Illinois’ November Unemployment Rate Drops By A Hair

Yesterday, we told you that Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped below 10 percent in November for the first time in three years. Now comes word that Illinois’ jobless rate also dropped last month, and the state added jobs in November, although not as many as it has been adding.

Illinois’ unemployment rate was 10 percent, down from 10.1 percent in October. The state, which has been adding an average of 6,000 jobs a month this year, added only 600 jobs in November.

Although Illinois officials said the state has added jobs in eight of the past 11 months, the state’s unemployment rate is actually up from 9.4 percent in November a year ago.

The national unemployment rate is 8.6 percent.

On Wednesday, Michigan officials said their state’s jobless rate was 9.8 percent last month, according to the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget. A year ago, the Michigan jobless rate was 11.4 percent.


Midwest Memo: Industrial Production Drops, Donations Fall, School Protests

Industrial Output: Production from the nation’s factories fell in November, dragged down by the automobile industry, the Federal Reserve said today. The 0.2 percent decline followed a rise in industry output during October. The Fed said the output of motor vehicles and parts fell 3.4 percent in November, while mining and utilities rose. The capacity utilization at American factories, which reflects how full they are running, fell to 77.8 percent in November. That is still up 2 percent from a year ago, but it is below the average for 1972 through 2010, the Fed said.

Donations Fall: Charities in the Detroit area are concerned at a drop in donations over the holidays, according to the Detroit News. The Salvation Army has raised only $3 million of its $8.2 million goal, with nine days left for bell ringers across the metropolitan area. Easter Seals, which holds five raffles a year, came up $50,000 short on its November raffle. It sold only 3,500 of the 5,000 tickets it aims to sell. One group that’s on track is the Gleaners Community Food of Southeastern Michigan, which is set to reach a quarterly goal of $5.2 million in donations.

School Protests: About 50 protestors in Chicago shut down a meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, upset over the city’s plans to close and consolidate schools. District officials want to close five under performing schools, gradually close two more and turn around 10 troubled schools. The protestors included parents, community activists, current and former teachers, and members of the Occupy Chicago movement. The meeting was abruptly adjourned after the protestors interrupted a presentation by schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard.


How Is Sub-Par Credit Affecting Your Life?

Many people took a hit to their credit rating during the recession. For some, it’s because they took pay cuts or lost their jobs, making them late on payments. Others saw credit scores plunge due to short sales and foreclosures. We’d like to know how lower credit ratings are affecting your life.

the elements of a credit score

Let us know if you’ve seen your credit rating go down, and what the implications have been.

We’d also like to hear from you if you’ve had to use one of those “buy here-pay here” used car lots, where pretty much anyone can get a loan, but the interest rates may be sky high. How was your purchase different than the way you’d bought a car in the past?

Changing Gears looks forward to hearing from you.

Survey on lower credit scores

Survey on Buy Here-Pay Here

Michigan’s Unemployment Rate Below 10% for 1st Time Since 2008

Michigan has at times had the highest unemployment rate in the nation, peaking above 14 percent in 2009. But today, state officials said the November rate dropped below 10 percent for the first time in three years, although the decline is primarily due to fewer people seeking jobs.

The jobless rate was 9.8 percent last month, according to the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget. A year ago, the jobless rate was 11.4 percent.

Michigan’s unemployment rate compares with a national rate of 8.6 percent, but state officials say the unemployment rate in Michigan has dropped by a full percentage point since this past August.

It was the lowest rate for Michigan since October, 2008, when the rate stood at 9.4 percent. The following month, the state unemployment rate rose above 10 percent, and has been in double digits ever since. Continue reading “Michigan’s Unemployment Rate Below 10% for 1st Time Since 2008”

Midwest Memo: Detroit Light Rail Dies, Chicago Job Outlook, Texting Ban Boost

Detroit Rail Plan Dies: An ambitious plan to build a light rail corridor in Detroit has died, the Detroit Free Press reports. Instead, the federal government is recommending that the city get high speed buses, which will run on dedicated routes from the suburbs to the city. The Transportation Department had awarded the city $25 million last year to get light rail rolling. But financial issues with the project, and the city’s own financial woes caused the government to change course, the paper said. The death of the plan ends a four-year lobbying effort to win a light rail system.

Chicago Companies Plan to Hire: About 15 percent of companies in the Chicago area expect to hire more employees in early 2012, and about two-thirds of companies expect to keep staffing levels the same,  according to a survey by Manpower. A small number, about 12 percent, said they planned to eliminate positions in the first quarter. Job prospects appear best in manufacturing of non-durable goods, the wholesale and retail sector, financial activities, education and health care. Employers in construction, transportation and utilities expect to cut jobs.

Texting Ban Boost: The author of a legislative proposal to ban texting-while-driving in Ohio tells our partner station ideastream that her bill is getting a big boost from a recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board. The five member board has unanimously called for all states to ban not only texting-while-driving, but also talking on cellphones while driving, even when motorists use a hands-free device. State Rep. Nancy Garland’s proposed texting ban has passed the Ohio House of Representatives, but has hit a roadblock in a Senate committee

…Shall We Play An Incentives Game? (Midwest States Are)

The incentives war between the Midwestern states has heated up over the past few months, especially between Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, which, are fighting over Sears and the CME Group. Here is a look at how states use incentives to keep or steal companies, and how that effects overall economic development.


Think back to Political Science 101 and what you learned about game theory. If you need some help, think about the premise of one of my favorite 1980s movies: War Games.

Remember the ending? (No? Keep reading.) The movie’s  star, Matthew Broderick, wants to show Joshua, the computer, that there’s no way to win a zero-sum game. He gets the computer to play itself, first Tic Tac Toe, then a simulation of a nuclear war between the then-Soviet Union and the United States. In the end, Joshua realizes no one can win.

Keep game theory in mind, because we’ll come back to it later. But that’s kind of what’s happening between Illinois, Ohio and Indiana. These states have spent the past few months waging an economic incentives war worth millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Continue reading “…Shall We Play An Incentives Game? (Midwest States Are)”

Is Fracking Worth the Gamble?

courtesy of Ari Moore

Fracking is controversial, but it’s also shaping up to be big business in the Midwest. This week the environmental risks of the practice were highlighted as the EPA linked fracking to contaminated groundwater in Wyoming for the first time.

Despite these risks there are still potential economic benefits to homeowners and the region.


Inform our upcoming stories on this topic.Do you have any experience with the industry? What would make fracking worth it to you?

Midwest Memo: Incentives Vote, Liquor Law Review, Arts Money

Illinois Vote: The Illinois Senate is set to vote today on an incentives package meant to keep the CME Group (better known as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange) and Sears in the state. The vote follows the Illinois House’s approval of the package on Monday.  Barring a last minute glitch in the political process, listen for a report from Changing Gears’ Niala Boodhoo on the incentives situation tomorrow.

Michigan Liquor:  The State of Michigan is considering changes to the state’s liquor laws, which restrict sales on Sunday and allow local governments to set limits on who can get liquor licenses. The Detroit News reports the Liquor Control Rules Advisory Committee is looking at “anything and everything,” according to one state official. The review is not open to the public, however, and the News says that’s causing some consternation among groups that want the state to take a conservative approach to reforming liquor laws.

Arts Money: Sixty-six arts and cultural organizations in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County will be sharing nearly $14 million in grants for 2012. Our partner ideastream is among five organizations getting grants of $1 million or more from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. The group gets its funding from a tax on cigarette sales. Dan Bobkoff reported earlier this year on the unique way the grants are funded.


Obama Names Not One…But Two…New Manufacturing Czars

President Obama named his new manufacturing czar today. Two of them, actually. Call them co-czars. [display_podcast]

The government hasn’t had a manufacturing point person since the previous czar, Ron Bloom, stepped down in August.  Now, Commerce Secretary John Bryson will team up with Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council, to run the White House Office of Manufacturing Policy.

With this announcement, manufacturing could get more clout.  Secretary Bryson is the first cabinet-level official to spearhead manufacturing policy.  The White House says the Office of Manufacturing “will convene cabinet-level meetings to aggressively implement the Administration’s priority manufacturing initiatives.”

President Obama is pushing for greater cooperation between government, industry and education to strengthen manufacturing domestically.  His advanced manufacturing partnership held the last of its regional meetings today at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  But it’s not too late to send in your own ideas.


Another Try At Reinventing Chicago’s Union Station

Chicago’s Union Station is an imposing legend in the railroad world. For generations, it has been the place where east meets west. It’s the spot where many Midwesterners arrive on their first train ride. And it was featured in North By Northwest, the Alfred Hitchcock film starring Cary Grant.

Chicago's Union Station

But the station, which was last remodeled in 1992, has become crowded and inefficient. The third busiest rail terminal in the United States, it handles more than 300 trains per day and 120,000 passengers. Many proposals have been floated for rethinking Union Station — and now, officials are trying again.

The station is the subject of a new master plan that is scheduled to be presented Thursday night, Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Rob Hilkevitch says local officials want to be sure the station can handle increased traffic that’s expected when Sara Lee moves some of its operations to Chicago’s West Loop, as well as demand from commuters.  Continue reading “Another Try At Reinventing Chicago’s Union Station”