economy

The news conference has ended.

Here's the news conference with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican legislative leaders. They're unveiling their plans for 'right-to-work' legislation:

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President Obama will be making his first trip to Michigan in nearly eight months.

The last time he was in Michigan, Mr. Obama stopped at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn for a campaign event.

This time around he's expected to deliver a major speech on the economy and middle class families in Detroit, according to David Shepardson of the Detroit News.

The address will come just three weeks before tax cuts are set to expire on nearly all Americans and $1.2 trillion in mandatory domestic and defense spending cuts over 10 years are to take effect — unless Congress acts.

"I believe America only thrives when we have a strong and growing middle class. And I believe we're at our best when everybody who works hard has a chance to get ahead. That's what I believe," Obama said. "I believe both parties can — and will — work together in the coming weeks to get that done. We know how that gets done. We're going to have to raise a little more revenue. We've got to cut out spending we don't need."

Shepardson points out that without a tax deal, taxes will increase for a majority of Americans, and unemployment benefits will expire. 

About 93,000 people in Michigan will lose unemployment benefits by the end of this month unless Congress acts.

No details of the visit have been publicly announced yet. Those details are expected in the coming days from the White House.

sushina / flickr

A new report from the United States Commerce Department found that economic recovery is occurring in Michigan. According to the survey, per capita personal income rose in nearly every Michigan county last year.

Charley Ballard, Michigan State University Professor of Economics explained that although improving, Michigan’s economy still has further to go.  

Ballard began by defining the factors of per capita income.

“It’s their wages and salaries. It also included dividends and social security. It doesn’t include Medicare. They add up all of the income of all the people in Michigan and then divide by the number of people,” said Ballard.

Though improved, Michigan is still well below the national average of per capita income.

Greengobbler / Morguefile

Philanthropic organizations want to capitalize on the spending campaigns of "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday"  - and also flip the idea of consumerism on its head.

The idea behind "Giving Tuesday" is to take time to donate to charity, after two of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Eileen Heisman is the CEO of National Philanthropic Trust - one of the groups promoting the campaign.

"This is the first year, but I think it's going to continue," said Heisman. "I'm almost positive it is, and so I think in the following years we'll see a much bigger push and more visibility for people taking this time of year to give back in a more formal way on this day."

Charities report nearly a quarter of their annual donations come between Thanksgiving and New Years.

Larry D. Moore / Wikimedia Commons

And I forgot to mention Devil Dogs, Donettes, and Sno Balls.

Hostess Brands announced this morning that they're going out of business and laying off around 18,500 employees.

Hostess higher-ups said a strike by bakery workers was a big part of the decision for the shutdown, and that they don’t have the “financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike.”

Union leaders called the announced shutdown a Bain-style decision – “a microcosm of what’s wrong with America.”

In the meantime, Ho-Ho production is winding down. From the NYTimes:

The last batches rolled off Hostess production lines early Friday morning, according to Tom Becker, a company spokesman, and no new products will be made for the time being.

The Times points out that Twinkies might not be a thing of the past, as Hostess Brands will likely be auctioned off to others.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - University of Michigan economists say that over the next two years, the U.S. economy will regain the rest of the nearly 9 million jobs lost in the recession.

The prediction came in Thursday's release of the annual forecast of the U.S. economy from UM economists Joan Crary, Daniil Manaenkov and Matthew Hall.

They foresee the creation of 2 million jobs in 2013 and another 2.3 million in 2014 as unemployment falls from 7.9 percent to 7.2 percent during that time.

Employment fell by 8.8 million jobs during the 2008-09 economic downturn, but the economy has recovered 4.5 million jobs in the last three years.

The UM forecast is based on the Michigan Quarterly Econometric Model of the U.S. Economy and compiled by the UM Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics.

Stateside: Detroit's financial predicament

Nov 13, 2012
Mike Russel

Detroit’s financial status is once again on the brink of devastation.

The city’s program management director, William Andrews, recently told the advisory board that the city is facing financial crisis.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes assessed the city’s situation, looking at its aging bureaucracy as a potential area of conflict.

The collapse could occur sooner than expected, said Howes, perhaps as soon as December.

“It could happen as early as next month. What’s hanging out there right now is about $80 million in bond proceeds that the State Treasurer's Office is holding  more reforms within the city. There is hope they can move ahead with some reforms that would release around $30 million by the end of the year. It’s really important to note that time is running out for the city,” said Howes.

TROY, Mich. (AP) - Chemical giant DuPont Co. is opening an innovation center in suburban Detroit that's aimed at speeding the introduction of new products for the automotive industry.

The Wilmington, Del.-based company's facility opened Thursday. It is DuPont's eighth-such center and is located at its Automotive Development Center in Troy. The innovation center connects DuPont's Detroit-area customer base with 9,500 company scientists and engineers worldwide.

DuPont says one aim of the innovation center is to boost collaboration with customers, government, educational institutions and business partners.

The company already had automotive industry-focused innovation centers in India, South Korea and Japan.

Michigan's overall labor force charted with Michigan's unemployment rate from September 2002 to September 2012. (Source MI DMTB).
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point in September, to 9.3 percent says a new report released by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget (DTMB).

This marks the state’s first decline in the jobless rate since April.

Total employment increased by 11,000 in September and has risen by 58,000 over the course of the past year.

From the report:

The announcement is expected later today.

A survey conducted by Michigan State University's Charles Ballard shows an improved approval rating for Governor Snyder.
MSU

The latest "State of the State" survey from Michigan State University indicates people in the state are feeling pretty good about the economy, a little more positive about the Governor, and the same about the President.

MSU Economics Professor Charles Ballard conducts the survey of likely voters in Michigan once a quarter. The latest was taken in August.

It shows that Governor Snyder's approval rating rose, from 33 to 38 percent. 

That's still lower than the President's 41 percent.  But that 41 percent is unchanged from the previous quarter's survey.   

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. Labor Department says a Detroit-based bakery chain has agreed to pay $63,000 in back wages to 21 employees whom it wrongly classified as independent contractors.

The agency said Wednesday that its investigation found that Sheila's Bakery LLC committed violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act at its three locations.

The agency says the misclassification of the workers deprived them of federally mandated overtime pay at time-and-a-half when they worked more than 40 hours in a week. Instead, they got a flat hourly rate or a flat weekly salary of $340 to $400.

The government says it loses substantial amounts of income, Social Security and Medicare tax payments because of the misclassification of employees as contractors.

Let's give a shout-out to a man who may have set the new "gold standard" for generous bosses.

Long-time Ann Arbor auto dealer Howard Cooper is retiring this month.

As his employees reported for work this week, they got an unexpected "expression" of Mr. Cooper's appreciation: a check for $1,000 for every year of service.

Auto sales are booming, but don't expect this to be a continuous growth period.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

August was a good month for U.S. automakers compared to a year ago. In total, the big three sold more than 585,700 vehicles last month.

Chrysler had its best month since August 2007, according to the AP, and had sales of more than 148,000 vehicles. They say their sales were led by demand for the Dodge Ram pickup truck.

Ford sold 197,249 vehicles in August, and in a press release said high gas prices led more people to their lineup of vehicles.

“As fuel prices rose again during August, we saw growing numbers of people gravitate toward our fuel-efficient vehicles – cars, utilities and trucks,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service.

And General Motors sold 240,520 vehicles in August. More than Ford or Chrysler.

In their press release, GM said it's ready for gradual improvements in the economy.

“The single message Chevrolet communicated this summer was ‘confidence’ and it rang true with customers when they saw how our product lineup is being transformed,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations. “All four of our brands are building momentum behind new products so we’re very well positioned as the economy continues to slowly improve.”

DETROIT (AP) - A media company that hosts conferences on the relationship between technology, economy and social progress is setting its sights on Detroit.

Technonomy Detroit plans to bring together local and national tech leaders September 12th at Wayne State University. The list includes Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Steve Case, chief executive of investment firm Revolution LLC and co-founder of America Online.

Topics for discussion include the future of manufacturing and its impact on jobs, and "Is Detroit the Next Berlin?"

A La-Z-Boy store.
user vercillo / wikimedia commons

A long-time Monroe business may decide to stay and build its world headquarters there. 

Think "recliner" and chances are La-Z-Boy will come to mind.

The company that makes the famous chairs and other furniture started out in the city of Monroe 85 years ago.

It has about 500 employees at its Monroe location.  Now the company wants to build a new facility and says it's interested in staying in Monroe, but is also looking at other sites.

Bob Clark is the city's mayor. He says the City Council will review some economic incentives.  

Last week, Dustin Dwyer from our State of Opportunity team showed us how upward mobility isn't so easy in the U.S., especially for disadvantaged kids. This week, Dustin shows us how some might break that pattern.

Last week, I talked about the Michigan House of Representatives voting to slash the state income tax over the next six years. I thought this didn’t make a lot of sense, given that the state is having a hard time paying for essential programs now.

Later that day, I talked more about this with the man I think has the best overall knowledge of our state’s economy: Michigan State University professor Charles Ballard, author of the best little book there is on the subject: "Michigan’s Economic Future."

A sign of the times: remnants of Ann Arbor's iconic, now bankrupt, book seller - the Borders flagship store - will now be occupied by a network security and data protection company - Barracuda Networks. The company says it plans to create 184 "high tech and engineering jobs" over the next three years in downtown Ann Arbor. What's Ann Arbor's magic sauce? Parking spaces, smart people, and a desirable place to live.

As car companies struggle to meet growing demand, the third shift is making a comeback. But many factories running on three shifts are doing it differently from in the past. And that new "three crew" shift pattern could make what's normally a hard job even harder.

At Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, employees work 10-hour shifts four days a week. The so-called A crew gets days, while the B crew gets afternoons. But the C crew shift rotates its start time every week. On Fridays and Saturdays, workers start at 6:00 a.m. On Mondays and Tuesdays, they start at 4:30 p.m.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s home foreclosure rate continues to fall dramatically.

Realty Trac reports today foreclosure filings in Michigan fell another 6% last month and are down more than 40% compared to a year ago.

“We’re getting close to now 2 years of a long-term downward trend in Michigan foreclosure activity,” says Daren Bloomquist, who is a Realty Trac vice president.

Michigan’s unemployment rate ticked up last month.

Michigan’s unemployment rate rose two tenths of one percent in May to 8.5%.

screen grab / WSJ MarketWatch

Update 2:03 p.m.

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson told stockholders at today's annual meeting that "he regrets GM's stock hasn't done well." GM's stock price is hovering around $22 a share.  

That's a big drop from 2010, when GM held an initial public offering and the stock sold at about $33 a share.

"I mean it's great we had a good year last year, why is the stock down? Because there's uncertainty into the future.  The most obvious is, uh, Europe," said Akerson.

I heard some interesting ideas about our economic future on Mackinac Island last week at the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual conference of the state's movers and shakers. 

Chrysler Media

Toyota reported a sales increase in May of 87% compared to the same month a year ago - when the company's vehicle production had plummeted due to the tsunami hitting Japan in March.  

There were more selling days this month than last May, but it is still a robust recovery from the disaster, which reduced inventories on Toyota dealer lots and sent some customers to other car companies.

Toyota remains number three in overall sales in the U.S., however, just behind Ford, which saw its sales increase 13% in May.

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Each Wednesday I check in with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst, Jack Lessenberry, for a round up of state politics.

This week Jack is on Mackinac Island (he's promising not to eat any fudge) for the annual Mackinac Policy Conference.

The 3-day conference is billed as a time for state business and political leaders to talk about and shape the state's future.

Lessenberry said they are talking this year about the comeback Michigan has been on. He says Governor Synder talked about how Michigan has the right to be proud of that fact.

"In some years people at the conference have been almost in the fetal position talking about some of the problems we've had," said Lessenberry. "This is an acknowledgment that people want to be more upbeat about the future."

user drow_male / wikimedia commons

The Nature Conservancy has released an analysis saying that invasive species such as zebra mussels and sea lamprey cost businesses and consumers hundreds of millions of dollars each year, besides damaging the environment in the Great Lakes region.

Power companies spend $130 million annually removing mussels from electric plants.

The report out yesterday said tourism and other industries lose $50 million a year in reduced demand because of invasive species.

The study conducted by Anderson Economic Group of East Lansing says the situation will get worse if Asian carp reach the Great Lakes.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

State AG reviewing McCotter's petition signatures for possible elections fraud

U.S. Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) announced last Friday that his campaign found irregularities in his petion signatures to get his name on the upcoming primary ballot. The state is looking into more than just irregularities. From the Detroit Free Press:

Photocopies of petitions, dates that were cut and pasted onto the petition forms and different-colored ink on identical petitions were just a few of the tactics used to try to fool state election officials into believing that U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter had enough signatures to get on the Aug. 7 primary ballot.

"This wasn't anything that was an innocent mistake," Lansing political consultant Tom Shields said Tuesday. "It was purely an attempt to make up for a lack of signatures, which is politically criminal."

Snyder calls Michigan the "Comeback State," urges businesses to hire veterans

At the opening of the Mackinac Policy Conference, Gov. Rick Snyder said the state's economic recovery is something that should be talked about. From MLive:

"Michiganders are too humble. We don't brag well," Snyder said Tuesday as he opened the Detroit Regional Chamber's 2012 Mackinac Policy Conference. "We have to speak up more. We are the comeback state in the United States right now."

During his remarks, he also asked businesses to reach out and hire more veterans. MPRN's Rick Pluta reports:

The governor says returning veterans face an unemployment rate of about 30 percent, something he calls “unacceptable.”

“So we need to help these people,” Snyder said. “So I ask you to do everything possible to make the session and to hire ‘em. That would be great. Thank you.”

More than 12,000 to lose jobless benefits

The Detroit News reports on looming unemployment benefit cuts.

Even though Michigan's unemployment rate has dropped to 8.3 percent, 205,044 workers in the state still collect unemployment benefits. But after June 23, up to 12,212 of those long-term unemployed workers will lose their emergency federal benefits under a formula that automatically cuts them off when the state's jobless rate drops.

This week, legislators, policy makers, and business leaders are gathering for the annual Mackinac Policy Conference.

The conference is sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber and this year organizers say they hope the conference will "spur a comprehensive dialogue on innovation, collaboration and the 21st century global market."

John Dingell is a Democrat representing Michigan's 15th Congressional District in the U.S. House.

He wrote an op-ed about the conference. It appeared in the Detroit News today.

In the op-ed, Dingell wrote about his desire for lawmakers to come together in a more bi-partisan way. He told Michigan Radio's Jenn White that there are a number of barriers to the bi-partisanship.

"Excessive partisanship is something which is both a reality and an end in itself to a lot of people who participate," Dingell said. "It's encouraged by media and 10-15 second soundbite and it is encouraged by the fact that politics has become a blood sport. Cheap shots are the way of the day and that we have somewhat forgotten the original intention of the founding fathers that we are to work together in the broader public interest."

He says the people have to understand that this is "our" country.

Dingell quotes his father who used to to say "we cannot look at the other fellow in the boat and say 'pardon me sir, but you're end of the boat is sinking.' We are all in this thing together."

railroad tracks
Ian Britton / creative commons

A strike by Canadian railway workers threatens to slow or shut down production at some U.S. auto plants.

5,000 Canadian Pacific Railway workers walked off the job early Wednesday because of a dispute with management over a new contract.

Large numbers of finished vehicles and auto parts come to U.S. factories via Canadian Pacific.

Ford and General Motors say they don't expect the strike to affect production - at this time.

Chrysler says it is actively working to mitigate any impact to its operations through alternative shipment methods, such as trucks.

The longer the strike goes, the greater the chance it could affect the U.S. auto industry.  The Canadian Labor Ministry says it has the authority to intervene and will do that if the two sides haven't reached a deal by Monday.

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