Economics, employment, jobs, real estate, taxes, economic development and incentives, workforce development, IPOs, investment and anything related to business in Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson

Photo by Dell's Official Flickr Page

Not only is it one of the fastest growing areas in the nation, but Williamson County has also just recorded the largest increase in weekly wages of any large county in the United States.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced today that average weekly wages in Williamson County grew by 18 percent in the second quarter of 2011 to $1,042. The increase of $159 compares to national growth of $26 or three percent.

KUT News

If you're hitting the road for the New Year's holiday you'll be paying a bit more for gas this week. AAA Texas is reporting that gasoline prices are four cents higher across the state as compared to last week.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $3.09. That's up from $2.90 last year.

Giving and receiving gifts can be a joyful thing — unless you're an economist. All those books that will never be read and ties that will never be worn are hugely inefficient.

To investigate a possible solution, we went to a seventh-grade classroom at a public school in Brooklyn.

The students were already familiar with the issue.

"This is kind of silly, but I got a Power Ranger," Tadre Jones said. "I was grateful, but I didn't really like it."

Photo by tommyh

Small breweries are celebrating a federal court ruling issued yesterday that strikes down state regulations limiting what beer makers can say about their products. U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks’ makes three changes to Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) rules:

  • Brewers can now advertise the alcohol content of their beers on their websites and promotional materials.
  • Brewers can now also advertise where you can buy their products.
  • Brewers are no longer required to label any beer that is 0.5 to 4 percent alcohol as “beer” and they are no longer required to label anything above 4 percent as “ale” or “malt liquor.”

“Ale and beer are not mutually exclusive categories. Ale is one type of beer,” said Ron Extract with Austin-based brewer Jester King Craft Brewery, one of the plaintiffs in the suit. “It really has nothing to do with alcohol content.”

Austin Home Sales Up

Dec 20, 2011
KUT News

According to a report put together by the Austin Board of Realtors, home sales were up 11% over last November.  The median price for homes was just under $190,000, which is a 3 percent increase over last year.

This is the sixth month in a row Austin sales have outpaced last year's numbers. The inventory of active single-family home listings is also down by 18 percent, and home sales so far this year are up 7 percent over 2010.

The head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas says low interest rates have provided the American private sector with "the financial means to grow employment" but not the incentive to do so. He says that reluctance to hire people and buy equipment is driven by uncertainty over taxes and the national deficit. The Dallas bank is one of twelve regional banks that are part of the Federal Reserve system. 

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Apple's A5 microprocessor, which powers the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, is being made at a $3.6 billion Samsung facility in North Austin, according to a report by Reuters.

Samsung has added about 1,100 jobs to support the new non-memory chip production in the factory, which produces 40,000 silicon wafers every month, a Samsung spokeswoman said.

The report, if confirmed, comes as a surprise because Apple is known mainly for relying on low-cost manufacturers in East Asia.

Photo by KUT News

New figures show the unemployment rate in Texas dropped slightly from this time last year. Texas’ jobless rate was at 8.1  percent last month, compared to 8.3 percent in November 2010.  The Texas Workforce Commission released the numbers today.

The Austin metro area’s unemployment rate was 6.6 percent last month. It was 7.1 percent in November 2010. Austin lost 600 jobs last month, many in construction and professional and business services.

Image by White Lodging Services Corporation

The developers of a new convention hotel planned for Congress Avenue downtown say they are changing it from a Marriott Marquis to the more upscale JW Marriott brand.

Plans for the hotel include oversized guestrooms and suites, upscale interior design finishes throughout, in excess of 110,000 square feet of flexible meeting, banquet and exhibition space, multiple food and beverage venues, underground parking, and a signature 4,500 square foot fitness center.

Photo by Teresa Vieira for KUT News

The monthly sales tax figures are out for November, and they indicate that Austinites spent 6 percent more last month than November 2010. Texas Comptroller Susan Combs’ report says Austin collected $11.2 million in sales tax last month, compared with $10.5 million during the same period last year.

The positive numbers jibe with the improving employment picture in Austin. The latest jobs report showed the local economy added more than 13,000 positions over the last year. But the unemployment rate still rose to 7.1 percent because more people were out looking for work.

Statewide, the sales tax increase was even more dramatic, with revenue climbing by 12 percent last month compared to November 2010. Combs’ office says the state collected $2 billion in sales tax across Texas last month, largely due to growth in the growing oil and natural gas sector.

PHoto by Ian Crawford/KUT News

A spokesman for Facebook confirms that the founders of Austin-based Gowalla are joining the social networking giant. But, while Josh Williams, Scott Raymond and members of their development team will close the service next month to join Facebook, both sides are quick to point out that the move is not a takeover move by Facebook.

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin was the first city in Texas and among the first in the country to sell Chevrolet’s plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the Volt. And if you were one of the exclusive few early adopters to buy the car, General Motors wants you to know you can send it back free of charge.  

Why would they make such an offer? It all stems from concerns about burning batteries.

Photo by caribb

Even though American Airlines’ parent, Forth Worth-based AMR, filed for bankruptcy today, passengers may see no changes in the carrier’s operations.

Every so-called legacy carrier, including United, Delta and Continental, filed for bankruptcy after the 9/11 slump. American did not. The others restructured operations, business deals, employee contracts and benefits, and emerged making money. Not American.

Now, AMR’s new CEO, Tom Horton, says it’s time.  He said in a statement that American’s cost disadvantage compared to competitors is untenable. Plus, the economy, revenue and fuel costs are uncertain and unstable.

Photo courtesy of Sprouts Farmer's Market

Sprouts Farmers Market is closing three locations in Austin: the stores at 2917 W. Anderson Lane, 2805 Bee Cave Road and 5601 Brodie Lane. All stores will be closed by December 18, a Sprouts spokesperson confirmed.

Clarification:  The Texas Workforce Commission says their data shows 11,100 more people were employed in Central Texas over the past year. 13,300 new jobs were created in the same period, according to TWC statistics

More people were employed in Austin last month compared to October 2010 but the unemployment rate rose because more people were looking for work. In the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos area, 858,100 people had jobs in October 2011 compared to 847,000 in the same month last year.

But the jobless rate rose to 7.1 percent in the Austin metro area from 6.9 percent in October 2010 because more people were looking for work, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, which analyzes data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, labor economists caution against putting too much faith in city-level jobless figures because the sample sizes are small. They also suggest comparing year-over year rates instead of tracking month-to-month changes because of statistical fluctuations.

Photo by kevin dooley

An Austin-based coin marketer agreed to pay out at total of $5 million in restitution to customers to settle a lawsuit filed by the Texas Attorney General's office. State attorneys charged that U.S. Money Reserve making of false claims in their commercials, in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Photo Courtesy of Full Throttle Productions

UPDATE 5:15 p.m.: The race organizer, Full Throttle Productions, released a statement via email late Tuesday afternoon: “After years of effort in getting F1 to Austin, Full Throttle Productions and city, county and state officials have done all we could. It is the responsibility of Circuit of the Americas to bring it across the finish line. For the sake of everyone, we are hopeful that they can reach an agreement with Formula 1.”

A contract dispute between race promoters and circuit officials has led to the immediate suspension of construction on the Circuit of the Americas racetrack in southeastern Travis County.  In a statement issued this afternoon, Circuit of the Americas officials said construction will not continue “until a contract assuring the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix will be held at Circuit of The Americas in 2012 is complete.”

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

State Comptroller Susan Combs, who's been way out in front promoting Formula 1 racing as an economic draw for Austin and Central Texas, says she's concerned about plans to hold races in New Jersey, because more events in other states could diminish the economic advantages of holding races in Texas. And she said, via written statement, that the state will do more economic analysis before it spends any money on the races.

Photo by Teresa Vieira for KUT News

The amount of sales tax collected by the government is often viewed as an indicator of how well the economy is doing. If that’s true, Austin’s economy is doing a lot better this year than it was in 2010.  

Sales tax receipts in the Capitol City were up 4 percent last month, compared to October of last year, according to the latest figures released by the State Comptroller’s office. Austinites paid $13 million in sales tax last month. In October 2010, the number was about $12.5 million.

Statewide, sales tax figures were up 16 percent in October 2011 compared to last year.

Photo by Triton Financial

Ponzi schemes are in the news today, and it’s not just because Gov. Perry is blasting Social Security or Bernie Madoff’s wife is on a book tour. No, this time it’s because a Bee Cave business man has been sentenced to 17 years behind bars for operating a $75 million Ponzi scheme that employed Heisman Trophy-winning football players to help promote it.

Kurt Barton of Triton Financial was found guilty in August of 39 counts of fraud. His investors included family members and people who attended his church, and Barton used the money to pay for a costly lifestyle that included a luxury box at University of Texas football games, YNN reported.