Employment Picture Improves

Construction's unemployment rate dropped under 10%—hitting 9.8% in June—for the first time in more than four years as the industry added 13,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Construction's jobless rate was an improvement over May's 10.8% and down sharply from June 2012's level of 12.8%.

The last time construction's rate was below 10% was in September 2008. All construction sectors gained jobs in June, led by specialty trades, which added 7,200. Heavy and civil engineering construction picked up 5,600. The residential building segment, however, gained just 100 jobs last month, BLS says.

Discovery of Burial Ground HaltsConstruction on Sewer Project

Contractors digging a sewage line for a new elementary school in the small southern Colorado town of Ignacio have discovered the remains of 26 bodies on the site. Many of them are more than a century old, buried in what appears to be a multi-ethnic cemetery. Ignacio is a community of Caucasian, Native Americans and Hispanic residents.

The school district, in compliance with state laws regarding the discovery of old cemeteries and out of respect for Southern Ute tribal beliefs, has stopped construction until all of the bodies can be exhumed. The remains are being taken to a nearby college for study. The $14.9-million project is scheduled to be completed in August.

Hawaii Utility To Shut Old Units And Link Islands by Cable

In a move to modernize its generation system, utility Hawaiian Electric Cos. plans to retire 14% of its traditional base-load generation and add more flexible alternatives while upgrading the grid to accept them, the company said on July 1. The company will deactivate 226 MW of less efficient oil-fired units by 2016. It also will convert other units to burn liquefied natural gas and other less expensive fuels.

The transmission and distribution grid will be updated to accept customer-sited renewable generation, especially rooftop photovoltaic systems. The state requires 15% of net electric sales to be from renewable sources by Dec. 31, 2015, but the utility says it reached 14% in 2012 and expects to reach 18% this year. Hawaiian Electric will request proposals to determine the cost of linking its three island-based companies by undersea cable.