November Construction Starts Jump 13% for the Month

At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $677.8 billion, new construction starts in November climbed 13% from the previous month, says Dodge Data & Analytics. On a year-to-date basis, total construction starts in the first 11 months of 2014 rose 7% from 2013's total. Most of the gain came from the non-residential building market, which increased 17%. Residential construction rose 7%, while non-building work was down 4% for the year.

Ex-Louis Berger CEO Pleads Guilty to US Overbilling Charges

Derish Wolff, 79, former CEO of engineer Louis Berger, pleaded guilty on Dec. 12 in U.S. federal court in Trenton, N.J., to inflating overhead rates for work on cost-reimbursable U.S. Agency for International Development contracts; he faces a possible 10-year prison term when sentenced in March.

Wolff, firm founder Louis Berger's son-in-law, parted ways with the company in 2010, when it signed a deferred prosecution agreement and paid almost $70 million in penalties and restitution. A Berger spokeswoman noted the firm's "extraordinary efforts to reform the company and close the chapter on the pre-2010 era."

Pacts Resolve Waste Dumping

A New Jersey state judge on Dec. 17 approved a $190-million settlement with Occidental Chemical Corp. that resolves its liability for Passaic River contamination. It is the legal successor to Diamond Shamrock Chemicals Co., which intentionally dumped hazardous waste into the river over years of the plant's past operations. Now on the federal Superfund cleanup list, an eight-mile stretch of river near Newark is set for a $1.7-billion remediation.

The state has recovered a total of $355 million from Occidental, beyond what it will pay for the federal cleanup. Also, the Tennessee Pipeline Co. on Dec. 22 agreed to pay $800,000 for violating Pennsylvania's clean-streams law during construction of a natural-gas pipeline.

Construction Unemployment Rate Lowest in Seven Years

Construction's November unemployment rate rose from October's level but was markedly better than the year-earlier figure, as the industry gained 20,000 jobs, the Labor Dept. reported. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that con- struction's jobless rate increased to 7.5% in November from October's 6.4%. But last month's rate improved from the November 2013 mark of 8.6% and was the industry's lowest November number in seven years.