The unemployment rate fell .4 percentage points in January to 9.0%.

Keith Hall, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics said today:

In January, employment increased in manufacturing and retail trade, while job losses occurred in transportation and warehousing and in construction.  Employment in most other major industries changed little. Manufacturing employment grew by 49,000 over the month and has increased by 161,000 since a recent low point in December 2009.

The Associated Press reports:

The unemployment rate has fallen by eight-tenths of a percentage point in the past two months. That's the steepest two-month drop in nearly 53 years. But part of that drop has occurred as many of those out of work gave up on their job searches. When unemployed people stop looking for jobs, the government no longer counts them as unemployed.

Officially, there are about 13.9 million people in the country out of work. The AP says "that's still about double the total who were out of work before the recession began in December 2007."

The unemployment rate in Michigan stands at 11.7% as of December. New numbers should be out in the coming week.

Allan Chatto / Flickr

Sylvia Rector, a Detroit Free Press Restaurant Critic, has a nice little piece in the Freep about a shortage of pizza pans around the state.

The pizza pan of choice for local restaurants is a blue steel pan that was once made in West Virginia.

The pans were never intended for baking. They were designed to hold small parts in factories.

Overtime the pans "became the pan of choice for nearly every big name in Detroit-style pizza" (Rector describes Detroit -style pizza like this "dough for the thick but airy crust, absurd amounts of cheese and ladles of rich, long-simmered sauce").

But the company moved its operation to Mexico, and they haven't been able to get production up and running.

Pizza makers were distraught. They needed the pans. From the article:

Restaurant supply companies here -- and apparently everywhere else -- have been out of them for many months.

Pizza makers' orders for pans are stacking up by the thousands and causing problems for big chains and small independents alike.

"You wouldn't even believe how many pans we have on back order" -- at least 4,000 small and medium sizes and 700 extra larges -- says Patti Domasicwicz at People's Restaurant Equipment in Detroit. She hasn't received a shipment since April.

One pizza maker couldn't wait. So he took it upon himself to start making the pans in Michigan.

Eugene Jett, co-founder of Jet's Pizza, says he found a manufacturer that would do it:

"They're cutting them as we speak...The first thing is for me to get my pans...It took me a long time to figure out how to get them done...But I decided then, I will build my own pans."

Rector writes that if the manufacturer thinks the pans will be profitable, they might put the pans into full production.

Perhaps another sign that Michigan is diversifying it's economy.

Steve Carmody

Retailers say they are more hopeful than they’ve been in many years that Michigan is close to repealing the law that requires them to put a price sticker on every item they sell. But unions and Democrats say they will put up a fight to preserve what they say is a significant consumer protection.

James Hallan is the president of the Michigan Retailers Association. He says store-owners were pleased to hear in Governor Rick Snyder’s State of the State address that he is on their side. And Hallan says retailers hope the Legislature’s large Republican majorities will go along with scrapping the 35-year-old law.

“We have a new administration that is progressive. We have a legislative body that is progressive, and technology has come a long ways from where it was in 1976. Cell phones were not around in 1976. You look at all the new technology, and it’s time we embrace this and not walk away from it."

But not everyone is on board. Chris Michalakis is with the United Food and Commercial Workers union. He says the item-pricing law remains popular with the public.

“What we’re hoping is our Republican governor and our Republican majorities in the House and the Senate will listen to consumers and members of their community and when they look to change this law, do it in a way that voters are comfortable with and do it in a way that protects consumers and protects jobs.”

Employee unions say the law remains popular with the public for a reason and, if anything, the item pricing law should be more strongly enforced.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The federal department of Housing and Urban Development announced this week its granting $56 million dollars to Michigan to prevent homelessness. The money funds 269 separate programs all over the state.

Khalilshah / Flickr

Michigan's unemployment rate dropped in December to 11.7 percent. But, as Rick Pluta reports, the decline in the jobless rate was due mostly to people who have stopped looking for jobs:

Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped steadily throughout 2010. But there are still 555,000 people in Michigan who are out of work and looking for jobs. Half of them have been looking for six months or more.

There was little new hiring last month. The number of people who simply stopped looking for work is the biggest reason for the decline in the jobless rate. The state Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth says the number of people who say they are available to work fell by 37,000.

When people who are looking for jobs, those who’ve quit looking, and part-time workers who’d like to be full-time are rolled together, Michigan’s rate of unemployment and under-employment is 21 percent.

Michigan’s unemployment rate in 2010 was 13.6 percent. That’s a drop of half a percentage point from the 2009 average.

United Van Lines

One sign of a tough economy is the sight of a big moving truck out in front of the neighbor's house.

And according to one moving company's study, Michigan has seen more of those moving trucks leaving the state than entering the state.

In it's 34th annual "migration" study, United Van Lines says Michigan ranked second in outbound traffic in the country.

The Wall Street Journal and the Detroit Free Press are reporting that Ford plans to announce the creation of 7,000 more jobs at today's auto show. From the Wall Street Journal:

Ford Motor Co. on Monday is expected to announce it will hire 7,000 workers in the U.S. over the next two years, according to a person familiar with the matter. Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields is expected to confirm the news at the auto maker's presentation before the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, this person said.

flickr -

The Grand Rapids Press reports that AT&T plans to cut 110 union jobs in West Michigan. The paper reports:

The West Michigan job losses are part of a total of 371 jobs being eliminated by the telecommunications giant in Michigan, said Ryan Letts, president of the Communications Workers of America Local 4034.

Letts is quoted as saying they saw the job cuts coming because the telecommunications industry is changing:

screen grab of YouTube video

Columbus Dispatch videographer Doral Chenoweth III says he filmed Ted Williams on a whim.

"We run into these guys at the exit ramps and we pretty much ignore them," said Chenoweth, who was en route with his wife to the grocery store when he first saw Williams. "This guy was using his talent."

Ted Williams was standing on a street corner near a highway exit ramp in Columbus, Ohio holding a sign that said "I have a God-given gift of voice. I am an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times. Please any help will be greatfully (sic) appreciated..."

And when you hear his voice, it's uncanny. It sounds as if you've just stepped into a commercial radio or television broadcast. It almost sounds fake. Listen for yourself:

(Written by Eliot Johnson, and Zoe Clark)

Every Michigan resident is familiar with the economic challenges facing the state. From job losses to foreclosures. The challenges we face are daunting. No single person can fix all the broken pieces of the state. But Michigan Radio has been on a quest this year to learn about the little things each of us can do to make a difference.

All this year, Michigan Radio's Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley has been talking to people from across the state about ways to improve Michigan. We call it the Three Things Series because we asked each person for three ways that ordinary Michiganders could help the state.

The response has been amazing, generating hundreds of ideas for each of us to consider and act upon. From recycling to community organizing to drinking more Michigan beer, the ideas we've received have been a diverse collection of potential ways to improve both the state and our attitudes towards it.

Today, we concluded the Three Things Series with an hour-long call-in show. It will air again tonight at 8 p.m., or you can hear it here:

Michigan Governor-elect Rick Snyder
wikimedia commons

Governor-elect Rick Snyder told a crowd in Detroit today that Michigan will beat analysts’ economic growth expectations in the coming years.

Snyder spoke to a group of accounting students at Wayne State University. He recounted an experience at a recent National Governors Association meeting.

Snyder says the investment firm Moody’s ranked each state for projected job growth. He described what he saw when he opened the folder for Michigan.

"The first number from 2009 to 2011 was 47," Snyder said. "The number from 2009 to 2014 was 50."

But the governor-elect called those projections "a piece of fiction."

"We’re going to beat the living daylights out of that number."

Snyder added that he plans to use his background as a CPA to put Michigan’s finances in order.

Jennifer Granholm
flickr user auberon

3 million jobs in 3 years. That's what soon-to-be-former-Governor Jennifer Granholm called for in her article in the Huffington Post.

Granholm calls for a "Jobs Race to the Top" modelled on the education "Race to the Top" program.

Dangle large sums of money in front of cash strapped states and see if you can get them to change their policies.

George Erickcek is Senior Regional Analyst at Upjohn Institute
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Researchers at the Kalamazoo-based Upjohn Institute predict Michigan’s economy is stabilizing, but caution it will be a long road to a full recovery.

“We have to realize that what Michigan is coming out of is not a transformed economy, although all of us would like to think that’s true. We’re coming out a leaner economy, a little bit meaner and little bit more advanced but in fact just kind of a smaller version of what we were before, in my opinion.”

Senior Regional Analyst George Erickcek says full recovery will depend on the state’ ability to meet the demand for trained workers in growing industries. In a presentation to leaders in Grand Rapids Wednesday, Erickcek said 25 to 34 year-olds are not achieving the same education levels as the generation before them. That’s the case in Michigan and the nation.

Cranes life a wind turbine blade
Stephanie Hemphill / MPR

The Detroit Free Press reports that a large scale wind turbine manufacturer plans to locate in Saginaw.

Northern Power Systems of Barre, Vt., intends to use a facility in Saginaw to manufacture its next-generation large wind turbines, expected to be the first ones built in the U.S. using 100% American-made parts.

Building wind turbines has been touted as a way to diversify a manufacturing base built around the automobile. Many auto suppliers in the state are also building parts for wind turbines. No report yet on how many jobs will be created.

But the future of wind power is uncertain. Tax credits and grants to develop wind energy are expiring at the end of the year. And with an ethic of austerity moving into Washington, there are little signs that they'll be renewed.

One economist says the end of jobless benefits for thousands of Michiganders should not have a big effect on the number of jobs being filled.

 More than 180 thousand people in Michigan will see their unemployment benefits expire between now and April, unless Congress agrees to grant another extension. 

Kenneth Goldstein is with the Conference Board, a business research group.   He says there are few real new job options,  either full or part time for the ‘hard-core’ unemployed.

The White House is ramping up its efforts to get Congress to approve extended unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans. Michigan's unemployment rate in October was the second-highest in the nation, at 12.8%.

The president's Council of Economic Advisers released a report that touts the need for extending benefits. The report says for the typical person getting unemployment, the benefits make up a third of the household income.  As Presidential adviser Cecilia Rouse noted:

And in those 42% of households where the unemployed person was the sole wage earner, it's about 90 percent of the income. So it's quite an important source of income for these families.

The report says about 620,000 people in Michigan received benefits through October.

Republicans in Congress say the cost of extending the benefits is too high. They want to look at budget cuts and tax cut extensions first.

Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
flickr user fiatontheweb / creative commons

Today executives at General Motors announced they plan to add 1,000 jobs in Michigan.

Now, Chrysler executives have announced they also plan to add 1,000 jobs.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

GM to hire 1,000 in MI

Nov 30, 2010

General Motors has just announced that it will hire 1,000 engineers to work on battery technology in Michigan. The jobs include helping to develop batteries for hybrid, electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Most of the jobs will be at a technical center in Warren.

The Detroit Free Press reports the jobs come as GM:

…prepares to deliver the first Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric cars next month… GM plans to build 10,000 Volts by the end of 2011 and at least 45,000 in 2012. Initially, the Volt will sell in California, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas. Next spring, those markets will expand to include Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut and the rest of New York and Texas. Within a year and a half, GM plans to sell the Volt nationwide.

Jobless benefits will expire for tens of thousands of unemployed Michiganders this week unless Congress approves an extension.

Many of those losing their benefits are expected to turn to Michigan food banks and other non-profit groups.

"Those safety nets are really not prepared to take on all of these extra families," says Judy Putnam, with the Michigan League for Human Services."

Unemployment line in California
Michael Raphael / Flickr

The Associated Press reports that the state "will stop taking new extended unemployment benefit applications after Saturday because Congress has failed to renew the program."

Detroit entreprenuer Judy Davids
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

All week we’ve been looking at the reinvention of Pittsburgh. Now, we move west to see whether the ideas that worked there can work in other places. One such city is Detroit.

Like Pittsburgh, Detroit has always faced a challenge in convincing its talented citizens to stay. Many business owners try to buck the odds and keep their businesses in the city, only to find the hurdles too high. Others find it is simply too daunting to head out on their own.

The New York Stock Exchange
Roland Weber / Creative Commons

Update: 5:10pm

The New York Stock Exchanged closed.  AFP News reports "GM stocks closed at 34.19 dollars, up 3.6 percent from GM's initial sale price announced on Wednesday, but below session highs of 35.60 dollars a share."

Update: 3:00pm

The Detroit News reports the GM executives who attended the opening day for GM stock on the New York Stock Exchange bought hundreds of shares in the company themselves.

GM North American chief Mark Reuss called it an emotional day, saying he was proud to work for GM and thanking taxpayers for giving GM "a second chance."

The News reports the GM execs will head back to Detroit "after today's events in order to attend a private employee celebration at the company's Renaissance Center headquarters."

Update: 11:04pm

GM  executives rang the bell and played a recording of a Chevy Camaro revving its engine to open trading at the New York Stock Exchange this morning. As of this writing, the stock, bought during the IPO at $33 per share, has jumped to $35 per share in trading. Here's how it's tracking next to Ford's stock (F): 

Kent County Board of Commissioners

Thursday morning Kent County Commissioners are expected to adopt a budget for next year that eliminates 56 full time positions. The cuts are part of an overall plan to keep county spending in line as revenue from property taxes decline.

2010 is the first year taxable value has gone down in Kent County. That’s the value property taxes are based on. Money collected from property taxes make up a little more than half of the county's general fund.

Erika Katz

Drive east from downtown Pittsburgh and you’ll pass a church. At least, it was a church.

Today, the alter has been replaced with stainless steel casks of beer, and the pews are now a bar and tables. It’s another Pittsburgh transformation. Saint John the Baptist Church is now the Church Brew Works.

It’s one of those places people tell you: you have to go when you visit Pittsburgh. So, it wasn’t a hard sell to get a bunch of young professionals to meet there.

Global Entrepreneurship Week

In west Michigan several organizations are collaborating on more than a dozen events to foster the entrepreneurial spirit.

Zach Morris / Creative Commons

When Dennis Yablonsky took over Pittsburgh's main development group last year, everyone was telling him it was time to brag.

User 1sock / Creative Commons

When I first got to Pittsburgh, I did something foolish.

A handwritten letter from President Barack Obama
Gary Zimet / Moments in Time

A woman from Monroe, Michigan made news last week when she sold her hand written letter from President Barack Obama for $7,000.

Senate election map 2010
user leodac / Creative Commons

by Niala Boodhoo of Changing Gears

This week's election brought a new sheen of red to the Great Lakes states: with the Republican party seizing control of governorships and state houses across the region. In many cases, it was the first time the Republican Party has taken control since 2003. So what does this political reinvention mean for the region?

The economy was a familiar theme on election night. It was invoked to cheering crowds by each of the incoming governors of Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Republican governor-elect John Kasich of Ohio:

Rick Snyder
Snyder's campaign website

There wasn’t a lot of talk about environment during the race for governor, but Governor-elect Rick Snyder made it clear during the campaign that he thinks the state’s regulatory system is broken and said he wants fewer regulations on businesses. That has some people wondering whether that means there will also be fewer of the regulations that prevent pollution in the state.  I talked with James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council, to get his take on this.