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Happy Labor Day weekend from The Housing Chronicles Blog and MetroIntelligence!

So just what is the history of this holiday marking the end of summer?  Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day
More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Labor Day Legislation
Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887.

During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

A Nationwide Holiday
The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 8/29/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • 2Q 2014 GDP rose 4.2 percent in second estimate
  • Initial unemployment claims dip by 1,000 in latest report
  • Mortgage applications rose 2.8 percent in latest survey
  • Initial unemployment claims dip by 14,000 in latest report
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 8/28/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • New home sales dip 2.4 percent from previous month; still up 12.3 percent year-over-year
  • Case-Shiller Indices all showing slower growth with report ending June 2014
  • FHFA House Price Index up 0.8 percent in 2Q2014 and 5.2 percent since 2Q2013
  • Consumer confidence increases in August for fourth straight month
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 8/26/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • Mortgage applications rose by 1.14 percent in latest survey as rates fell by six basis points
  • Federal Reserve meetings notes shows continued commitment to keeping interest rates low
  • Architecture billings at highest level since 2007
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

These days, it’s nearly impossible to avoid news of one of the worst droughts to grip the State of California since records were first kept in the mid 1800s.  And it’s not just California --- as of early August, the U.S. Drought Monitor was reporting that just over one-third of the contiguous U.S. states were experiencing drought conditions.  In the case of California and the southwest U.S., a so-called “ridiculously resilient ridge” (or Triple R) of high pressure has been squatting off the coast of western Canada since January 2013, thereby diverting storms normally destined for California instead to Alaska, where record amounts of rain and snowfall have been reported.

The concern about this high pressure anomaly is that the longer it lasts, the less likely it will be to break up soon, and in the interim reinforces the jet stream’s current northern trajectory.   While it’s quite possible that extremely rare events like the Triple R are simply borne by chance (and so may end at any time), given that higher global temperatures have raised the risk of rare weather extremes, there’s a distinct possibility that this drought may continue for some time to come.

However, there are some important differences between this event and the last major drought to hit California in 1976-77, in which the state’s reservoirs plummeted to 41 percent of average capacity (versus just over 50 percent as of late August 2014).  On the demand side, although the state’s population has doubled since the last drought, per-capita water use has also dropped with the use of new water management technologies.  

It was actually the drought of 1987-92 which marked the beginning of modern water-use practices, including more efficient use of water for agricultural which made more growth in the cities possible.  Moreover, the delivery of water in general has greatly reduced waste due to evaporation or seepage, while reclaimed water for outdoor use is becoming increasingly commonplace, especially for water-hungry uses such as golf courses and freeway embankments.

Consequently, whereas municipalities might simply have refused to grant new building permits in past droughts, today the approval process for new projects has water availability as a key component.  For new developments of 40 acres or more in California, since 2002 the state has required a water supply assessment in order to confirm that there will be adequate supplies of water – which can also include new sources through conservation, recycling and transfers  -- as long as these sources include appropriate quality, quantity and reliability.

On the supply side, new homes are actually exponentially more efficient than older ones, especially those with water-hogging plumbing fixtures.   According to a report commissioned by the CBIA, an average three-bedroom home with four occupants built today uses 29,000 fewer gallons of water than smaller homes built in 2005.  Certainly one big reason for that is the “CalGreen” code, which become law in 2011 and mandated a 20-percent reduction in water use through relatively simple solutions such as low-flow toilets, shower heads and faucets.

One builder on the forefront of the water issue is Los Angeles-based KBHome, which debuted their first “Double ZeroHome” at its Dawn Creek community in the high desert city of Lancaster (average annual rainfall:  7-8 inches) earlier this year.  So named due to its dual emphasis on energy and water efficiency, the home has been engineered to recycle its own drainwater and re-purpose it for its low-water landscaping.

According to the builder, the home can save up to 150,000 gallons of water each year compared to an older resale home, for a savings of about 70 percent. Other clever innovations include a dishwater that stores the water from the last rinse cycle for use in the first pre-rinse cycle of the next load, and an energy recovery system which extracts heat from drainwater and diverts it to the home’s tankless water heater to cut down on heating costs.

Still, based on sheer numbers alone, the solution to the future availability of water has much more to do with retrofitting the existing housing stock versus the approval of new homes; if homes 30 years of age or older were retrofitted to the CalGreen standards, estimates of water savings statewide rise to 300 billion gallons per year.  Yet with a housing inventory of over 13 million California residences, encouraging homeowners to make these changes will be neither easy nor fast.  Most likely, what we’ll see are a mix of carrots and sticks from cities and water agencies to encourage greater water efficiency in homes and businesses.

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