; aluminum mill shapes, -3.9%; and lumber and plywood, -2.9%. The fuel price drop contributed to a 1.9% fall in the PPI for truck transportation of freight. Prices increased notably for gypsum building materials such as wallboard, which jumped 3.3% for the month; construction machinery and equipment, 2.6%; flat glass, 2.4%; copper and brass mill shapes, 2.0%; ready-mixed concrete, 1.6%; and asphalt paving mixtures and blocks, 1.0%. Among services, the price index for equipment rental and leasing climbed 3.7%. AGC posted tables of construction PPIs. Readers are invited to send cost and supply-chain information to ken.simonson@agc.org.

Seasonally adjusted construction employment rose from July to August in 31 states, declined in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and was flat in Maine, Maryland, and Nevada, according to AGC’s analysis of data BLS posted on Friday. Arizona added the most construction jobs over the month (5,300, 2.9%), followed by Illinois (3,500, 1.5%) and Georgia (3,300, 1.6%). Arizona had the largest percentage gain, followed by Kentucky (2.4%, 1,900 jobs) and Utah (2.0%, 2,600). Minnesota lost the most jobs in August (-1,900, -1.4%), followed by California (-1,700, -0.2%) and Missouri (-1,400, -1.0%). Wyoming had the largest percentage loss (-3.2%, -700 jobs), followed by Mississippi (-2.7%, -1,300) and Montana (-1.5%, -500). The August total topped the February 2020 level in 33 states, lagged in 15 states and D.C, and was flat in Iowa and North Dakota. (February 2020 was the month in which employment peaked nationally before plunging during widespread shutdowns in March and April 2020.) Utah added the most jobs over 30 months (19,000, 17%), followed by Tennessee (16,900, 13%) and Florida (16,400, 2.8%). The top percentage gains were in Utah, South Dakota (15%, 3,500 jobs), Idaho (13%, 7,100 jobs), and Tennessee. New York lost the most construction jobs since February 2020 (-37,000, -9.0%), followed by Pennsylvania (-11,600, -4.3%) and Louisiana (-7,600, -5.5%). New York had the largest percentage shortfall, followed by Wyoming (-6.5%, -1,500 jobs) and Louisiana. For the month, 31 states added construction jobs, (For D.C., Delaware, and Hawaii, which have few mining or logging jobs, BLS posts combined totals with construction. AGC treats the totals as construction only.)

The value of construction starts in current dollars (i.e., not inflation-adjusted) edged up 0.4% y/y in August, not seasonally adjusted, data firm ConstructConnect reported on Friday. Nonresidential building starts slid 7.2% y/y, with institutional starts up 13%, commercial starts down 27%, and industrial (manufacturing) starts down 6.5%. Heavy engineering (civil) starts soared 38% y/y, with roads up 23%, water/sewage up 39%, bridges up 155%, dams/marine up 88%, power infrastructure up 2%, and airports up 5.5%. Residential starts declined 9.3% y/y, with single-family down 13% and apartments down 2.2%. ConstructConnect’s Expansion Index, a measure of the y/y change in the total dollar value of multifamily, nonresidential building, and engineering construction projects in planning, increased for the U.S. as a whole in September for the fifth consecutive month. The index signaled expansion for 46 states and D.C., contraction in Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Washington, and little change in Arizona.

Record tax collections “are allowing states to return some surplus revenues back to citizens, contemplate further tax cuts, and …providing additional funding to transportation projects as most recently seen in Florida and North Carolina,” investment research firm Thompson Research Group posted on September 7. Fiscal year 2023 (FY23) “revenue forecasts are less optimistic than in previous years with several states estimating a decline in revenues, e.g., [California, Florida, and Virginia,] citing growing risk of recession. Texas, however, has just boosted its biennial revenue estimates by 10% given record oil and natural gas tax collections. Should FY23 revenue collections decline at a low to mid-single digit rate, states will be far ahead of pre-pandemic collections, allowing states to transfer additional funding to transportation projects. [California’s] DOT budget is up 13.2% in FY23. Specific construction-heavy line items Capital Projects, Local Assistance and Maintenance are up 15.4% y/y to $14.2B” (billion). Florida’s “FY23 budget includes $13.5B for DOT, up 7.7%.” [Texas] anticipates the transfer of $3.6B to the DOT via Prop 1 in FY23,” up 157% from FY22.

In “The Impacts of Covid-19 Illnesses on Workers,” a working paper posted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Gopi Shah Goda (Stanford University) and Evan Soltas (MIT) “estimate that workers with week-long Covid-19 work absences are 7 percentage points less likely to be in the labor force one year later compared to otherwise similar workers who do not miss a week of work for health reasons. Our estimates suggest Covid-19 illnesses have reduced the U.S. labor force by approximately 500,000 people (0.2 percent of adults).” Surveys analyzed in 2021 and early 2022 by CPWR showed construction workers were much less likely to have been vaccinated than other workers. The working paper’s findings thus imply that construction is more likely to have persistent job losses from the pandemic than other sectors.

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SLC3 Adds Finance & Administrative Associate

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Amber Spence has joined the St. Louis Council of Construction Consumers (SLC3) as Finance and Administrative Associate at their headquarters in Ballwin, MO. Amber will support financial needs and provide administrative support for the Council. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education and Liberal Arts from Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. She has over ten years’ experience in customer service and administrative support. Amber has three years of financial experience.

The St. Louis Council of Construction Consumers (SLC3) (501c3) is the Greater St. Louis Region’s AllInclusive AEC Community for Innovation, Continuing Education, Equity Empowerment and Collaboration. The “community” is a member association governed by local area owners or buyers of design and construction services such as Bayer, Boeing, Ameren and Washington University. The SLC3 is one of 34 local user’s council (LUC) in the U.S. St. Louis holds the title of the largest LUC and was the second to be formed. The full membership also includes designers, contractors, trades, associations, and business support companies and individuals. SLC3 was founded in 1971 as a voice for consumers of construction within the industry to address the challenges of the time such as labor agreements, best practices in design/construction, and diversity and inclusion.

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St. Clair County Transit District Awarded $300,000 for Phase II of the Fairview Heights – Swansea Trail

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St. Clair County Transit District (SCCTD) today announced it has been awarded $300,000 through the Metro East Park and Recreation District’s Park and Trail Grant Matching Program for Phase II of the Fairview Heights – Swansea Trail. This phase of the project features a 1.5-mile bike and pedestrian off road pathway that will begin at SCCTD’s MetroBikeLink Trail and extend along the west side of Sullivan Drive to Frank Scott Parkway in Fairview Heights and include a separate pedestrian bridge over the MetroLink tracks – connecting 2,000 homes in Fairview Heights and Swansea to the trail system.

The first phase of the of the Fairview Heights – Swansea Trail is also underway, featuring a one-fifth of a mile off road trail segment from the traffic signal at the intersection of Illinois Route 161 and Sullivan Drive in Belleville to the MetroBikeLink where Phase II begins. When work is completed on both phases, the Fairview Heights – Swansea Trail will be a 1.7-mile-long bike and pedestrian pathway that connects to the 14 continues miles of trails in Southwestern Illinois known as the MetroBikeLink System, which links users to six Metro Transit Centers.

The Fairview Heights – Swansea Trail is a $3.1 million dollar investment in the local community. TWM is spearheading the engineering and design phase of the project in its entirety, which is set to be competed in the Fall of 2023. The construction phase will follow and is expected to be completed in 2024.

“We are grateful for the grant funding received from the Metro East Park and Recreation District and look forward to next steps in the trail development process,” commented Ken Sharkey, managing director of St. Clair County Transit District. “This project is a key connector in the ever-evolving MetroBikeLink System, which has proven to be a really great amenity for local communities.”

The MetroBikeLink System opened in 2002 and was comprised of a four-mile trail, extending from Southwestern Illinois College to the Swansea MetroLink Station. Since then, the system has expanded to include the Memorial, Fairview Heights and Shiloh Scott sections for a total of 14 miles of trail adjacent to the MetroLink light rail tracks. Additional trails have been built by SCCTD to connect to this main artery, including SCCTD Orchard Loop Trail Phases I and II, the Engelmann Park Connector and the Old Collinsville Road Trail (currently under construction), totaling another eight miles of SCCTD connected trails. These accessible pathways, along with the connecting trails from other municipalities, will combine to provide over 35 miles of connected trails in St. Clair County.

To learn more about the Fairview Heights – Swansea Trail and the MetroBikeLink System, visit www.scctd.org.

About St. Clair County Transit District

Founded in 1981, St. Clair County Transit District contracts with Bi-State Development to provide public transportation services in St. Clair County, Ill., by way of 11 Metro Transit Centers; 12 MetroBus routes; on-demand, shared-ride services and more – connecting individuals to jobs, education, healthcare, entertainment, the MetroBikeLink and other destinations. Those with questions about service, they can call (618) 628-8090 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit www.scctd.org

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2 Construction Careers Expos For Skilled Trades Set For Southern Illinois High School Students

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An increasing number of high school women and men are finding that paid apprenticeships in the skilled trades which support the construction industry are leading to life-long, interesting, essential and well-paid work.

Soutlhern Illinois high school students can explore those paid, job-training apprenticeships at Construction Careers Expos set for Belleville and DuQuoin.

Each student will have the opportunity for a hands-on learning experience in a range of activities. Students must register for the Expo with their school’s teachers or counselors.

The first Expo is set for the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds September 27 to 29 for students in the surrounding counties.

The second Expo will be for Metro East students at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds in Belleville October 18 to 20, acording to Donna Richter, chief executive officer of the Southern Ilinois Buiders Association. Parents will be able to attend the Metro East Expo without reservations from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 19.

Skilled trades journeymen from various Union locals will be demonstrating their skills and discussing their apprenticeships at both Expos. Those unions include boilermakers, bricklayers, carpenters, cement masons, electricians, iron workers, laborers, operating engineers, painters, plumbers & pipefitters, roofers, steamfitters and sheet metal workers.

There is a shortage of workers in construction-related jobs, including the skilled trades.

New apprentices say they are drawn to the skilled trades beause of good pay and paid training, as well as the constant challenge of developing new construction skills.

Many apprentices say they find the technology being developed to enhance construction especially exciting, such as GPS-guided equipment, drone scanning, robotics and three-dimensional modeling and planning.

The Southern Illinois Builders Association produces both Career Expos in conjunction with the Southern Ilinois Construction Advancement progam.

Information about specific skilled trades apprenticeships is at www.siba-agc.org/VideoLinks .

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