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June 13, 2013

Posted by nahetsblog on June 13, 2013

Equipment Operator Was High in Philly Disaster, Victim Says

PHILADELPHIA (CN) – A heavy machine operator was high on drugs during the botched demolition of a downtown building that killed six people and hurt at least 14 in Philadelphia, an injured woman claims in court.
Shirley Ball sued five businesses and three people in the Court of Common Pleas.
Ball claims the defendants negligently supervised defendant crane operator Sean Benschop, whom they hired for $10,000, knowing that a skilled contractor would have charged much more.
The 35-page complaint makes some devastating allegations.
"Investigations performed after the building collapse revealed that:
"a. Sean Benschop, aka Kary Roberts, the operator of the excavator, a piece of heavy equipment, was under the influence of codeine, marijuana, and possibly other drugs at the time of the accident;
"b. Sean Benschop, aka Kary Roberts was wearing a cast on his arm while operating the excavator;
"c. Sean Benschop, aka Kary Roberts had previously been arrested at least ten (10) times on charges including drugs, theft, firearms, and assault;
"d. Sean Benschop, aka Kary Roberts has been convicted sixteen (16) times mostly for driving without a license or insurance, and for operating an unregistered vehicle;
"e. Sean Benschop, aka Kary Roberts served two (2) prison terms for drug convictions;
"f. The owner or operator of the demolition company also has a criminal record stemming from a phony car wreck scheme, according to court records;
"g. As long as one (1) month before the collapse, concerned citizens were complaining of the unsafe conditions of the demolition to the City of Philadelphia’s 311 hotline;
"h. There was a lack of bracing and/or shoring to prevent substantial damage to adjacent buildings; and
"i. As long as two (2) weeks before the collapse, a crack developed in the wall inside the bathroom of the Salvation Army Thrift Store which was so large that daylight could be seen from inside the store.
"On June 5, 2013, plaintiff was a patron and business invitee on the premises of the Salvation Army Thrift Store located at 2140 Market Street, when the walls collapsed, which buried her beneath debris and rubble, causing plaintiff to suffer personal injuries, emotional distress and other damages as detailed herein," according to the complaint.
The botched June 5 demolition caused on of the walls to fall outward onto the Salvation Army Thrift Store next door. The walls of the thrift store collapsed, pinning patrons and employees under rubble and debris.
Defendants named as responsible for the safety of the demolition are Richard Basciano, STB Investments Corp., Griffin Campbell, Griffin Campbell Construction, Nicetown House Development Corp., Plato Studio, and Plato Marinakos Jr.
Defendants Basciano and STB Investments owned the building. Bass and her husband also sued the Salvation Army.
Benschop has been criminally charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of reckless endangerment, many newspapers reported, including The New York Times.
Many other people have announced their intentions to sue by filing summonses for personal injury claims. Several of them are represented by Robert Mongeluzzi, with Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky
Mayor Michael Nutter has called for Benschop to get a stiff punishment.
"Justice will only be served if Sean Benschop receives a sentence that buries him in a jailhouse forever, just like his victims were buried on Wednesday," Nutter said, according to The Associated Press.

Demolition of Watuppa Heights begins; new homes to be built


Niagara neighborhood residents John and Donna Hollenback walked around the ruins of the former Watuppa Heights housing development as an excavator crawled onto the site to begin demolishing one of the buildings.

“I came here to see it with my own eyes,” John Hollenback said.

“This has been a vacant eyesore. It’s time to have it gone,” Donna Hollenback said.
Attempts to close down the now decrepit complex of 28 buildings on 10 acres — built in 1952 to house World War II veterans and their families — started in the 1970s. The last family moved out in 2011.

Since then, the Fall River Housing Authority has been working with the state Department Housing and Community Development to raze the property and plan to have it redeveloped to provide low- and moderate-income housing.

The demolition officially started Wednesday, with a gathering of local and state leaders and a handful of curious neighbors.

For Dino Bissaro, of the Niagara Neighborhood Association, the day was a long time coming.
“Look at it. How would anyone feel looking at this every day for the last 20 years?” said Bissaro, pointing to the boarded up buildings, some of them scarred from fires.
“I’m a doubting Thomas, but I can believe it now,” Bissaro said.

Over the years, the development has been a source of crime, drugs and arson.
Fall River police Lt. Paul Bernier took a survey of the overgrown and blighted grounds before demolition began.

The veteran police officer has a long professional history with the housing project, having served there as a Community Service Officer in 1976. Through the years, he’s responded to many calls there.

Now, as the police department’s fire investigator, Bernier has worked arson cases as recently as last winter.

Bernier agreed Watuppa Heights was a danger to the neighborhood. Just weeks ago, police made arrests when people were caught stealing copper piping from one of the structures, he said.

Demolition and remediation will be done in three phases, said George Naslas, vice president of environmental services for Weston & Sampson. Abatement to remove asbestos and other environmental hazards will be done first, then the building will be demolished and the site restored.

Once abatement work is done, Naslas said, it won’t be long before the buildings are gone.

Fall River Housing Authority Executive Director David Sullivan said plans to redevelop the property include 50 apartment units and single-family homes for ownership.

The cost to demolish and remediate the property is $898,000 and paid for by the DHCD, Sullivan said.

Mayor Will Flanagan called the case with Watuppa “a saga that has been going on for 10 years. ”

Having the housing project initially built for returning veterans, the neighborhood was once full of life and vibrancy, Flanagan said.

In early 2000, a previous administration approved the demolition of the site, “with many chapters written.”

“Many stories, good stories, can be told by people who lived on the site,” Flanagan said. "But here we are today with the people who all played a role in getting to where we are today, and the demolition begins.”

Once plans are completed for the project and given DHCD approval, the project can be advertised in a request for proposals.

Lizbeth Heyer, associate director of public housing and rental assistance, said it’s typical for a similar project to take two to four years to complete.

Because the project is still in the planning stage and has not gone out for bids, Heyer said she didn’t know its cost. She said the price tag could be between $15 million to $20 million.

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May 19, 2013

Posted by nahetsblog on May 19, 2013

Jobless rate drops to low last hit in ’08

By Reed Fujii

San Joaquin County’s unemployment rate dropped to 12.9 percent in April, the lowest monthly jobless rate posted by the region since the global financial collapse more than four years ago, state officials reported Friday.

Normal seasonal gains in construction and farm hiring helped push unemployment down from a revised 14 percent in March. Still, April’s was the lowest rate since December 2008, when it also stood at 12.9 percent. And it’s much improved from April 2012, when unemployment was estimated at 15.5 percent.

The area’s job market recovery is gaining strength, said Jeffrey Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific.

"This is not spectacular, but it looks pretty good," he said Friday in reviewing new labor market data from the state Employment Development Department.

"It’s been a long recession," he said. "Twelve-point-nine percent unemployment, … you feel a little awkward getting excited about it, but it feels pretty good compared to what we’ve been talking about for the last couple of years."

And the job picture should improve in May as well as farm and construction activity continues to increase, said Nati Martinez, a labor market analyst for the EDD. "That’s the normal seasonal trends for springtime," she said Friday.

From March to April, the county saw a gain of 500 construction jobs and an addition of 400 in agriculture.

"Almost all of the sectors aside from farm and construction had minimal increases," Martinez said.

More significant and broader changes were noted over the past year.

It’s estimated that San Joaquin County private-sector employers added 3,700 workers to the payrolls, a gain of 2.4 percent, in the past year.

Among major industrial sectors, trade, transportation and utilities posted the largest year-over-year gain – 1,600 jobs – which includes 900 trucking company employees and 200 additional workers each in wholesale trade, retail trade and warehousing. Construction employment gained 900 workers over the year.

The professional and business services sector added 700 jobs, mostly in administrative and support, and waste services, which include temporary-help agencies and janitorial services. That is one sector that often leads a jobs recovery.

Also, the leisure and hospitality sector grew by 600 employees, with most of those, 500, in restaurants and bars.

Michael said there is a divergence in the state’s employment data.

One set, based on a survey of San Joaquin County households, pegs civilian employment growth at 3.2 percent in April compared to the same month a year ago.

The other, a sampling of area payroll tax records, shows only a 1.9 percent gain in nonfarm employment over the same period.

The difference could be explained as an error caused by the two different sampling methods, Michael said. But the household survey also catches workers left out of the payroll survey, such as those who commute to work outside the county and, in particular, the self-employed.

Self-employment figures prominently in construction, agriculture, professional services and financial activities, particularly real estate.

"And those are some of the areas … that are the fastest-growing," Michael said. "Perhaps what we are seeing here is a shift to self-employment and faster growth in self-employment (categories)."

San Joaquin County’s monthly jobless rate of 12.9 percent for April compares with seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for California of 8.5 percent and 7.1 percent for the nation overall.

In reporting the more commonly cited seasonally adjusted rates for California, the EDD said Friday that in April the jobless rate dropped to 9 percent compared with 9.4 percent in March. In April 2012, the state unemployment rate was 10.7 percent.

The adjusted U.S. unemployment rate in April was 7.5 percent.

700 more construction jobs reported than last April

By Carlos Rico

Construction employment jumped by 700 workers in the county from a year ago, but there was no change from March to April, according data released from the California Development Department on Friday.

Last month there were 56,200 construction jobs in San Diego, and the county’s construction employment increased by 1.3 percent from April of last year.

“The housing revival did boost jobs in real estate, but the flat showing in construction last month was disappointing,” said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University.

April’s employment report also revised March’s job number and found that there were 300 fewer jobs than in February.

It was previously announced by the state that there were 56,500 jobs in March and February.

The state previously announced there were 56,500 jobs in March and February.

In the last 10 years, the county’s highest employment was in June 2006, when there were 95,100 construction jobs.

January 2011 reported the lowest construction employment numbers in the last 10 years with 53,600 jobs.

Of the 56,200 construction jobs reported last month, 38,300 of them were specialty trade contractors, 12,300 were made up of general contractors, and 5,600 were from heavy and civil engineering firms. All these categories were divided the same as in March.

Of the 38,300 specialty trade contractors, 16,500 were building equipment workers, 10,200 were those that perform finishing touches on projects, 6,800 work on building foundation and exterior labor, and 4,800 execute residual and other specialty trade work.

Ken Simonson, chief economist for Associated General Contractors, said the construction industry is showing some signs of recovery, but that employment is uneven.

“Recent federal construction spending cuts amid still modest private sector growth is making it hard for the industry to recover in more areas,” he said.

In Riverside and San Bernardino counties, construction employment was at 57,300 construction jobs in April, down 300 from March and down 1,800 from a year ago.

Orange County registered 73,000 construction jobs last month, 900 more than in March and 4,900 from April of last year.

In Los Angeles County, there were 115,300 construction jobs last month, an increase of 2,300 workers from March and a gain of 9,400 workers from last year.

California’s construction employment was at 608,400 workers in April, up 1.2 percent from March and up 8.5 percent from a year ago.

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Construction Employment Stablizes

Posted by nahetsblog on May 19, 2013

The number of building construction employees remained stable from March to April 2013 with a slight 0.1 percent increase, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS estimates that approximately 1.262 million (seasonally adjusted) were employed in building construction-related jobs in March 2013, compared with 1.263 million in March 2013.

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May 9, 2013

Posted by nahetsblog on May 9, 2013

U.S. construction employment climbs in 152 metro areas, finds AGC


Construction employment in the United States increased in 152 out of 339 metropolitan areas between March 2012 and March 2013, declined in 126 and was stagnant in 61, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released May 2 by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted that many metro areas are adding jobs as construction spending increased 4.8 per cent, or $38.9 billion, during the same time frame.

“Today’s figures on employment by metro area and construction spending nationally in March highlight the uneven and fragile recovery that construction is experiencing,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The totals are up on a year-over-year basis, and should continue to improve during the remainder of 2013, but not every sector or region will do well.”

Pascagoula, Miss. added the highest percentage of new construction jobs (47 per cent, 1,700 jobs). Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (12,000 jobs, 11 per cent) added the most jobs.

The largest job losses were in Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill. (-2,700 jobs, -3 per cent). Monroe, Mich. (-19 per cent, -500 jobs) lost the highest percentage. Simonson noted that national construction spending in March 2013 was 4.8 per cent higher than in March 2012, but down 1.7 per cent from a month earlier. Only private residential construction spending grew in both time periods, rising 0.4 per cent for the month and 18 per cent year-over-year. Private nonresidential spending retreated 1.5 per cent from the February level, but increased 2.8 per cent from March 2012.

“For the rest of the year, the best performing categories are likely to be multifamily housing, power and energy, manufacturing, warehouses and private transportation while most public segments will continue to languish,” Simonson added.

“For the year as a whole, I expect both residential and private nonresidential construction spending to top 2012 totals by 10 to 15 per cent, while public construction will slip two to five per cent.”

Home builders struggling to find enough construction workers

The real estate bust drove many workers out of the construction industry. Luring them back, or training new skilled laborers, is no easy task.

By Alana Semuels and Alejandro Lazo, Los Angeles Times

May 8, 2013

The real estate bust idled hundreds of thousands of construction workers. Now, with housing on the mend, builders are hiring again.

Trouble is, many workers aren’t coming back.

Years of sporadic employment drove many from the industry. Incomes aren’t what they used to be. Laid-off workers remember the sting of lost livelihoods; some have had enough of boom and bust.

Former house painter Alan Schaffer has hung up his paintbrush to pursue a degree in business administration. The Riverside County resident says he’s looking for a livelihood that’s stable.

"I love construction, I love building," said Schaffer, 45. "But I can’t have a job that pays me $50,000 one year and zip the next. I need to be more financially secure."

With home prices surging in Southern California and across the country, builders are again seeing big opportunities. Housing starts and new-home sales are up. But even as California unemployment remains stuck above 9% — among the highest in the nation — construction companies say they’re struggling to find enough qualified workers to keep up with demand for new homes.

"We’re starting to see spot shortages of labor," said John Nunan, president of Unger Construction, a commercial building contractor that does work in Northern California.

Many experienced union workers retired during the slowdown, he said. Others found new careers. Now many contractors, especially in the Bay Area, where construction is booming, can’t find all the workers they need. Nunan said the plumbing contractor he’s working with in a job in Sonoma, for example, is having a hard time hiring plumbers.

Part of the problem is pay. Workers’ earnings in the construction industry fell more sharply — and are now recovering more slowly — than those in many other industries. Hourly pay for construction workers, adjusted for inflation, was $11.22 in 2012, down 3.1% from 2009.

Normally, worker shortages push up wages. But builders say they can’t match what they paid before the recession. Costs for building materials are rising. So are land prices in many areas.

Many laborers are grateful just to be working again. Still, hard hats such as Danny Fregoso, a supervisor at Joseph Holt Plastering Inc. of Corona, can’t help but miss the fat paychecks that accompanied the housing bubble.

During the best of times, Fregoso said he made about $26 an hour, while entry-level workers were making about $17 or $18. These days he’s earning about $16 an hour.

"We used to make a lot more money," said Fregoso, working recently at the six-story Jia Apartments project in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. "We all took pay cuts, then a lot of them left and found other jobs better than this one."

Although housing is surging in most Western states, construction employment is still well off its peak.

In California, construction employment plummeted 42% to 544,700 workers in September 2010 from a peak of 945,100 in February 2006. The industry has since rebounded to 620,400 workers, up 14% from its bottom.

It’s much the same in Nevada and Arizona, where construction employment fell by more than half from the peak. Construction sites are stirring again, but workers aren’t rushing back.

Stagnant wages aren’t helping lure workers to job sites in Arizona’s brutal desert heat, said Brett Jones, vice president of operations at the Arizona Construction Assn. Both young and experienced workers are staying away, he said.

Arizona’s tough new immigration laws, passed in 2010, aren’t helping matters either, advocates contend. The U.S. Supreme Court later found parts of that legislation unconstitutional. Still, thousands of Latinos have left the state.

Meanwhile, the flow of migrants north from Mexico and Central America has slowed substantially, in part because of tougher enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The U.S. construction industry depends heavily on Latino labor. At the height of the boom, Latinos made up one-quarter of the U.S. construction labor force; most of them were foreign-born, according to the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.

"The workforce has gone somewhere else," said Richard Usher, who runs an insurance company for construction firms and is also co-founder of Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform. "They had to feed their families."

Some older workers have left the industry as well.

When the housing market crashed, Timothy Wagner, a New Jersey painting contractor with two decades of experience, called it quits. He had grown weary of putting his body through all the bending and climbing that painting entailed. To put two daughters through college, he took a six-week truck-driving course, and now he pilots a big-rig.

"It’s so much nicer to know that I’m getting paid every week," said Wagner, 43. "There were so many times I was late on bills because I was waiting to get paid."

Construction has always been a cyclical business. In past recessions, skilled tradesman could hang on for a year or two until work started up again. Often slowdowns were regional, meaning workers could move to new cities. But the most recent housing bust was so severe, long and widespread that the construction labor market suffered unusual damage.

"The problem, frankly, was those skilled workers — and that whole labor pool — was not able to remain unemployed for five years," said Mike Winn, chief executive of the California Builders Assn.

The bust has also left behind a perception of construction as an inherently unstable line of work, industry representatives said.

"There’s been pretty consistent news coverage about the fact that there are no jobs in construction," said Brian Turmail, a spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America. "More broadly, we have a message that says: ‘If you want to be successful, you have to go to college.’"

Turmail and his association want to see a pipeline for training skilled construction workers, with schools like those for other skilled trades. Some states, including Alabama, Georgia and Missouri, have recently heeded this call and founded programs to encourage workers to go into construction.

Dean Word, a Texas construction contractor, says many of his workers are lured away by higher wages in the fast-growing energy sector. Many oil companies pay $2 to $3 an hour more than what construction employers pay.

"The oil field is paying a premium for any labor that will pass pre-employment physicals — it’s a pretty good wage for people that meet their requirements," Word said. "That’s tough for us to compete against."

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May 3, 2013

Posted by nahetsblog on May 2, 2013

Construction employment in San Antonio rose 5 percent in March

General contractors in San Antonio added 1,900 employees to their payrolls between March 2012 and March 2013, according to Arlington, Va.-based Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

The San Antonio/New Braunfels metropolitan region had 40,200 construction employees last March. A year later, that number had risen 5 percent to 42,100 workers.

That’s the same percentage by which employment figures went up in February as well.

In February 2012, the greater San Antonio construction industry had 40,000 workers. By February 2013, that number had risen 5 percent to 41,900 workers.

AGC’s breakdown for the Texas metros shows that all but two cities saw employment numbers rise between March 2012 and 2013. Employment numbers decreased 1 percent in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area. Meanwhile, employment numbers were unchanged in the Sherman/Denison area.

Corpus Christi added the highest percentage of new construction jobs at 18 percent.

The Dallas/Plano/Irving metro added the highest number of jobs — 12,000 between March 2012 and 2013.

Construction Employment Increased Annually In 152 Metro Areas

Construction employment levels are reported below by the Associated General Contractors of America:

Construction employment increased in 152 out of 339 metropolitan areas between March 2012 and March 2013, declined in 126 and was stagnant in 61, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted that many metro areas are adding jobs as construction spending increased 4.8 percent, or $38.9 billion, during the same time frame.

“Today’s figures on employment by metro area and construction spending nationally in March highlight the uneven and fragile recovery that construction is experiencing,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The totals are up on a year-over-year basis, and should continue to improve during the remainder of 2013, but not every sector or region will do well.”

Pascagoula, Miss. added the highest percentage of new construction jobs (47 percent, 1,700 jobs) followed by Fargo, N.D. (21 percent, 1,300 jobs); Merced, Calif. (19 percent, 300 jobs); Anchorage, Alaska (18 percent, 1,500 jobs); Corpus Christi, Texas (18 percent, 4,000 jobs) and Salinas, Calif. (18 percent, 700 jobs). Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (12,000 jobs, 11 percent) added the most jobs. Other areas adding a large number of jobs included Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas (8,500 jobs, 5 percent); Baltimore-Towson, Md. (7,700 jobs, 12 percent) and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (7,500 jobs, 7 percent).

The largest job losses were in Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill. (-2,700 jobs, -3 percent) and Northern Virginia (-2,700 jobs, -4 percent); followed by Cincinnati-Middletown, Ohio-Ky.-Ind. (-2,600 jobs, -7 percent); Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, Mich. (-2,300 jobs, -14 percent) and Raleigh-Cary, N.C. (-2,200 jobs, -8 percent). Monroe, Mich. (-19 percent, -500 jobs) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large percentage declines in construction employment included Rockford, Ill. (-18 percent, -700 jobs); Bellingham, Wash. (-15 percent, -1,000 jobs) and Pocatello, Idaho (-15 percent, -200 jobs).

Simonson noted that construction spending nationally in March was 4.8 percent higher than in March 2012, but down 1.7 percent from a month earlier, according to new Census Bureau data. Only private residential construction spending grew in both time periods, rising 0.4 percent for the month and 18 percent year-over-year. Private nonresidential spending retreated 1.5 percent from the February level, but increased 2.8 percent from March 2012. Public construction activity dropped 4.1 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively.

“For the rest of the year, the best performing categories are likely to be multifamily housing, power and energy, manufacturing, warehouses and private transportation while most public segments will continue to languish,” Simonson added. “For the year as a whole, I expect both residential and private nonresidential construction spending to top 2012 totals by 10 to 15 percent, while public construction will slip 2 to 5 percent.”

Construction awaits an employment boost

Construction employment declined in three of the state’s four major metropolitan areas over the year ending in March, but a spate of recent project announcements is expected to turn those numbers around.

"The numbers basically seem like the industry is responding in fits and spikes to the recovery," said Scott Norvell, executive director of Master Builders of Iowa, which represents the state’s construction industry.

Construction employment in Greater Des Moines dropped 2 percent over the year ending in March, to 12,100 from 12,300. The largest decline was in the Quad Cities, which lost 700 jobs over the period. The only gain was in the Council Bluffs and Omaha area, where 1,600 jobs were added.

Norvell said the start of construction of a fertilizer plant in southeast Iowa combined with Principal Financial Group Inc.’s renovation and the building of a $300 million Facebook Inc. data center in Altoona will cause a spike in construction employment.

Two of the projects alone are estimated to create 4,500 jobs. The nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing plant near Wever would need 2,500 construction workers and the Facebook project would require 2,000.

"The real question is whether this is just another spike or is it what you can look at as a longer-term recovery," Norvell said. "We think the jury is still out on that."

Still, efforts by the Iowa Economic Development Authority to bring new business to the state should pay off in commercial construction, which will lead to gains in home building and the overall economy, Norvell said.

One drag on construction employment will be a lack of skilled workers, many of whom left the industry during the recession and have not returned. The recession interrupted training sessions that were underway. In addition, the industry has an aging workforce.

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April 14, 2013

Posted by nahetsblog on April 14, 2013

Report: Pascagoula has highest construction job gain in United States
Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2013/04/09/4581256/report-pascagoula-has-highest.html#storylink=cpy

Pascagoula tops the list of metropolitan areas where construction employment increased between February 2012 and February 2013, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released Tuesday by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Pascaguola added the highest percentage of new construction jobs with 51 percent or 1,800 jobs, according to the data.

Construction employment increased in 158 out of 339 metropolitan areas during that time frame, declined in 132 and was stagnant in 49.

Pascagoula is followed by El Centro, Calif. (23 percent, 300 jobs); Anchorage, Alaska (22 percent, 1,800 jobs), Fargo, N.D. (20 percent, 1,200 jobs) and Merced, Calif. (20 percent, 300 jobs).

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas (13,200 jobs, 8 percent) added the most jobs.

Other areas adding a large number of jobs included Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (10,700 jobs, 10 percent); Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (8,500 jobs, 8 percent) and Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas (7,200 jobs, 12 percent).

Association officials noted that the rebound in construction employment in many parts of the country is taking place despite a 17 percent decline in public sector construction spending during the past four years.

Flagler ranked No. 20 in nation for construction job growth

Flagler County last month had the second-best growth in construction employment, percentage-wise, in Florida and tied with three other metro areas for the nation’s 20th best growth, according to a new national report.

In February, an estimated 900 workers were employed in construction-related jobs in the "Palm Coast metro area" — i.e., all of Flagler County — for a year-over-year net gain of 100 jobs, according to data compiled by the state Department of Economic Opportunity.

Flagler’s 13 percent net gain was just barely beat out by the Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach metropolitan area, which recorded a 14 percent increase in February for a No. 17 national ranking, according to a report Tuesday from the Associated General Contractors of America.

Volusia County, despite its year-over-year net gain of 300 construction jobs in February, tied with 17 other U.S. metro areas for the nation’s 98th best growth (seventh best in Florida) because its percentage gain was only 4 percent.

Debi Peterson, executive officer for the Flagler Home Builders Association, said she was pleased Flagler County ranked so high in the Association General Contractors’ list of the nation’s fastest-growing metro areas for construction employment, but said she takes such news with a grain of salt because of the county’s relatively small population.

Flagler has 96,000 residents compared with 497,000 in Volusia, according to the state Department of Economic Opportunity.

"Whenever anything happens (in Flagler), it’s a bigger deal numbers-wise than in Volusia," Peterson said.

She added, however, that several area builders have been reporting an increase in work in recent months.

In the first three months of the year, 89 building permits were issued in Flagler for new homes, up from 50 in the first quarter last year, said Jason DeLorenzo, director of government affairs for the Flagler Home Builders Association.

"It’s looking pretty solid," he said of new home construction activity locally.

Jim Landon, Palm Coast city manager, said his city last week alone received building permit applications for 12 new homes from area builders, matching the total number the city issued the entire month of April last year.

"Our whole effort here in Palm Coast has been (growing) one job at a time," Landon said.

Lori McMullin, a spokeswoman for the Center for Business Excellence, the workforce development board for Flagler and Volusia counties, said construction employment was up for both counties in January as well, with Volusia having a year-over-year net gain of 400 jobs and Flagler a net gain of 100.

"In both counties, we’re starting to see (construction employment) on the rise," McMullin said. "It’s not a drastic increase, but it is an industry to watch."

Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2013/04/09/4581256/report-pascagoula-has-highest.html#storylink=cpy

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Construction Employment Reaches 3 Year High

Posted by nahetsblog on April 9, 2013

Construction industry employment climbed for the tenth consecutive month in March, as the sector added 18,000 jobs and surpassed 5.8 million employees for the first time since September 2009, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials cautioned that the industry may soon experience both layoffs for some skilled trades and shortages of others, unless policy makers boost infrastructure investment and allow importation of needed workers.

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Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 Heavy Equipment Operators

Posted by nahetsblog on April 3, 2013

Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 Heavy Equipment Operators

Heavy equipment operators from capitalized on the opportunity to practice using their heavy equipment at the Haramura training area near Hiroshima during Exercise Thunder Horse, March 17-22, 2013.


The Marines practiced digging 14-foot trenches and individual fighting positions in an open field near the main campsite.

“The techniques from the training weren’t just meant for practice,” said Staff Sgt. Jose Camberos, MWSS-171 heavy equipment operations chief. “It gives the Marines an understanding of how their equipment works and the ways to move dirt. When the Marines leave the schoolhouse, they don’t get the opportunity to dig anti-tank ditches and fighting positions.”

Along with combat-oriented digging, Marines earned experience assisting others digging trenches around tents with backhoes instead of using entrenchment tools.

“Digging the trenches helped me to get a better feel for the backhoe,” said Lance Cpl. Austin Blodgett, MWSS-171 heavy equipment operator. “It added valuable stick time, which is when we get behind the controls and earn time practicing.”

With extended periods of rain throughout the training, mud and clay made operations more difficult for the Marines. It escalated to the point where even vehicles with all terrain tracks were getting stuck.

“Earth-moving is very specific when it comes to the material,” said
Camberos. “If the material is too dry, it will crumble away. If it’s too wet, vehicles tend to get stuck. We had the dozer get stuck, and that rarely happens.”

Aside from moving dirt and mud, Camberos also explained what his concept of the training was truly about.

“What I mainly look for when I train them in earth moving is the Marines understanding what they’re doing and not just moving dirt,” said Camberos. “If Marines don’t know the correct process for digging a fighting position, it would become a counterproductive process.”

With the Haramura training ground providing conditions for valuable teaching periods, the Marines leave not as experts, but more experienced in their profession.

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March 26, 2013

Posted by nahetsblog on March 27, 2013

Construction Employment Expands in Two-Thirds of States in January

Construction employment expanded in two-thirds of all states in January as the industry showed signs of emerging from a six-year slump, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data. Association officials cautioned however that the industry’s recovery remains fragile and that current and looming federal budget cuts threaten to drag down construction employment in numerous states.

“These results show that contractors are finding work in more parts of the country than they have for many months,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.

From January 2012 to January 2013, 24 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs, 25 shed workers and one – Wisconsin – had no change. D.C. jumped to the top ranking for percentage of new construction jobs (9.4 percent, 1,200 jobs); followed by North Dakota (9.0 percent, 2,500 jobs); Hawaii (8.0 percent, 2,300 jobs); Alaska (7.2 percent, 1,200 jobs) and Washington (6.0 percent, 8,200 jobs).

Texas (28,500 jobs, 5.0 percent) added the most new construction jobs over the past 12 months, followed by California (17,600 jobs, 3.0 percent) and Washington.

Among states losing construction jobs during the past year, Arkansas lost the highest percentage (-10.5 percent, -5,100 jobs), followed by Rhode Island (-8.0 percent, -1,300 jobs); Montana (-7.2 percent, -1,700 jobs) and South Dakota (-6.4 percent, -1,400 jobs). Illinois lost the most jobs (-9,800 jobs, -5.0 percent), followed by Virginia (-7,500 jobs, -4.2 percent); Ohio (-5,200 jobs, -2.8 percent) and Arkansas.

Simonson noted that 34 states and Washington D.C. added construction jobs between December and January, while employment slipped in 14 states and held steady in two states. Wyoming had the largest percentage increase (4.6 percent, 1,000 jobs); followed by New York (4.2 percent, 13,000 jobs). New York added the largest number of jobs, by far—probably reflecting recovery work from Hurricane Sandy.

Alaska and South Dakota had no change in construction employment over the month, while 14 states lost jobs, with Arkansas having the steepest percentage drop (-5.0 percent, -2,300 jobs); followed by Kansas (-4.0 percent, -2,200 jobs). Arkansas lost the largest number of jobs for the month; followed by Kansas and Pennsylvania (-2,200 jobs, -1.0 percent).

“Construction spending has been rising for two full years but contractors have been cautious about adding workers until they knew the upturn would last,” Simonson said. “In 2013, both residential and private nonresidential construction should rise enough to offset a further slowdown in public work, and contractors will be looking for more workers.”

Association officials said the cuts in federal funding for construction triggered both by the sequestration that took effect earlier this month and by spending bills now advancing in Congress would fall hardest on construction employers in states that have a large federal government presence.

Planning, teamwork corrects heavy equipment spill

Rachel Dove-Baldwin

Staff Writer

22 MINE ROAD — A piece of heavy machinery owned by Coal-Mac came off of a flat-bed transport truck turning onto 22 Mine Road from U.S. 119 and ended up on its side, where it remained for two days until a plan was implemented to place it right side up.

According to information provided by Mingo County Emergency Services Director Jerrod Fletcher, the accident occurred at approximately 10 a.m. on Friday and was cleaned up Sunday afternoon around 4 p.m. The Caterpillar 993K front-end loader, weighing almost 295,000 lbs., suffered cosmetic damage after coming off the side of the flat bed as the truck turned onto 22 Mine Road. The driver for J.P. Technical Services that was transporting the machinery to the mine site relayed that it felt like an earthquake had occurred when the in loader slammed onto the pavement and said it sounded like a sonic boom. No one was injured in the mishap.

Four large dozers and two cranes had to be brought to the location to help put the 993K upright. One lane of U.S. 119 was blocked for a period of time while the pieces of large machinery attempted the operation. Cables had to be hooked to the in loader from various directions to pull it from its side and place it back on its wheels.

Fletcher asked to say a special thank you to Chris Sykes and Jeremy Blankenship from Coal-Mac, along with everyone else at the scene, for all the assistance man power and equipment they supplied.

“It took some planning, quite a few pieces of heavy equipment and teamwork to get the job done, but we were successful,” commented Fletcher.

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CA Board Seeks 8.6 Billion High Speed Rail Bonds

Posted by nahetsblog on March 22, 2013

The project eventually is supposed to link Northern and Southern California with trains traveling up to 220 mph.

THE AP REPORTS TODAY: The California High-Speed Rail Authority voted Monday to issue nearly $8.6 billion in taxpayer-approved bonds to build the nation’s first bullet train as the state rushes to begin construction in July.

Officials are now on track to sell $3.7 billion of the bonds. That includes $2.6 billion for high speed rail and another $1.1 billion for improving existing commuter rail systems in Northern and Southern California.

Lawmakers appropriated the $3.7 billion last year, but the Legislature would have to act again to appropriate the remainder of the $8.6 billion before the entire amount can be issued.

The six-member board authorized selling the bonds on a 5-0 vote, without debate and with one member absent. Timing of the sale will now be set by the governor, attorney general and state treasurer, though the first opportunity to sell the bonds will be this fall, said Tom Dresslar, spokesman for Treasurer Bill Lockyer.

“It’s another step towards the process of breaking ground on the nation’s first high speed rail system in California this summer,” authority Chairman Dan Richard said after the vote.

The project still must withstand lawsuits that have court hearings in coming months. They include a hearing April 19 over the project’s environmental impacts, while a May 31 hearing will consider whether the funds meet the requirements set by voters when they approved the high speed rail program in 2008.

Adverse rulings in those lawsuits could stall the bond money, though Richard said groundbreaking can proceed using $3.

3 billion in federal matching funds.

The first full segment of the $68 billion rail line will run from Madera to Bakersfield. The project eventually is supposed to link Northern and Southern California with trains traveling up to 220 mph.

Contractors have submitted bids to design and build the first $1.8 billion, 30-mile stretch of track. The bids from five international design teams will be opened later this spring, Richard said. The authority also is in the process of negotiating to buy land for the project’s right of way.

“Everything about this project is ambitious,” Richard said, but he predicted the authority will meet its construction timetable.

Interest payments on the entire amount would cost the state an estimated $700 million a year for 35 years, but at least the $175 million in annual debt payments on the initial bonds would come from fees paid by commercial truckers, not from the state’s general fund, Richard said. He said it is not clear if the overweight fees from truckers would cover the entire amount.

Not all the bonds will be sold at once, said state Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer. “In fact, you don’t want to sell them all now – it would be like drinking out of a fire hydrant.”

Several speakers challenged the timing of the authorization during the board’s public comment period, asking why the board was acting on the bulk of the bonds approved by voters now when it could be years before the money is needed. Kevin Dayton, a public policy consultant from Roseville, questioned whether the board was rushing to beat the outcome of the lawsuits attempting to block the railroad.

“That’s the obvious question that comes up,” Dayton said. “I think it’s reasonable to assume they’re very worried about it.”

But Richard said the board was merely being efficient by authorizing all the bonds now, so it would not have to revisit the issue in coming years.

The authority would have to comply with a court order no matter what steps it has taken, he said, and state officials are unlikely to issue the bonds until they are satisfied that they will not be blocked by the courts.

“We have to resolve those issues before the court and we are very confident about that,” Richard said. “I think until those matters are resolved, I’m not sure the treasurer would go forward with this.”

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