Midwest Memo: Cook County Anticipates At Least 1,000 Layoffs, Wisconsin Plans Public Employee Two-Year Pay Freeze

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Sales up at Ford, forecast down. Ford’s third-quarter sales rose 14.1 percent year over year to $33.1 billion, the company said Wednesday morning. But the automaker’s global production plan of 1.37 million vehicles is below the 1.44 million anticipated by analysts, and investors had sold off Ford shares in morning trading, according to the Detroit Free Press. The gap came as a result of “a lower outlook in South America, Asia Pacific and Europe,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote.

2. Cook County plans layoffs. Cook County executives unveiled a budget that called for more than 1,000 layoffs to help narrow a projected $315 million deficit, according to our partner station WBEZ. Saying “there’s been nothing easy about this,” board president Toni Preckwinkle said hospital funding and the county’s jail population would be reduced in additional savings measures. She is also trying to convince the county’s union workers to accept furloughs to save $40 million instead of layoffs.

3. Wisconsin public employee pay freeze ahead? Wisconsin state employees may face a pay freeze over the next two years if lawmakers support a proposal from Gov. Scott Walker. The new proposal comes months after Walker required public workers to pay more for their pensions and health insurance while also eliminating almost all collective bargaining. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports another change in the proposed legislation would award overtime only for actual hours worked, after a newspaper investigation revealed how prison guards gamed the overtime system to boost their pay.


Midwest Memo: Cook County’s Foreclosure Crisis, and How a Debt Default Could Affect Michigan

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Cook County’s foreclosure crisis. Despite proclamations that the recession is over, officials in Cook County, Illinois are nonetheless concerned about the 70,000 outstanding foreclosure cases within their borders. They held an emergency summit Thursday to discuss possible responses, according to our partner station WBEZ. Community organizer Leon Finney says the group will consider “home-ownership counseling, tighter bank regulations and stronger courts.”

2. Debt concerns reach Michigan. The state of Michigan receives approximately $400 million per week in federal funds, receipts that make up 44 percent of its $45 billion budget. John Nixon, the state’s budget director, isn’t sure how Michigan will continue to make payments next week if the federal government defaults, according to the Associated Press. Gov. Rick Snyder is concerned. “We’re prepared for a number of scenarios,” he told the AP.

3. Japanese manufacturing rises. Japanese manufacturing activity, which has strong ties to the Midwest economy in the U.S., saw activity increase at the fastest pace since the March nuclear disaster in July, according to Reuters. The Markit/JMMA index rose to a seasonally adjusted 52.1 in July, up from 50.7 in June. It’s the third straight month the manufacturing sector expanded, and an expert says if the trend is sustained, it will be “a vote of confidence in the economic outlook.” Earlier this year, Changing Gears examined the ripple effects of the Japanese economy throughout the Midwest.