Time Spent Out of a Job Hits A New High

This statistic from today’s dismal jobs report jumped out at us. The Labor Department says the average unemployed person in the United States is spending 39.7 weeks out of a job.

GM workers can breath a sigh of relief as the U.S. automaker plans to expand its work force. Photo courtesy of Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio.

According to the Economix blog in New York Times, that’s the longest since the department began keeping the statistic in 1948.

To be sure, the department changed the way it calculates the statistic in January, but even under its old method, May was still the longest time ever.

The Times says this raises concerns for a couple of reasons:

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Midwest Memo, June 3, 2011

Five must-read stories about the Midwest economy

1) Obama Celebrates With Chrysler: President Obama is at a Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, today. He’s visiting on the heels of Fiat’s purchase of the government’s remaining stake in Chrysler.

The Chrysler headquarters in Michigan. Photo by fiatontheweb via flickr.

The move, once finalized, will give the Italian automaker a majority ownership in the Auburn Hills, Mich., company. Fiat has had management control of Chrysler since the No. 3 U.S. automaker emerged from a government-sponsored bankruptcy in 2009. Apparently, the government drove a hard bargain for the remaining 6 percent, according to David Shepardson’s story in the Detroit News. Fiat paid about $100 million more than the $400 million that Fiat originally offered.


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Camp Bacon Gives Midwest A Slice of Culinary Trend

The idea started as a pipe dream. While writing a comprehensive book about the history of bacon, Ari Weinzweig envisioned a summit of the country’s foremost bacon experts and luminaries.

“I don’t write fiction,” said Weinzweig, co-owner of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Zingerman’s.

So he only had one choice – turn the pipe dream into a pork reality. From June 30 to July 3, Zingerman’s will host the second annual Camp Bacon, a four-day bacon conference in Ann Arbor that includes seminars on bacon history, the creations of two James Beard award-winning chefs, a benefit concert at The Ark and, of course, lots of good eats.

Zingerman’s is already known throughout the Midwest, and among foodies worldwide, for its entrepreneurial spirit. In nearly 30 years, it has grown from the original deli started by a handful of people to a variety of businesses. Alex Young, executive chef at Zingerman’s Roadhouse, was named winner of the James Beard Award this year for Best Chef: Great Lakes.

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An IPO for Chicago-based Groupon

The jokes are already starting: $10 gets you $20 in shares.

Chicago-based Groupon, the Web company that offers coupon-style deals to its subscribers, announced plans to file for an initial public offering today. The company isn’t saying how much stock it plans to sell, what the price will be, or how much it thinks it will raise.

But the deal will be watched for two reasons.

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Grand Rapids + Lip Dub = Image Change?

In one week. the Grand Rapids lip dub video has become a bona fide phenomenon.

The intricately choreographed video, produced by urban experimentalist Rob Bliss and set to tune of American Pie, has been now been viewed by more than 1.6 million people.

Movie critic Roger Ebert called it the best video ever. And the reaction since the video hit the Web last Thursday has helped the western Michigan city overcome its displeasure at a negative ranking from Newsweek magazine. (The magazine has since stepped back from the result.)

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Midwest Memo, June 2, 2011

Five must-read stories about the Midwest economy

1) Bridging the debate from Detroit to Windsor. The annual Mackinac Policy Conference is under way in Michigan, and the idea of a new bridge between the U.S. and Canada is taking center stage. Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, says the bridge is an important economic development tool. But the owners of the Ambassador Bridge are fighting the idea, and  even members of Snyder’s own Republican party are skeptical. There is plenty of MPC coverage at our partner Michigan Radio, and you can get updates from attendees on Twitter via #mpc11.

(For a musical look at the bridge, check out the Sam Roberts Band song Detroit ’67. The band appears in Chicago next week.)

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My Job is to Hear Your Story

I first came to Michigan when I was 13, moving from New Mexico to Laingsburg, a small agricultural community between Lansing and Flint. When I went to high school there, Future Farmers of America was the biggest club in the school. Our chemistry lab was used more for preparing the club’s chickens for sale than chemistry class. It’s changed since then. Farming is a hard business, and Laingsburg is close enough to the Lansing and Flint areas to attract people looking for a great place to live close to work, but out of the city.

I went to the University of Michigan for college and left the state to go to law school at Columbia University in New York City. I lived and worked in New York for about seven years. I do love New York, but we didn’t want to stay there because it’s hard and really expensive to raise a family.

We found our way back to Michigan in 2010 after three more years in Oakland, California. Most people in the Bay Area think it is Heaven on earth, but I wanted to get back to Michigan. When I would come home, my husband and I would talk about being able to feel the energy people were putting into starting something new and just figuring out how to make it work.

I decided I wanted to start over too. I was determined to use my legal background to help me do something I actually like. We used our savings and I became an unpaid intern in the Michigan Radio newsroom. I worried about day care and bills but we were able to do it.

There are so many of us making leaps we never thought we would. These stories of personal and regional reinvention have infinite variations. All of them are better when there are more voices in the conversation.

I can’t wait to hear from you. email me at sarahwa@umich.edu, or find me on twitter @SarahAlvarezMI.

The Big Three Include Chrysler Again

For nearly a decade, the auto industry’s Big Three included at least one company that wasn’t from Detroit. Now, Chrysler is back among the three best-selling automakers.

It ranked behind General Motors and Ford in May auto sales. It’s the  first time the Detroit Three have been the Big Three since February 2006, according to Edmunds.com, a Web site that offers car-buying advice.  During its worst days, such as its 2009 bankruptcy filing, Chrysler fell as low as fifth in the industry, outsold by Toyota and Honda as well as its Detroit neighbors.

Photo by Ricardo Giaviti via Flickr.

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Midwest Memo, June 1, 2011

Five must-read stories about the Midwest economy

1) Exporting to economic growth. A study released today on nine Midwestern states shows that exports are helping to revive the economy.

Exports are helping the Midwest economy

Creighton University’s Business Conditions Index for the Mid-America region rose to 60.2, from 57.7 in April. The index is a survey of supply managers and purchasing executives, who rate the economy on a scale of zero to 100. Anything above 50 reflects growth in the next three to six months.

2) From yachts to wind. The recession forced many small manufacturers to find new products to make in an attempt to survive. Tiara Yachts, a Michigan manufacturer, is taking risks to keep its factory open and employees on the job. Lindsay Smith of our partner station Michigan Radio looked at the company.

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