Midwest Memo: Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Manufacturing output in the Midwest increased by almost two percent between February and March, according to the Chicago Fed Midwest Manufacturing Index, released this morning. Regional manufacturing output was up 12.5 percent in March compared to March a year earlier, and national output was up by 7.1 percent. Manufacturing was one of the most badly hit sectors of the economy during the recession, but now it’s proving to be rebounding during the recovery.

Tax day has come and gone, but Michigan is still hoping to collect $90 million in unpaid taxes. The state is offering a tax amnesty program to the hundreds of thousands of people and businesses who may have neglected to pay their taxes on time through the end of June.

According to the program, full back taxes must be paid, plus interest, but the reason why you neglected to pay on time doesn’t matter.


Michigan Governor Rick Snyder outlined his plans for the state’s education system this morning. Snyder said the system needs to be transformed into one that “prepares students for the technological age of today and jobs of tomorrow.” Snyder said too few of the state’s high school graduates are ready for college, and his solution touches every area of education from early childhood to the career path of the best teachers.

Michigan’s air is getting cleaner, according to this year’s “State of the Air” report from LungUSA.org. Lansing and Saginaw are among the cleanest cities in the U.S., as are Bloomington-Normal, Champaign-Urbana and Springfield in Illinois. Several of the Midwest’s cities topped the less flattering list of dirtiest cities. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh are all among the top 25 cities most polluted by year round particle pollution. Pittsburgh is also placed third among the most polluted cities in the nation by short term particle solution, and Chicago landed on that list at number 17. You can read the full report here.

Yesterday, Ford reported positive first quarter results. Today brings more good news from Michigan-based appliance maker Whirlpool. Whirlpool’s earnings for the first three months of this year totaled $169 million. That’s five million more than the company’s earnings from the first quarter of last year.

Ohio’s Diebold Inc. had a significantly less successful first quarter than Ford or Whirlpool. The ATM maker’s profits plunged almost 83 percent to $4.1 million during the first three months of this year. During that same period last year, the company raked in $24.2 million. Diebold Inc. recently announced plans to build a new $100 million headquarter in Akron, Ohio.

College graduates this year have better job prospects than in the last few years. Photo by jeco via Flickr.

College graduates appear to have a better chance of snagging a job than in recent years. In a recent survey, the Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute found that employers are hoping to increase hiring of college graduates with bachelor’s degrees by ten percent.

The highly successful e-coupon site Groupon has a new competition: Facebook. The social network announced yesterday it will be featuring its own form of targeted discounts to users.  WBEZ’s Eight Forty-Eight talked about this on today’s show.

Prices at the pump have been steadily rising, but Chicagoans’ wallets are bearing the brunt of the gas price burden. The average price of gas in the Windy City is up to $4.27 per gallon — and that’s just the average. Some stations have been spotted selling gas for as much as $4.60. WBEZ’s Eight Fort-Eight talked to people on the street and at a gas station to see how it’s affected them.

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