Construction's Unemployment Rate Falls to a Six-Year Low

The construction sector added 20,000 new jobs in September after showing little change in the prior six months, according to the latest employment statistics from the Dept. of Labor. Moreover, the unemployment rate in the construction industry fell to a six-year low of 8.5%. Construction employment totaled 5,826,000 in September, which is 3.4% higher than in September 2012. Aggregate weekly hours of all construction employees rose 4.2% over the year, indicating that companies are adding to existing workers' hours in addition to hiring new employees.

M.C. Dean To Pay $875,000 to Job Applicants in Deal With DOL

M.C. Dean Inc., a major electrical contractor, has agreed to pay 381 job applicants $875,000 in back wages and interest to settle Dept. of Labor allegations that the company's hiring processes did not provide them with "equal employment opportunity" for apprenticeship and electrician positions, DOL said.

In announcing the agreement on Oct. 30, DOL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) said the payments will go to 272 African Americans, 98 Hispanics and 11 Asian Americans who had unsuccessfully sought electrician and apprentice positions at the company in 2010. Dulles, Va.-based M.C. Dean's "conciliation agreement" with DOL states that it does not constitute an admission of any violation of federal law or executive order. ENR received a redacted version of the agreement from DOL through a Freedom of Information Act request. Company President and CEO Bill Dean signed the document on Sept. 27; Labor Dept. officials signed it on Sept. 30. The agency also contended that M.C. Dean used "employment tests and other selection devices that had not been validated" under federal guidelines.

Besides the payments to the individuals, M.C. Dean agreed to make job offers to them as positions open. The company already has stopped using the employment tests and selection devices. It also has developed and instituted a new system for tracking applicants for all trade positions, including apprenticeships, according to the agreement. M.C. Dean has hired a company to conduct mandatory training for human-resource personnel.

Boston Upgrades Bus Service, Rail Station and Bridges

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) on Oct. 30 announced the $82.5-million extension of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Silver Line bus service, which will connect South Station and the Seaport District to East Boston and Chelsea, as well as $3 million in state funding for construction of the Chelsea Greenway. After years in planning, the extension of the bus rapid-transit line will create a new branch of the MBTA Silver Line, projected to carry 9,000 riders daily; service is expected to begin in 2015. It also will include a $20-million modernization of the Chelsea Commuter Rail Station, which will be relocated as part of a new multimodal commuter-rail station. MassDOT is set to begin an estimated $5-million reconstruction of the Washington Avenue Bridge in Chelsea.