Nuclear Work Provides Spark For April Construction Starts

The dollar value of total construction starts through the first four months of this year is up 4% over the same period a year ago, says McGraw-Hill Construction. The April starts received a big boost from $8.5 billion for a nuclear powerplant in South Carolina. This contract follows a multibillion-dollar start for a nuclear plant in Georgia in March. Both helped to push non-building construction through the first four months of this year 25% above the same period of 2011. Non-residential building markets are a drag on the recovery, with work in that sector falling 25% below a year ago.


Export-Import Bank Gets Three-Year Extension of Funding

In a move that will assist engineering and construction firms and heavy-equipment makers seeking business overseas, President Obama has signed a measure reauthorizing the U.S. Export-Import Bank for three years. The bill, enacted on May 30, also raises the bank's total financial-aid cap to $120 billion, from the previous $100 billion. The ceiling is slated to rise to $140 billion in 2014. The legislation directs the bank to keep its default rate below 2%. Among the major companies that have benefited from Ex-Im loans and other Ex-Im financial assistance are Caterpillar, Bechtel and Black & Veatch.

Codes and Standards

Group To Write One Standard For All Membrane Structures

The American Society of Civil Engineers is seeking applicants for a standards-writing committee that will be charged with developing a standard for tensile membrane structures, air-supported membrane structures and frame-supported membrane structures. ASCE/SEI 55-10 will be the standard's basis and will add portions of ASCE 17-96. The combined standard will excise the "duplication of requirements and sometimes conflicting information," says ASCE. Applications are available online.


Unemployment Drops to 14.2%

The construction industry's unemployment rate fell to 14.2% in May, down from 16.3% in May 2011 and a peak of 20.1% in May 2010. Despite the decline in the unemployment rate, construction overall lost an additional 28,000 jobs in May, the largest monthly loss of jobs in two years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Non-residential buildings gained 1,500 jobs in May.