Economy

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Update: Dropbox and Websense will receive economic incentives to expand in Austin.

The Austin City Council voted 5-2 today to offer the two tech companies approximately $700,000 in incentives. The money comes on top of $6 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund. 

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Last night the Austin City Council approved a deal that offers nearly $680,000 dollars in incentives for athenahealth to expand in Austin. The grant will be offered in addition to a $5 million subsidy from Gov. Rick Perry's Texas Enterprise Fund.

But not everyone is happy with the deal. Some council members argue that the city’s booming economy doesn’t need to offer subsidies to bring business to Austin. (The deal passed on a 5-2 vote, with city council members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo voting no.)

Austin Monitor publisher Michael Kanin says that this debate is heating up as council members become increasingly divided on the issue of business incentives.

KUT News

Another national report card is out, and Texas households are still struggling to beef up their savings. 

Almost half of Texas households don’t have enough savings to pay for basic expenses for three months, which means most families aren’t prepared in the event of a job loss or health emergency.

According to the Corporation for Enterprise Development’s 2014 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, the state’s policies are also not helping residents achieve financial security.

I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

Austin’s facing a familiar question: whether to approve economic incentives luring new jobs to town.

Today, the Austin City Council was briefed on a proposal for incentives for health IT company Athenahealth.

Massachusetts-based Athenahealth – which currently employs 36 Austinites in offices at The Domain – is promising a new research and development center. Located inside the former Sealholm Power Plant in downtown Austin, the company says it would create 607 new jobs over 10 years.

Dallas Federal Reserve Bank

For the nation's economy,  2013 is a story of a continued comeback following a devastating recession. 

And for Texas?  Well, the story's slightly different.  

Keith Phillips, analyst with the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank says there's no question 2013 was a good year for the Texas economy with growth in most sectors.

Phillips says the low cost of living, in addition to the low cost of doing business in Texas has helped the Lone Star State maintain a job growth rate a full percentage point higher than the national average in 2013.  But the energy exploration boom that's been fueling an expansion of jobs, construction and exports appears to be tapering off.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Austinites got a taste of California yesterday with the opening of the city’s first In-N-Out Burger at 45th and Airport. The drive thru is known for made-to-order burgers and an ordering system that allows you to micromanage your meal. (Want your bun extra toasted? Just ask.) 

In-N-Out Burger has no freezers. No microwaves. No heat lamps. And In-N-Out has been quietly going against another trend in the low-wage, low-benefit fast food industry: they're paying their employees much more than the industry standard. 

President Obama tried Wednesday to turn the conversation back to the economy, calling the growing income gap the "defining challenge of our time."

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Think of Detroit, and you likely think of a city past its prime.

But while Detroit faces an uphill climb since filing for bankruptcy in July, Heath Carr, CEO of Dallas-based Bedrock Manufacturing, has taken a decidedly bullish perspective on the city: His group is the parent company of Shinola, a company manufacturing American-made watches, bicycles, leather goods and more in the Motor City.

“If you come to Detroit, you spend time there, you get to know the people," Carr says. "The people that care about moving it forward, it's an energy you want to be part of.”

Listen to Carr speak with KUT's David Brown:

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This year, economists in Mexico are predicting an anemic growth rate for the country of 1.7 percent. Some say the number could be closer to 1.4 percent. However, longtime Mexico watchers, including Brookings analyst Joseph Parilla, say that’s not the big story.  

“In the Mexican case, they had robust growth last year and if you look past 2013, projections are still relatively good,” Parilla says. “Growth rates are between 3.5 and 4 percent over the next five years. I think the general consensus is while 2013 will prove a difficult year for the Mexican economy, there should be a pretty quick rebound after."

Luke Quinton for KUT News

The Army announced recently that it plans to eliminate combat brigades at 12 military bases. That’s a total of 80,000 soldiers. The cutbacks come as communities are already dealing with government furloughs. But military towns are trying to keep the old boom and bust economy a thing of the past.

Fort Hood is like a city. When it became a base in the 1940s, it cleared out 1,200 farms. Now it’s home to more than 40,000 assigned soldiers and tens of thousands of civilian workers. The base brings $25 billion to the Texas economy each year.

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More homes sold in the Austin-area last month than in any May on record, according to a report by the Austin Board of Realtors. Their analysis of MLS Listings shows 2,991 homes were sold in May, an increase of 29 percent over the same month last year.

The increased demand sent the median home price up by eight percent to $231,500. The average home is sitting on the market for just 44 days, which is 19 days less than May last year, according to the report.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

This week Congress will take up what some say is a long overdue reform of national immigration policy. The U.S. has been slow to recover from the recession, and U.S. Secretary of Labor Seth Harris says this overhaul could be a boon for the economy. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is looking at how overdraft fees affect consumers in a detailed report released Tuesday.

One of the stunning finds: "Overdraft and non-sufficient funds fees accounted for 61 percent of total consumer deposit account service charges in 2011 among the banks in the CFPB report."

Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

More than 22 percent of Austin area jobs require specialized STEM skills. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

A study released by the Brookings Institution today shows Austin’s percentage of STEM jobs in 2011 was slightly higher than the national average of 20 percent.

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Bitcoin is blowing up, both in the successful and not-so-successful sense.

The currency is as volatile as a Texas summer is miserably hot. But the volatility’s not stopping Austin movers and shakers from capitalizing on the craze.

Last week, a Bitcoin startup that will help grow the online currency popped up in Austin. But some Austin Bitcoin’ers are trying to moving the currency offline and into the real world.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/digallagher/4880157508/

Austin area home sales jumped by 32 percent in April compared to the same month last year. The Austin Board of Realtors says 2,563 single-family homes were sold last month.

That marks a nine-year high for the month of April, and it represents the twenty-third straight month of year-over-year sales increases. 

flickr.com/jimnix

Austin’s economy added 30,500 jobs over the last year. The latest employment report shows the jobless rate dropped to 5.1 percent last month from 5.6 percent in April 2012. 

The recent job growth happened as more people were moving to the Austin-area looking for work. The civilian labor force grew by more than 27,000 in the past 12 months.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

President Barack Obama spent about six hours in Austin yesterday touring around the city on the first stop of what the White House is calling a “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour.

After landing mid-day in Austin, the President headed to Manor New Technology high school. The school is what’s called a STEM academy – focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.

Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune

President Barack Obama will be in Austin tomorrow. The stop is part of his "Middle Class Jobs & Opportunity Tour.”

(Most recent update: 10 a.m. ET.)

The nation's jobless rate edged down to 7.5 percent in April from 7.6 percent in March and employers added 165,000 jobs to their payrolls last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday morning.

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