Midwest Memo: Unemployment applications back above 400,000; Wisconsin property values decline

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Mixed unemployment numbers. The number of people applying for unemployment benefits rose above 400,000 last week, but the nation’s four-week average fell to the lowest levels seen since mid-April, according to The Associated Press. A report from the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday that applications rose to 408,000. They have remained above 400,000 in 18 of the past 19 weeks. But the four-week average fell for the seventh consecutive week to 402,500.

2. Wisconsin property values decline. For the third consecutive year, property values fell across Wisconsin in 2010. The value of homes, businesses and other property declined by 1.8 percent to $487 billion, according to a report by the state’s Department of Revenue. In 2009, values declined by 3.1 percent. Before the three-year slide, Wisconsin had only one other year on record, 1959, when property values declined, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

3. Lyric Opera averts strike. Officials the Lyric Opera of Chicago and America Guild of Musical Artists announced a tentative, one-year contract agreement Wednesday that likely averts a strike, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The agreement must still be ratified by union members and the Opera’s board of directors. The opera’s seasonal performances are scheduled to begin on Sept. 10 at Millennium Park.

Ishpeming: Where Iron Ore Built a City

The Empire Mine has been producing iron ore for more than 40 years. Photo courtesy of Cliffs Natural Resources

Our Changing Gears project is on the road, bringing you stories of towns where one company still affects everybody’s lives. Today we head north, to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. That’s where North America’s biggest supplier of iron ore has been blasting the earth, and creating jobs, for more than 160 years.  [display_podcast] Continue reading “Ishpeming: Where Iron Ore Built a City”

States: Want More Jobs? Then Help Create Them

Jobs, jobs, and more jobs has become a mantra for recession-battered states around the Midwest. The solution? Get involved in helping businesses create them.

Former Michigan Gov. Granholm, center. Photo: Clinton Global Initiative

That was the message heard today in Chicago at the Clinton Global Initiative America, during a panel discussion on success stories. Its moderator: former Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, whose state was hit hardest by the recent downturn.

Although Michigan has lost 500,000 jobs in the past few years, many of them in the auto industry, Granholm, a Democrat, said she focused on helping develop the next auto industry, namely electric vehicles.

By the time she left office last year, Granholm said Michigan had partnered with 18 companies involved in aspects of the electric vehicle’s underpinnings.

Continue reading “States: Want More Jobs? Then Help Create Them”

Clinton Global Initiative Looks At America – In Chicago

Former President Bill Clinton has spent the years since he left office in 2001 holding conferences that look at problems on a global scale. But this week, he’s staging the first Clinton Global Initiative that will explore issues facing the United States, and he’s doing so in Chicago.

President Clinton briefs President Obama. White House photo

On Wednesday and Thursday, CGI America will examine economic topics ranging from the future of manufacturing to job creation and education as well as the new rural economy. There is a blue ribbon list of participants including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Michigan’s former governor, Jennifer M. Granholm, also is taking part. Continue reading “Clinton Global Initiative Looks At America – In Chicago”

President Obama’s bold declaration comes amid sagging outlook

On Friday, President Obama shook hands with workers at a Chrysler auto plant in Toledo, Ohio, and told them they were “showing the world that American manufacturing and American industry is back.” Beyond the assembly plant, which makes the Jeep Wrangler, others weren’t so sure.

As the president spoke, the latest jobs numbers showed the nation’s unemployment rate crept upward to 9.1 percent while the economy added the fewest number of jobs in eight months. And the auto industry?

Continue reading “President Obama’s bold declaration comes amid sagging outlook”

Midwest Memo: Friday, May 20, 2011

Some good – but not great – news for northeast Ohio. Our partner station Ideastream reports today that a glitch in a reporting system led to an overly optimistic April home sales report. Revised numbers still show a 4.6 percent increase in sales from March.

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped substantially in April and now ranks below the national average, according to Crain’s Cleveland. More than 100,000 have returned to the workforce over the past year across the state.

Continue reading “Midwest Memo: Friday, May 20, 2011”

Rahm Emanuel Sworn In As Chicago Mayor

A new era began in Chicago this morning, when Rahm Emanuel was sworn in as the city’s 47th mayor. Emanuel is the first new mayor in Chicago since Richard M. Daley took office 22 years ago, and the former White House chief of staff made clear to the city what his first priorities will be.

“Today, more than any other time in our history, more than any other place in our country, the city of Chicago is ready for change,” Emanuel said during his inaugural address at Millenium Park.

Rahm Emanuel was sworn in as Chicago's 47th mayor by Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans this morning. (Photo: Getty Images/Frank Polich, courtesy of WBEZ.)

The 51-year-old father of three said he plans to tackle Chicago’s biggest problems: education, violence, the city’s financial problems and creating more jobs.

Continue reading “Rahm Emanuel Sworn In As Chicago Mayor”

Midwest Memo: Thursday, April 21, 2011

The cost of gasoline in Chicago as of April 21, 2011. Photo by Micki Maynard.


If you need gas for the Easter holiday, you might want to fuel up now, because prices are supposed to go even higher. The average gas price in Michigan is expected to jump between $4.05 and $4.15 a gallon. As you can see from this picture, gas prices in Chicago are well passed the $4.00 a gallon mark.

Continue reading “Midwest Memo: Thursday, April 21, 2011”