recession

Key Bank building in Ann Arbor, MI
OZinOH / flickr.com

Michigan banks have made an impressive recovery since January 2011, according to quarterly data compiled by BauerFinanical Inc., a Florida-based ratings service.

As Tom Henderson from Crain's Detroit Business explained:

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

The latest "report card" on jobs in America points to a country continuing to recover from the Great Recession.

The national unemployment rate fell to 6.1%, the lowest level since September 2008. What does the June jobs report tell us about Michigan? Where have we made gains and where are we still hurting?

University of Michigan labor economist Don Grimes joined us to review the June employment numbers. 

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For many of us, the word “budget” is not on our favorite words list.

But as so many of us across Michigan discovered during the Great Recession, things can get mighty scary when there's a crunch and we don't have much in the piggy bank.

Detroit News Personal Finance Editor Brian O'Connor writes the "Funny Money" column, offering financial advice to his readers. During the Great Recession, Brian and his family felt the pinch. So he decided to find out if his family could cut its monthly expenses by $1,000. He has turned his experiment  into a new book  “The One-Thousand Dollar Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese."

Listen to the full interview above. 

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This week, the Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s most prominent business roundtable, met in Detroit.

The group offered an in-depth “report card” of how Michigan is recovering from the implosion suffered during the recession. They also outline what it’ll take to boost Michigan’s presence as a money-generating state.

We talked with Daniel Howes, a business columnist with the Detroit News, about Michigan's current business climate — and where things go from here.

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New data from the Brookings Institution shows a relatively strong economic recovery going on in Metro Detroit.

The Brookings Institution’s MetroMonitor report has been watching how the country’s 100 largest metro areas recover from the Great Recession.

Metro Detroit has posted one of the strongest recoveries—in part because the area slid into an earlier and deeper recession than most places around the country.

Comerica Bank

A new report claims Michigan’s economic recovery is starting to “broaden” beyond the state’s manufacturing base.

Comerica Bank’s “Michigan Economic Activity Index” follows: non-farm payrolls, exports, sales tax revenues, building permits and other indicators of the state’s economic direction.

And according to those measures, Michigan’s economic activity is at a level not seen since 2002.

Robert Dye is Comerica Bank’s Chief Economist. He says its good news.  But there are other issues to watch closely. 

The Michigan Unemployment Agency will cut over 400 jobs reports an article from The Detroit News.
Bytemarks / flickr

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency will lay off over 400 employees, according to the Detroit News.

The department will lay off 255 permanent full-time employees Oct. 1, on the heels of the Aug. 31 layoffs of 177 part-time temporary workers who were brought in to relieve congestion at the height of the recession. The staffing moves leave about 800 employees with the agency, including about 100 answering phones at the agency's Lansing Call Center.

According to the News, the jobs were covered by federal unemployment funds. As Michigan's jobless rate has decreased, so has the agency's need for supplemental employees.  Spokesman Chawn Greene-Farmer is quoted saying that the 432 layoffs will save about $35 million annually.

But critics of the agency say that service is bad enough as it is.

Kenneth Hreha, 55, of Dryden said he worked more than two years as an unemployment insurance examiner before he was laid off Aug. 31. He said his own claim was delayed because he couldn't get through on the phones. He called 15 times before anybody answered, he said.

"Governor Snyder called taxpayers (the state's) customers,"Hreha said. "When I call Consumers Power, I don't have to call 15 times."

The Detroit News reports that fewer than ten percent of the more than one million calls to the agency's customer service lines in August were answered.

In June, Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reported on citizens dissatisfaction with The Michigan Unemployment Agency's automated response system, MARVIN.

Since then, the agency has reported that it will be getting a $69 million upgrade for it's phone and computer system.

- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Lamanda Coulter

This week, Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity reporter delved into one of the uncomfortable truths of the Great Recession: that kids were among the hardest hit.

He writes that in 2010, one out of three kids in this country lived in a house where neither parent had full-time, year-round work. He says the recession affected everyone in America, rich and poor. But some groups were hit worse: people with no college degree, African-Americans and children.

Click here to follow Dwyer as he interviews parents feeling the effects of unemployment.

Check back in to the State of Opportunity website to read and listen to new stories every week.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Realty Trac is reporting today that Michigan’s home foreclosure rate is improving.

Foreclosure filings were down nearly 20% during the first three months of the year compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. The decline was even steeper compared to the same time a year ago.

Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac. He says nationally foreclosure numbers haven’t looked this good since before the recession started in 2008.

“I definitely think in Michigan…we’re passed the worst of this foreclosure problem… we’re on the downward slope," says Bloomquist, "But there’s just a few bumps I the road going forward before we completely… are out of the woods in terms of foreclosure in Michigan.”

Bloomquist expects there will be a spike in new home foreclosures in the second half of the year.

Doug Aikenhead / Michigan Radio Picture Project

You can file this story under "silver lining."

Michigan's recession has left a lot of empty buildings in its wake. When James Marks was looking for a larger building to house his t-shirt and flat screen printing company, VG Kids, he looked at a two-story brick building on Railroad Street in Ypsilanti.

The building had plenty of space, but was divided into dozens of small rooms. Marks says the space wasn't a good fit for his company, but it was perfect for artists’ studios:

Lemonade economics

Jul 21, 2011
Amelia Carpenter / Michigan Radio

(Here's a version of the story that aired on Michigan Radio.)

Turns out even lemonade stands aren’t immune to Michigan’s economic recession.

Molly and Lucy Prochaska have been in the lemonade business for the past five years. They sell lemonade, iced tea, and Arnold Palmers (50 cents for a small cup, $1.00 for a large.)  They also sell popsicles at fifty cents a piece, which is a new addition this year.

They’ve got a cash register, lots of signage. They're also located close to downtown, so there's a good amount of foot traffic from the Ann Arbor Art Fairs.

But 12-year old Molly says business just isn’t what it used to be:

MOLLY PROCHASKA: The first year was really nice, we got lots of money. But after that, when the economy started to go down we didn’t get as much money.

JENNIFER GUERRA: You think it had to do with the economy?

MOLLY PROCHASKA: Probably. People didn’t want to spend as much. They wanted to save their money.

The girls made around $200 their first year. Molly is saving up her lemonade money to buy a camera; Lucy wants to buy an iPad.

But it's not all doom and gloom at the lemonade stand. Molly says business this year is picking up a bit. She says that could mean one of two things: the economy's picking up, or more people are coming because it's "super hot out."

Also, side note, it looks like Molly and Lucy might have to step up their game now that a new lemonade stand popped up a block away. Not only is the new stand charging less for a cup, but they also use fresh lemons.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Today is Michigan’s Tax Freedom Day. It’s the day when the average Michigander will have earned enough money to pay their local, state and federal taxes for the year.  That’s three weeks earlier than it used to be mainly because people are earning less money because of the recession. 

Kail Padgitt is with the Tax Foundation, which produces the annual Tax Freedom Day list. He says Michigan’s local and state taxes are higher than most other states.

 “But when we look at federal taxes…Michigan actually paid  a little less in federal taxes due to the (state’s) high unemployment...leading to lower income taxes …federal income taxes.”

Padgitt says as the nation’s economy improves, special federal tax breaks expire and more Michiganders find work, Michigan’s tax freedom day will shift back to the end of April or maybe the beginning of May.

The man in charge of charting population trends for Michigan says he would not be surprised to see the out-migration of people from the state reverse course.

The new U.S. Census data says Michigan lost people over the last decade.

State Demographer Ken Darga says Michiganders left the state in droves over the past decade for places like Florida where jobs were more plentiful. Now, Darga says, they may be ready to come back -- Florida’s jobless rate is higher than Michigan’s.

Darga discussed the good news on the Michigan public TV show  “Off The Record.”

“The economy is starting to turn around. There’s a lot of good news about Michigan’s economy in the past year or so.”

“Michigan has lost a lot of young people to Florida – as well as senior citizens – because Florida used to be one of the big states that had low unemployment and it was a place you could go to find a job while Michigan was in a one-state recession. But now, Florida’s unemployment rate is higher than Michigan’s.”

“One of the things I’ll be looking for is to see if some of those Michigan natives who moved to Florida are going to start coming back.”

The U-S Bureau of Labor Statistics says Michigan added 71 thousand more jobs than it lost in the past 12 months and its unemployment rate fell more than any other state’s.

Also, the decline in Michigan’s jobless rate for the first two months of 2011 was due to more people working, and not to discouraged jobseekers checking out of the workforce.

Michigan and Kentucky are tied for the nation’s fifth highest unemployment rate.

(Flickr ziggy fresh)

Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped slightly in February. Michigan’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined by 3 tenths of one percent last month to 10.4%.

The state’s jobless number was still one and a half percentage points above the national unemployment rate of 8.9%.  

Michigan’s unemployment rate has been falling since September 2009. And last month, the number of jobless Michiganders fell below a half million for the first time since November 2008.

Steven Depolo / Flickr

A new study by the Brookings Institution shows the Grand Rapids and Detroit metro regions are in the top 20 hardest hit by the recession.

The study measures how deep the recession hit the top 100 metro regions in the United States.

It also looks at how strong the recovery is for those cities.

Jennifer Bradley co-directed the study in the Great Lakes region:

"It's not just about a particular city or a particular suburb. These places are economic units. They're rising and falling together and they will come out of the recession, or not, together."

Bradley says Grand Rapids and Detroit lead the nation in keeping their unemployment rates from spiking even higher, but it's unclear why:

"It could be more people are getting jobs. It could be more people are leaving the workforce altogether. It could be more people are leaving the region all together."

There is a lot in the study that’s not surprising.

It shows most metro regions near the Great Lakes had a weak economy before the recession, mainly because of job losses as the auto industry declined.

Bradley says business and government leaders in metro regions need to work together to strengthen their chances of recovery.

Job search seminar in Ohio
flickr user Daniel Johnson / Flickr

We all know Michigan has been going through tough times. An unemployment rate of nearly 13%. Jobless benefits expiring for tens of thousands of people. Deep spending cuts coming to state and local governments.

But it may be tougher than you've thought.

 The Detroit New reports:

GMC SUVs in a car lot
user ep_jhu / Creative Commons

The Center for Automotive Research released a report today that analyzed the government bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler.

$80 billion was given to the auto companies. To date $13.4 billion has been repaid.

Tomorrow the GM "initial public offering" is expected to raise another $22 billion.

The reports authors say that even if the government doesn't get all of the $80 billion back, the government's investment will still have been worth it.

The report concludes:

Knight, Tom
Gerry Leslie / Homeless Management Information Systems

In 2008, the state estimates there were a little more than 86,000 people without a home. Half of them were families.

 Time is running out again for many Michiganders living on unemployment benefits.

 Hundreds of thousands of Michiganders have spent nearly two years surviving on unemployment checks as the state struggles with a double digit jobless rate.

But time may be running out for those benefits.  Congress has passed several extensions but may not this time. 

Norm Isotello is with the state department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth.    He concedes there is an argument that extended benefits may get in the way of people looking for work...but

NPR's Planet Money's toxic asset creature
NPR's Planet Money

The team at NPR's Planet Money has come up with another way for us to understand the financial crisis. They bought a pet.

A home being built in Norfolk, VA
Ryan Steinhour / U.S. Navy

(by Rina Miller, Michigan Radio)

Michigan actually fared better in new home sales than other parts of the nation.  Some economists say improvements in the auto industry are helping stabilize Michigan's economy.