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jobs

Dan Bobkoff / Changing Gears

Depending on who you ask, American manufacturing is either the way out of our bad economy, or it’s dead.

Whatever you think, there’s no denying that manufacturing has changed.

That’s the story of Thogus Products in Avon Lake, Ohio.

This manufacturer has changed so much, its President calls it a 61 year-old startup company.

Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation that would end cash assistance welfare benefits after a family has been receiving payments for 48 months or more. 

About 12,600 cases, many of them families with children, will close and lose their benefits when the law takes effect on October 1.

In a statement, Governor Snyder says four years should be long enough for people to become self-sufficient and some people have been getting cash assistance for as long as 14 years.

Critics of the new limits say many of the people who will lose assistance are families with children, and many of the people who lose the benefits are adults who can’t find a job in a bad economy.

Governor Snyder’s administration says caseworkers will still make sure families who lose benefits will continue to get Medicaid coverage, food assistance, and help with training and job searches.

The savings to taxpayers is pegged at $65 million dollars in the upcoming fiscal year.

Republican state lawmakers say this won’t be the final word this year on changes in the welfare system.

The State House could vote as soon as this week on more limits to public assistance, including making sure automatic teller machines in casinos cannot accept Bridge Cards to make cash withdrawals, and canceling the cards of people with outstanding warrants.

President Barack Obama in Detroit on Labor Day in 2011.
screen grab from YouTube video

Yesterday, President Barack Obama told a crowd of around 13,000 in Detroit that the country will rise and fall together:

"Anyone who doesn’t believe it should come here to Detroit," said Obama. "It’s like the commercial says:  This is a city that’s been to heck and back. And while there are still a lot of challenges here, I see a city that’s coming back."

Obama said the nation "cannot have a strong growing economy without a strong growing middle class and without a strong labor movement."

At the event, Obama was previewing his jobs speech, which will be given in front of a joint session of Congress this Thursday (September 8).

"I don't want to give everything away right here, because I want ya'll to tune in on Thursday," Obama said.

"But I'll give you just a little bit.

We’ve got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding.

We’ve got private companies with the equipment and the manpower to do the building.

We’ve got more than 1 million unemployed construction workers ready to get dirty right now. 

There is work to be done and there are workers ready to do it.  Labor is on board.  Business is on board. 

We just need Congress to get on board.  Let’s put America back to work."

Here's President Obama's Labor Day Speech:

During the speech, Obama recounted a conversation he had with Michigan Senator Carl Levin:

You know, I was on the plane flying over here, and Carl Levin was with me, and he showed me a speech that Harry Truman had given on Labor Day 63 years ago, right here in Detroit -- 63 years ago.  And just to show that things haven't changed much, he talked about how Americans had voted in some folks into Congress who weren’t very friendly to labor.  And he pointed out that some working folks and even some union members voted these folks in.  And now they were learning their lesson.  And he pointed out that -- and I'm quoting here -- 'the gains of labor were not accomplished at the expense of the rest of the nation.  Labor’s gains contributed to the nation’s general prosperity.'"

Why we celebrate Labor Day

Sep 2, 2011
The Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation & Archives

This Friday many of us head into a three day weekend that marks the unofficial end of summer. We might mark Labor Day with a family picnic, one last summer visit to the beach, or maybe with a mad scramble to get that last bit of school preparation done. But what is Labor Day really for? Joining us to take a look is Michigan Radio’s Political Analyst, Jack Lessenberry.

The federal government says it will spend six million dollars to hire jobless workers for Great Lakes cleanup projects.

Conservation groups often make the claim that environmental cleanup and restoration efforts are good for the economy.

Andy Buchsbaum works for one of those groups. He heads the Great Lakes office of the National Wildlife Federation, which lobbied aggressively for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The federal government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the initiative. It includes projects like toxic pollution cleanup, restoring wildlife habitat, and fighting invasive species.

Buchsbaum says projects like those will need lots of engineers, landscapers and construction workers.

“They’re the people who actually move the dirt, move things around, constructing sewage facilities, cleaning up contaminated sediment. All those activities have a variety of direct jobs associated with them.”

Buchsbaum says there are also indirect jobs created when those people start spending money on things like groceries and rent.

The Environmental Protection Agency is likening the hiring initiative to the Civilian Conservation Corps – the New Deal program that put single, unemployed men to work doing manual labor.

U.S.E.P.A.

The U.S. has suffered from a bad economy for the last three years.

Parts of the Great Lakes have suffered from bad pollution problems for the last several decades.

Now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to use money from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to put people to work cleaning up pollution in the region.

From an EPA press release:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is setting aside approximately $6 million for federal agencies to sign up unemployed workers to implement restoration projects in federally-protected areas, on tribal lands and in Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes basin. EPA will fund individual projects up to $1 million. To qualify for funding, each proposed project must provide jobs for at least 20 unemployed people.

“These projects will help to restore the Great Lakes and put Americans back to work," said EPA Great Lakes National Program Manager and Regional Administrator Susan Hedman. "In a sense, we will be using these funds to create a small-scale 21st century Civilian Conservation Corps."

The AP reports that Congress has appropriated $775 million over the past two years for the GLRI.

One of the GLRI's main goals is to clean up toxic hot spots known as "Areas of Concern" around the Great Lakes.

These Areas of Concern have been identified for decades, but clean-up efforts have stalled as funding for clean-up has been scarce.

EPA officials say they will award funding for these new clean-up projects by the end of September.

Last of a five-part series

In Michigan, one in 10 people who want work can't find a job, and that number doubles if you include people who are underemployed or who have just given up on their job search.

But despite high unemployment, some employers are still finding that the search for talent can be a challenge.

At the Hamilton Farm Bureau cooperative in southwest Michigan, a 50-ton truck is taking in a load of grain that will go to feed cattle.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio's West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith went to Kalamazoo yesterday to report on a community forum with Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph).

Upton was invited by the Kalamazoo County Advocates for Senior Issues and he discussed the economy, health care, and social security with the group.

But as Smith reported the "crowd of 200 people also demanded he talk about what he’s doing to create jobs and improve the economy. Several interrupted and shouted at Upton. Those doing the interrupting asked him about the economy."

Here's some video of that forum. Upton attempts to talk about the information on his chart, but he's interrupted:

screen grab from YouTube video

The Congressional Black Caucus' five-city "For the People" Jobs Fair is on its second stop in Detroit today. The fair kicked off in Cleveland last week and will end in Los Angeles at the end of the month.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will head over to the fair at the downtown campus of Wayne County Community College and give us an update.

Photo by Rebecca Williams

Nearly a quarter of the homes in Detroit are empty. That’s more than 79,000 vacant homes, according to the last Census.

Of those, Mayor Dave Bing’s office considers 12,000 to be dangerous. They’re burned out, or falling apart. They attract squatters and drug dealers. So the city is paying contractors to demolish them.

But another group of people says some of these homes don’t have to be demolished. They can be taken apart board by board... and the materials can be salvaged.

Jeff Kubina / flickr

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, is in Michigan today. She’s visiting for a ribbon cutting at Ventower Industries in Monroe. It’s a company that will be making towers for wind turbines.

The Monroe facility will serve as Ventower's main U.S. operation.

35 employees will start work this week, and as many as 300 could eventually work there.

Scott Viciana is the company’s vice president. He says the plant is built on the site of a former industrial landfill.  So first, they had to clean up the land.

“We stumbled across less (sic) concerns in the end than we thought potentially we could.”

Ventower got state and federal tax credits to clean up the brownfield site.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says that makes it a double win for the environment.

"What we see here today is a return to use. A return to use for a site that will preserve green space, but also support a clean energy economy."

Ventower officials say the Monroe site is ideal because it can ship parts by road, rail, and a Great Lakes port.

Rick Snyder said the Michigan Business Tax was bad for business. 

 “I propose replacing it with a flat six-percent corporate income tax.  Let’s take a job-killer environment; let’s start creating jobs.”

He said it on the campaign trail.  He made the point to business leaders.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

As Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra reported yesterday, even lemonade stands are not immune to the down economy.

Guerra talked with Molly and Lucy Prochaska who have been in the lemonade business for five years.

They described how they stopped getting "lots of money" once the economy took a dive.

But the pair is not giving up. Especially with a competitor setting up nearby.

As you can see in the photo above, the lemonade duo is working to capitalize on their public radio appearance.

It's too early to tell whether the "Michigan Radio Bump" will pay off, but don't count these kids out.

Martin Kalfatovic / Flickr

CEO Mike Edwards sent a goodbye note to customers today as going out of business sales start at Borders Book stores across the country.

In his note, Edwards explained why the company couldn't keep their doors open:

We had worked very hard toward a different outcome. The fact is that Borders has been facing headwinds for quite some time, including a rapidly changing book industry, the eReader revolution, and a turbulent economy. We put up a great fight, but regrettably, in the end, we weren't able to overcome these external forces.

Over the last decade, the company made many missteps that led to its demise. One of the most notable was the company's failure to invest early in online book sales. Analysts say other problems included being overextended in real estate holdings for the bookstores, and a lack of leadership.

The shuttering of the company means 10,700 will be out of a job. 400 here in Ann Arbor will lose their jobs at Borders Headquarters (a place that once had 1,800 workers).

We asked our Facebook friends what they will miss when the Borders bookstores are gone.

Adee Braun / Changing Gears

Green energy is often said to be the future of the Midwest economy. But old fashioned fossil fuels could be having a bigger effect on the region’s jobs and corporate bottom lines.

This is not conventional oil, though.

It’s a thick, tar-like crude from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada.

It’s sent here by pipelines, many which cross our rivers and the Great Lakes, and that has some worrying about a bigger risk to the region.

The U.S. Labor Department found "significant and systemic violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime and record-keeping provisions" at Farmers Insurance offices around the country - including offices in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Officials at the U.S. Labor Department say "Farmers Insurance Inc. has agreed to pay $1,520,705 in overtime back wages to 3,459 employees."

From the Department of Labor press release:

Through interviews with employees and a review of the company's timekeeping and payroll systems, investigators found that the company did not account for time employees spent performing pre-shift work activities. Employees routinely performed an average of 30 minutes of unrecorded and uncompensated work — such as turning on work stations, logging into the company phone system and initiating certain software applications necessary to begin their call center duties — per week.

Because employees' pre-shift work times were excluded from official time and payroll records, they were not paid for all hours and are owed compensation at time and one-half their regular rates for hours that exceeded 40 per week.

The agreement affects call center employees who worked between Jan. 1, 2009, and May 10, 2010, at Farmers' "HelpPoint" facility in Grand Rapids.

It also affects employees who worked between Jan. 1, 2009, and Feb. 1, 2010, at a Farmers' "ServicePoint" facility in Grand Rapids.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

According to Manpower’s survey Grand Rapids has the best employment outlook of any other metro area in the country.

That’s not really news to Bill Benson, principle at WilliamCharles. He helps companies in the area find talented workers.

The Employment Policies Institute issued a report that shows Michigan’s teen unemployment rate is around 28 percent, compared to around 24 percent nationally.

Michael Saltsman is with the Employment Policies Institute. He says the rise in teen unemployment over the past two years is a result of employers moving toward automation and self service.

I think you see other businesses sort of moving in that direction where maybe they have waiters and waitresses bus their own tables instead of having a bus boy do it.

user j wynia / Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A new study says a single parent in Michigan with a preschooler and a school-age child needs to earn more than three times the state's minimum wage to be economically
secure.

Wider Opportunities for Women and the Michigan League for Human Services released the report Tuesday.

The study says the wage-earner in that family of three needs to earn about $52,000 a year with benefits to cover child care, housing, health care, transportation, savings and retirement.

A state report says nearly six out of 10 jobs expected to be created in Michigan through 2018 won't enable a worker to earn that much.

The league says reducing tax credits for low-income workers and cutting spending on children's clothing allowances also are making it harder for hard-pressed families to reach economic security.

Argonne National Laboratory

 LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A University of Michigan economist says the state's rebounding economy will add about 60,000 jobs annually for the next three years.

George Fulton says the state unemployment rate will hover between 9 percent and 10 percent through 2013 as job growth stays steady but not spectacular.

Fulton gave his economic forecast to state economists Monday at the Capitol. He says the resurging domestic auto industry is helping the state get back on its feet as the Detroit Three see their first increase in market share since 1995. All sectors except government are expected to add jobs.

Fulton says Michigan is in the early stages of a sustained recovery and that 2011-13 will be the best three years for the state economy since 2000, although some residents will continue to suffer.

user fiatontheweb / creative commons

DETROIT (AP) - Chrysler is moving its normal summer shutdowns at three factories into June from the usual July closings because of parts shortages from the earthquake in Japan.

The company says its pickup truck plant in Warren, Mich., and its Toledo, Ohio, North assembly plant will be idled the weeks of June 20 and 27. Both plants had been scheduled to close the weeks
of July 11 and 18.

In addition, a Toledo parts operation will close the week of June 20 instead of July 11.

The company says its other plants will have their normal summer shutdowns in July and August.

Nearly all automakers have lost production due to parts shortages from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan. The quake damaged parts supply plants or knocked out electricity.

Brandon C / Flickr

A General Motors transmission factory will be adding 250 to 400 jobs, according to a union official quoted by the Associated Press.

The announcement will be made by CEO Dan Akerson and UAW Vice President Joe Ashton.

The AP reports:

A union official says General Motors plans to add 250 to 400 jobs at its transmission factory in Toledo, Ohio.

Manoli Katakis / creative commons

A final decision has not been made, but Warren Mayor Jim Fouts released a statement saying GM is considering two investments in its Technical Center and Powertrain Facility in Warren.

Fouts says the investments add up to $450 million and would create 426 new jobs.

From Fouts' statement:

"These possible projects are the result of several meetings between city representatives, including me, and GM officials. I cannot stress too much how important these new investments would be to our city. They mean more jobs and ultimately more tax revenues for Warren. I am confident GM will choose these locations for new investments because the corporation realizes Warren is a business-friendly community that will go the extra mile to encourage businesses to expand or relocate here."

The mayor said Warren became a city in 1957 because of the construction of GM's Tech Center in the city. And he encouraged other business to move there.

Rolling the Dice

Apr 18, 2011

We in the media have been paying a lot of attention to Governor Snyder’s attempts to push his program through the legislature. Mostly, we‘ve been preoccupied with the mechanics.

Last week, we talked about his compromise on the pension tax. Soon, we‘ll be discussing what seems likely to be the governor’s  success at cutting spending for the schools. Occasionally, we remember to mention the reason for all this painful budget slashing.

McDonald's "National Hiring Day" is tomorrow

Apr 18, 2011
Miguel Vaca / Flickr

"Would you like some fries with that?"

That’s the phrase many are perfecting for McDonald's National Hiring Day tomorrow. Many of the McDonald’s  jobs will be in the Midwest.

McDonald's got its start here in the Midwest, and it has a substantial presence throughout the Great Lakes states.

That’s why 10,000 of the 50,000 new workers, the company wants will be based across the region.

The McDonald's in downtown Chicago (on Chicago and State) is one location that is hiring. Nick Karavites and his family own that restaurants and 18 others across the city.

"Not only are we looking to hire cashiers but also hospitality staff and kitchen staff," says Karavites.

As the employment market improves, job seekers can get more selective about where they work.

Karavites said pay at their restaurants averages $9 an hour, and that all workers can participate in a McDonald’s Insurance program.

McDonald’s says the company needs more workers because last year’s sales were up five percent and continues to grow.

Proposed prison closing angers lawmaker

Apr 17, 2011
mich.gov

A Detroit lawmaker is angry over what he calls a unilateral decision to close the Mound Road Correctional Facility in the city.

Representative Fred Durhal is a member of the House Appropriations Corrections Subcommittee, but he says he was not consulted about closing the Mound prison.

Durhal says Rep. Joe Haveman told the committee only they would close a prison in the north, south, east and west parts of the state in a budget-cutting move.

"It caught me by total surprise," Durhal says. "I have not had an opportunity to look into just where those prisons would be, if those are the criteria that he is using. I think they should have had some discussion inside of the entire committee."

The Mound Road prison is one of the state's newer facilities. It houses about 1,000 prisoners and employs about 200 people.

Khalilshah / Flickr

One in 10 people in Michigan are out of work and looking for a job. The state's March unemployment rate was 10.3 percent. That's almost unchanged from the February rate of 10.4 percent. But it's a full three points below the March 2010 rate of 13.3 percent.

Michigan added 79,000 jobs over the past year, mostly in temporary help, IT, and the auto in industry.

Improvements in the unemployment rate have been modest so far this year, but reflect real job gains and not people leaving the workforce.

Michael Gil / wikimedia commons

Last year, many automakers brought in profits and announced that they would open up new factories and add new jobs.

But the industry is adding new jobs at a time when qualified candidates are hard to come by.

David Shepardson wrote about the shortage in the Detroit News today:

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan’s jobs picture is getting brighter, according to a new report out of the University of Michigan. University of Michigan economists say the state is starting 2011 with “robust job growth."  

Michigan spent much of the past decade watching its job numbers decline. But after some gains in 2010, U of M economists credit a bounce in manufacturing with getting the state off to a great start this year. The job growth rate is on pace to increase by 3.8% this year.     

The economists say Michigan has posted a stronger recovery rate than the rest of the nation during the past year and a half. However, that may not last. 

The U of M economists predict Michigan’s job growth will cool off, but still the economists predict the state could add 64,000 jobs this year.

Two Democratic state lawmakers are preparing legislation that would restore unemployment benefits cuts recently signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder.  Snyder signed legislation to extend federal jobless benefits, but the bill also contained a provision shrinking state unemployment benefits from 26 to 20 weeks next year.  

Republicans lawmakers pushed for the jobless benefits cuts, saying it will reduce the burden on Michigan businesses, which pay into the state unemployment insurance pool. Jim Ananich is a state representative from Flint.   He’s introducing legislation to restore those benefits.  

“You know I’m hopeful that they will see the error of their ways and see that now is not a time to be taking money out of people’s pockets.”

Ananich hopes to introduce his bill next month.

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