Construction Unemployment Rate Declines to 12.8%

The construction industry's June unemployment rate declined to 12.8% from May's 14.2% as the industry gained 2,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported. The latest BLS monthly statistics also showed that construction's jobless rate last month was down significantly from the June 2011 level of 15.6%. Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors chief economist, says that, even counting the jobs gained last month, total construction employment "has essentially been stagnant for much of the past two years," hovering around 5.5 million. Simonson notes that, since 2010, about 750,000 workers have left the industry.


Stalled by Landslides, Oregon Project Gets New Contractor

Stalled since February 2010 and without a contractor since May 2012, the U.S. 20 Highway project in Lincoln County, Ore., is back on track. On hold since historic landslides caused shifts in bridge bents on a 2.8-mile stretch of new highway, the Oregon Dept. of Transportation and Granite Construction agreed to terminate their contract on May 2. ODOT has since designed the first phase of a renewed project without the bridges and awarded the low-bid contract to Scarsella Brothers Inc., Kent, Wash., for $7.54 million. Running through April 2013, the first phase inclues 34 miles' worth of horizontal drains, 1.5 miles of 10-ft-deep trench drains, demolition of the previously built bridge components at four locations, and erosion and sediment control.

Nuclear Waste

WIPP Storage Site Infrastructure Needs Attention, Says Overseer

The U.S. Energy Dept's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, an underground salt formation in New Mexico, is the only U.S. repository for most defense-related transuranic nuclear waste. WIPP has received good reviews since it was built 13 years ago, but aging infrastructure is taking a toll, says the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. "Noncritical maintenance items, some of which are potentially (and eventually) safety-related, are being deferred," says the June 27 report of the panel, the site's overseer. It notes deteriorating paint and rust on salt-hoist frames that impedes lifts. If they were to fail, components would be tough to replace. The report points to difficulties of site contractor URS Washington TRU Solutions in retaining skilled workers. "Attrition, a reduction in force and retirement pose substantial concerns," the board said, noting competition for workers from the booming oil, gas and mineral sectors. WIPP is barred by law from accepting spent fuel from commercial nuclear powerplants.

Affordable Housing

Big Apple Holds Competition For Building With Tiny Units

Sept. 14 is the deadline to submit proposals for a New York City competition to develop a residential building containing 275- to 300-sq-ft apartments for one- and two-person households. The city's Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development will soon issue a request for proposals for design, construction and operation of a "micro-unit" rental building on a transit-oriented, city-owned site in Manhattan. Responses will be judged on affordability and a competitive land-purchase price; innovative unit layout and building design; and experience developing housing in New York City. The department will hold a pre-submission conference for potential design teams on July 31. Details about the pilot program, called adAPT NYC, are available at The program is part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan, a multibillion-dollar initiative to create or preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing by June 30, 2014.