Economy

The U.S. economy grew at a 0.4 percent annual rate in fourth-quarter 2012, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Thursday morning.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Fewer Texans are earning minimum wage or less. The number dropped by 21,000 last year to 452,000 people in Texas earning no more than $7.25 an hour. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics analyst Cheryl Abbot says the decline reflects the fact that the minimum wage hasn’t gone up since 2009.

“Every time it did bump, we saw a larger share of workers receiving the minimum wage or less,” Abbot said. “Now that those increases have fallen off a bit, we’re seeing that share start to decline.”

There were 236,000 jobs added to payrolls in February — many more than expected — and the jobless rate unexpectedly dropped by two-tenths of a point, to 7.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

Todd Wiseman & Mikhail Popov, Texas Tribune

Texas sales tax receipts are up 3.7 percent from a year ago. Here in Austin, sales taxes were up more than 13 percent from February 2012.

Economist Angelos Angelou says that points to the rapid growth of the Austin area, which he says is adding nearly 65,000 people a year.

“The economy is overperforming both the Texas and the national economies, so we’re doing well and we will continue, I think, to prosper,” Angelou said.

There were 198,000 jobs added to private employers' payrolls in February, according to the latest ADP National Employment Report — a privately produced snapshot of the employment picture that's sometimes a signal of what the Bureau of Labor Statistics will say when it releases its data from the same month.

Update at 4:09 p.m. ET. A New Record:

The Dow Industrials finished in record territory today. Gaining 89 points, it closed at 14,253.77, its highest level since Oct. 9,2007.

That is, the Dow has recovered all the losses it suffered during the Great Recession.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

Update: You can now read the full letter HUD sent to its grantees around the country, including Austin. 

Original Post (12:05 p.m.): Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell says the federal spending cuts known as the sequester will have an effect on affordable housing in the city.

Mayor Leffingwell says he was notified of the cuts by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

KUT News

Good morning. The National Weather Service says a Red Flag Warning in effect until 8 p.m. today. The windy, dry conditions mean a high risk of fire in Central Texas. The Travis County Fire Marshal is asking everyone to be careful and to avoid doing things like mowing, welding and outdoor cooking.

Lead Story: The nation is three days into those across-the-board federal budget cuts called the sequester.  And the Secretary of Homeland Security says some of the nation’s bigger airports are already seeing security-line waits up 150 to 200 percent because of immediate cuts to overtime pay.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the across-the-board spending cuts that went into effect on Friday are already causing headaches at the nation's airports.

"Now that we are having to reduce or eliminate basically overtime both for TSA and for customs, now that we have instituted a hiring freeze... we will begin today sending out furlough notices," Napolitano said, according to Politico.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Good morning. Central Texas is under a hazardous weather outlook due to warm temperatures and dry, gusty winds, per the National Weather Service. The winds will continue tomorrow, but in the form of a cold front – meaning today’s unseasonable highs in the mid-80s will drop into the 60s Tuesday.

Lead Story: As the City of Austin initiates the process of drawing single-member city council districts, City Auditor Kenneth Mory is hosting a public drawing today to select the city’s first Applicant Review Panel.

If Congress isn’t able to avoid the automatic $2.4 trillion budget cuts of sequestration, then border protection and legitimate border traffic could suffer.

"Certainly, without question. If on March 1 -- if sequestration does happen -- the Border Patrol will have reduced capability," said Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher testifying at a congressional hearing on border security on Tuesday.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Good morning! After yesterday’s high winds – which had gusts above 50 miles an hour and lead to widespread power outages – today looks considerably calmer. The National Weather Service says Austin’s in for a sunny and mild day with a high in the mid 60s.

Lead Story: Big items were on the agenda at last night’s Austin school board meeting, including a multi-million-dollar bond proposal and the question of what to do with a struggling Austin high school.

flickr.com/tabor-roeder

We’re just one week away from across-the-board budget cuts known as “sequestration” and State Representative Mark Strama (D-Austin) is warning of the impact it could have on Texas.

“If we have to suffer the cuts of sequestration on top of the cuts we just made last biennium, it would be really harmful to the state economy,” he said after a Friday press conference at the Capitol.

The New York Times points out something rather interesting about an otherwise mundane business story. Wal-Mart's fourth-quarter earnings report tells the tale of how changes in the tax code has both helped corporations and hurt them.

As the Times puts it, during the fourth quarter of last year, "the tax code gave and the tax code took away."

The paper explains:

National Weather Service

Lead Story: A Red Flag Warning is in effect for Travis County late this morning through this afternoon, due to strong winds. Outdoor burning is strongly discouraged.

The warning is due to the critical fire weather conditions expected today: a pacific cold front bringing breezy winds and dry air to Central Texas. The warning will be in effect from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. You can find more information via the National Weather Service.

Texas Push for European Trade Deal:  Texas stands to benefit from a potential free trade deal between the U.S. and the European Union. That’s according to a study by Waco economist Ray Perryman.

Standing in front of first responders who he says could lose their jobs, President Obama pushed Tuesday for Congress to act now to avoid $85 billion in "automatic, severe budget cuts" set to kick in starting on March 1.

The cuts due because of the so-called sequestration "are not smart, they are not fair [and] they will hurt our economy," the president said.

flickr.com/emagic

Texas classrooms could be hit hard by federal sequestration cuts – automatic, across-the-board cuts to federal programs that will go into effect on March 1 if Congress doesn’t pass a deficit reduction bill.

In Texas, the largest cuts would happen to public education, with $517 million dollars automatically cut according to the Texas Education Agency.

Tracy Olson/Flickr flickr.com/tracy_olson/

A fresh reading of the Austin economy suggests people are spending more money than they were a year ago. 

The state comptroller says sales tax receipts grew by 6.5 percent in January from the same month a year earlier. That was slightly more than the statewide growth of 6.1 percent.

(We updated the top of this post at 1:30 p.m. ET.)

Looking to head off deep, automatic spending cuts set to kick in on March 1, President Obama on Tuesday afternoon said that to avoid the negative economic effects that come with "political disfunction," Congress should move quickly to pass "a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms" that won't hurt the economy.

What's today's big jobs report say?

The U.S. economy lost 2.8 million jobs jobs in January.

What?!

Don't panic. The U.S. economy loses millions of jobs every January, in good times and bad, largely because tons of seasonal holiday jobs always wind down after Christmas.

So if you set aside the normal, seasonal stuff, how is the job market doing?

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