Construction Unemployment Rate Drops to 9.5%.

Construction's March unemployment figures showed a mixed picture as the industry's jobless rate fell from the year-earlier and February levels, but it also lost 1,000 jobs in the month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says. The latest BLS report shows construction's unemployment rate declined, year over year, to 9.5% in March from 11.3%, and it also was down from February's 10.6% rate.

Construction economists point out that the industry's drop in jobs in March was the industry's first month-to-month decline since December 2013. March job losses among residential specialty-trade contractors and in heavy-civil engineering construction more than canceled out a gain in the buildings sector.

Berger Wins Management Job For $16-Billion Saudi Project

The Louis Berger Group on April 1 signed a $100-million, five-year program-management contract to help Saudi Arabia build some $16 billion worth of highway and transit systems through 2025 in Madinah, the second-largest destination for Islam followers. Talal Alraddadi—secretary-general of Al Madinah Al Munawwarah Development Authority, the government organization tasked with implementing the plan—said it will include bored tunnels, cut-and-cover, viaducts and major improvements to key interchanges. Berger will work with a joint venture of Systra and Egis on documents up to 30% design, and design-build packages should hit the street in a year.

New Funds To Advance Low-Impact Hydropower Systems

The U.S. Energy Dept. on April 9 announced $7 million in funding for research and development of innovative, low-impact hydropower systems. While hydropower supplies 7% of the nation's electricity, recent department reports show an additional 65 GW of hydropower potential in undeveloped rivers and streams and more than 12 GW of hydropower potential at non-powered dams. Specific areas of interest include new rapidly deployable and removable technologies, such as prefabricated structures, water impoundment structures and water conveyance systems; innovative methods for constructing hydropower facilities and generator components.

Roadbuilder CW Matthews Inks $1M DBE Fraud Pact With FHWA

C.W. Matthews Contracting Co., one of Georgia's largest roadbuilders, agreed to pay a $1-million fine as part of a settlement with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration over false claims related to the federal disadvantaged-business-enterprise program. A federal investigation concluded that, from 2007 to 2010, the contractor filed "false and misleading" reports that work was performed by a certified DBE trucking firm when, in fact, a non-DBE firm had completed it. Under the agreement, the Marietta, Ga., firm, must appoint a corporate compliance officer, establish a DBE-compliance program and retain an independent monitor. C.W. Matthews admitted no wrongdoing. The firm claims a trucking firm misrepresented itself as a DBE.

Cat Creates Analytics Division

Building on last month's announcement that it is investing in Chicago-based data startup Uptake, Caterpillar is creating a new division called Analytics & Innovation. Led by Greg Folley, Cat vice president, the unit will work with Uptake to create a platform that delivers business intelligence to customers based on their telematics-equipped machinery. "A huge opportunity for competitive advantage lies in the analytics-and-innovation space," says Rob Charter, Cat group president in charge of customer and dealer support.