Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Illinois still strong business center. Reports of Illinois’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. At least that’s the conclusion of Crain’s Chicago Business, which examined the business climate of the state and its neighbors in the wake of headlines about rising corporate taxes and companies threatening to relocate. The crux of the analysis: Illinois’ workforce, market size, capital available for investment and transportation infrastructure outweighs rising taxes and the state’s budget deficit, which puts it in better position than neighboring states.

2. Ford-UAW contract gains ground. Sixty-two percent of voters now support the tentative agreement between Ford and the United Auto Workers, according to the UAW Facebook page. Several large local unions voted over the weekend on the deal and moved it closer to ratification. Voting ends Tuesday. Last week, initial votes had showed weak support for the agreement, which offers signing bonuses but does not restore cost-of-living increases.

3. Wisconsin home sales up, prices down. In September, existing home sales in Wisconsin rose 17.7 percent year over year, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Sales in the Milwaukee area were particularly strong, growing 26.8 percent from September 2010. The media sales price fell 1.5 percent, however, to $134,900. It was the smallest decline this year, and considered good news by members of the Wisconsin Realtors Association. New listings are down 17.4 percent this year, the newspaper reported, while an inventory backlog remains.


The U.S. high-tech industry lost 115,800 net jobs in 2010 that represented approximately 2 percent of the overall high-tech workforce, according to the annual Cyberstates report compiled by the TechAmerica Foundation.

With one notable exception, states across the Midwest reflected the national trend.

Illinois lost 6,400 tech jobs, approximately 3 percent of its high-tech workforce. It was the fifth-biggest decline in the U.S. and the state slipped to eighth place in the country in terms of overall technology jobs. Minnesota lost 2,900 jobs, Wisconsin lost 1,900 tech jobs, Ohio 1,400 and Indiana shed 300.

Michigan, on the other hand, trended in an upward direction.

After eight years of declining numbers, it added more tech workers than any state in the country, according to the report. Michigan added 2,700 high-tech jobs and ranks 15th nationwide in total technology employment.

“The fact that Michigan added more tech jobs in 2010 than any other state may surprise people, including people within the state,” said Ed Longanecker, the executive director of TechAmerica. “But job gains in key sectors like software and research and development have helped the state recover from hard economic times.”

That recovery is, by no means, complete. In 2001, Michigan had 201,800 high-tech jobs according to the report. Even with this year’s growth, Michigan currently employs 155,100 high-tech workers.

Overall, the U.S. high-tech industry employs 5.75 million workers, according to the report. While 115,800 total jobs were lost across the country, the decline was less than half of the 249,500 jobs lost in 2009.

Despite its losses, Illinois still employs more tech workers than any other Midwest state. Here’s how they stack up:

Illinois: 201,436
Minnesota: 120,800
Ohio: 162,900
Michigan: 155,100
Wisconsin: 81,300
Indiana: 70,300


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Unemployment rate unchanged. American’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent in September even as the economy added 103,000 jobs, the U.S. Labor Department announced Friday. Among those struggling to find work, more than 1 in 4 respondents to a Rutgers University survey said they are opposed to a renewal of extended unemployment benefits. An extension proposal is part of President Obama’s jobs bill, according to The New York Times, which explored the sentiments of the unemployed. Theresa Gorski, a pharmaceutical rep from Detroit, tells the newspaper she once shared skepticism about prolonged benefits, but after 17 months of unemployment, her views have changed.

2. Software chief: Michigan needs more education. For Michigan companies, a strong education base is more important than lower taxes. That’s the opinion of Bill Wagner, co-founder of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based software firm SRT Solutions, who writes the dismantling of education throughout the state has painted a grim picture to prospective global employers in an AnnArbor.com op-ed published today. He believes budget cuts have harmed the state’s education infrastructure, and that savings from reduced business taxes, among other things, amount to less money than his company spent last year on a summer intern.

3. Sara Lee may move headquarters. The headquarters of Sara Lee has only been based in Downers Grove, Ill. for six years. Its’ already looking to move. Our partner station WBEZ reports the company is exploring a move within Illinois, possibly to downtown Chicago or another suburb. “We do believe that a downtown location would provide our new North American Meat Co. with an environment that will be energetic, that will foster breakthrough thinking,” a company spokesperson told WBEZ. Sara Lee currently employs 1,000 workers in Downers Grove.

 

 


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Unemployment rate unchanged. American’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent in September even as the economy added 103,000 jobs, the U.S. Labor Department announced Friday. Among those struggling to find work, more than 1 in 4 respondents to a Rutgers University survey said they are opposed to a renewal of extended unemployment benefits. An extension proposal is part of President Obama’s jobs bill, according to The New York Times, which explored the sentiments of the unemployed. Theresa Gorski, a pharmaceutical rep from Detroit, tells the newspaper she once shared skepticism about prolonged benefits, but after 17 months of unemployment, her views have changed.

2. Software chief: Michigan needs more education. For Michigan companies, a strong education base is more important than lower taxes. That’s the opinion of Bill Wagner, co-founder of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based software firm SRT Solutions, who writes the dismantling of education throughout the state has painted a grim picture to prospective global employers in an AnnArbor.com op-ed published today. He believes budget cuts have harmed the state’s education infrastructure, and that savings from reduced business taxes, among other things, amount to less money than his company spent last year on a summer intern.

3. Sara Lee may move headquarters. The headquarters of Sara Lee has only been based in Downers Grove, Ill. for six years. Its’ already looking to move. Our partner station WBEZ reports the company is exploring a move within Illinois, possibly to downtown Chicago or another suburb. “We do believe that a downtown location would provide our new North American Meat Co. with an environment that will be energetic, that will foster breakthrough thinking,” a company spokesperson told WBEZ. Sara Lee currently employs 1,000 workers in Downers Grove.

 

 


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Midwest counties lead nation. Several counties in the Midwest are among the country’s biggest beneficiaries of increased employment and wages, according to new data released from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Elkhart County in northern Indiana had the largest percentage increase in employment from March 2010 to March 2011 among the nation’s largest 322 counties, growing its workforce by 6.2 percent. Indiana’s overall employment increased 1.9 percent in the same time span. The next-largest increase belonged to Ottawa County in western Michigan, which grew at 4.7 percent. Peoria County, Illinois showed the largest year-over-year increase in average weekly wages, with a gain of 18.9 percent.

2. Illinois seeks Amazon taxes. Amazon.com has agreed to pay sales taxes in California. Officials are hoping that deal means the online retailer will agree to do the same in Illinois, according to a report in Crain’s Chicago Business today. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association has sent Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos a letter, saying “the tide is turning” and encourages the company to begin collecting Illinois sales tax immediately. Under the California agreement, Amazon agreed to go to Washington D.C. and lobby for national legislation that regulates how internet retailers should be taxed.

3. Big Three post sales gains. Strong sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles buoyed Chrysler in September, when sales rose 27 percent. The automaker led an impressive month for Detroit’s Big Three. Despite a struggling economy, General Motors posted sales gains of 20 percent and Ford’s sales rose 9 percent. “There is no double dip downturn going on around here,” Dodge brand president and chief executive Reid Bigland told The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. At General Motors, the Chevrolet Cruze continued to be the company’s best-selling car, although the sales of the Lordstown, Ohio-built Cruze dipped below 20,000 units for the first time in five months.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Illinois’ deficit may grow. Despite budget cuts and tax increases, the state of Illinois’ budget deficit will reach $5 billion next year, according to a report released today by a government watchdog group. The Civic Federation says added pension and debt costs are causing an increase from this year’s $4.6 billion figure. “In spite of a tax increase, we’re actually losing ground under this budget,” said Laurence Msall, president of the non-partisan budgetary think tank, tells the Chicago Sun-Times.

2. Groupon IPO still uncertain. U.S. regulators are scrutinizing documents related to Groupon’s upcoming IPO more thoroughly than expected, which is delaying the offering. The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that the Chicago-based daily deals company remains committed to the offering, but the timing is still unclear. On Friday, Groupon amended its offering documents to report reduced revenue from 2010 to $312.9 million from $713.4 million, the newspaper reported.

3. Fracking fuels Ohio boom. State regulators and industry officials may be debating the practice of hydrofracking, but across Ohio, the shale-gas boom is already taking off. Energy company workers are clogging courthouse hallways across eastern Ohio to research documents that determine who owns property, according to The Columbus Dispatch. “I’m told that, even back in the coal days of the 1950s and 1960s, it was never as busy as this,” the Harrison County recorder tells the newspaper.


Michigan’s unemployment rate rose above 11 percent in August, the first time it’s been above that mark since December 2010, according to data released Wednesday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

The rate crept upward three-tenths of a percentage point to 11.2 percent, a symptom of economic stagnation across the country.

“In August, small job reductions in manufacturing and retail were countered by a modest job gain in construction,” Rick Waclawek, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, told the Detroit Free Press.

It’s the fourth consecutive month that Michigan’s unemployment rate has increased since reaching a 2011 low of 10.2 percent in April.  Despite Wednesday’s news, unemployment remains below the 12.2 percent rate of August 2010.

The jump comes amid more glum news for the nation’s labor market: on Wednesday, the U.S. Labor Department announced the number of people applying for unemployment benefits rose to its highest level in three months.

Applications climbed by approximately 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted rate of 428,000. The four-week average, a barometer seen as a more reliable measure of employment health, rose for the fourth consecutive week to 419,500. The Associated Press reports that applications need to fall below 375,000 to denote a level of hiring significant enough to lower the unemployment rate, but that level has not been seen since February.

Across the Midwest, unemployment were on the rise in states that had reported August numbers.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was 7.9 percent, an uptick from 7.8 percent in July. Despite the small increase, Wisconsin’s Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development said the state added 1,200 manufacturing jobs since July.

In Illinois, the unemployment rate shot up “sharply,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times, rising nearly half a percentage point to 9.9 percent in August. Unemployment numbers for August have yet to be reported in Ohio and Indiana.


Michigan’s unemployment rate rose above 11 percent in August, the first time it’s been above that mark since December 2010, according to data released Wednesday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

The rate crept upward three-tenths of a percentage point to 11.2 percent, a symptom of economic stagnation across the country.

“In August, small job reductions in manufacturing and retail were countered by a modest job gain in construction,” Rick Waclawek, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, told the Detroit Free Press.

It’s the fourth consecutive month that Michigan’s unemployment rate has increased since reaching a 2011 low of 10.2 percent in April.  Despite Wednesday’s news, unemployment remains below the 12.2 percent rate of August 2010.

The jump comes amid more glum news for the nation’s labor market: on Wednesday, the U.S. Labor Department announced the number of people applying for unemployment benefits rose to its highest level in three months.

Applications climbed by approximately 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted rate of 428,000. The four-week average, a barometer seen as a more reliable measure of employment health, rose for the fourth consecutive week to 419,500. The Associated Press reports that applications need to fall below 375,000 to denote a level of hiring significant enough to lower the unemployment rate, but that level has not been seen since February.

Across the Midwest, unemployment were on the rise in states that had reported August numbers.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was 7.9 percent, an uptick from 7.8 percent in July. Despite the small increase, Wisconsin’s Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development said the state added 1,200 manufacturing jobs since July.

In Illinois, the unemployment rate shot up “sharply,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times, rising nearly half a percentage point to 9.9 percent in August. Unemployment numbers for August have yet to be reported in Ohio and Indiana.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Cuts coming in Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to outline deep cuts to the Illinois budget today, according to our partner station WBEZ. Quinn said he must make the cuts to stay within the budget approved by lawmakers. Parole officers and tax collectors appear on the list of likely cuts. Administrators said proposals have been shared with the General Assembly this week.

2. Ohio may halt fracking. A Democratic state senator in Ohio has introduced legislation that would mandate a two-year moratorium on the controversial practice of hydrofracking according to our partner Ideastream. Sen. Michael Skindell says the quiet period would give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency time to study the practice. A spokesperson from the Ohio Oil and Gas Association says a halt would worsen the state’s unemployment rate.

3. Head of AFL-CIO leaving. Mark Gaffney, the head of the Michigan’s largest labor coalition for the past 12 years, told the Detroit Free Press today that he would not seek another four-year term at Michigan’s AFL-CIO convention in October. “I’m going to leave the fight on the front lines to others,” he told the newspaper. He is expected to be replaced by former UAW official and Wayne County consultant Karla Swift.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Job insecurity for Ohio’s teachers. Entering the school year, Cleveland Metropolitan Schools officials thought they had a $23 million surplus. But that was before the district accounted for the loss of 2,000 students from seven closed schools. Our partner station Ideastream reports that means a decrease in state funding and an increase in unpredictability for the district’s teachers, some of whom have faced layoffs multiple times in the past six months.

2. Illinois manufacturers are upbeat. Manufacturers in Illinois are more optimistic about the state of their industry than counterparts nationwide, according to a survey released Monday. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that 52 percent of Illinois companies polled were thriving or growing compared to 44 percent nationwide.  Sixty-four percent in Illinois said they planned to add to their workforce in the coming year, but 60 percent also fear a weak economy will slow their business.

3. One company’s trash, another’s treasure? Two Cleveland-based firms are using green technology to improve the efficiency of garbage trucks, and hopefully their profits. The Wall Street Journal reports today that Eaton Corp. and Parker Hannifin Corp. have designed rival hydraulic systems that could save on fuel, reduce pollution and brake wear. The technologies can be applied to other vehicles. The Journal also reports the two firms have engaged in some, ahem, trash talking, about their rival’s product.