Economy

KUT News

Governor Perry announced his intention Tuesday to launch a Skilled Workforce Initiative in Texas to address demand for certified, highly-skilled workers in the manufacturing sector.

The initiative would reduce the time it takes for students to earn vocational certification in certain high-demand fields, such as manufacturing and industrial business. Under the initiative, certification programs will award credit to students who enter the program already possessing some experience and skills necessary for certification.  Backers hope the program will allow students to get certified and begin filling jobs more quickly, while also saving them time and money by allowing them to bypass lessons on subjects they’ve already mastered.

There was a "moderate increase" in American consumers' confidence this month, the private Conference Board just reported.

Its widely watched consumer confidence index rose to 73.7 from 73.1 in October. The index is the highest it has been since February 2008, when the economy had just fallen into recession and was headed down.

A handful of congressional Republicans after finishing their Thanksgiving dinners decided to give anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist the brushoff, saying they wouldn't abide by his "no new taxes" pledge as they work on a budget deal.

Breathless coverage ensued.

"Move over, Grover?" read one headline.

KUT News

Canned food drives are common around the holiday season. But food banks across Texas have placed a few other things a little higher on their wish lists this year.

The Texas Food Bank Network (TFBN) is made up of the state’s 20 food banks. The network says if you’re looking to help this holiday season, a financial gift will go further than an in-kind gift. That’s because food banks can work with corporations and farmers to get more for the money.

"We work with farmers to get them to donate their surplus product. And we can do that by giving them as little as ten cents per pound to help them offset the costs of getting that surplus produce out of the ground and to food banks. We have lots of corporate partnerships with big food retailers. And so we can really turn that dollar or ten dollar contribution into so much more because of the relationships that we have," Celia Cole, TFBN CEO, says.

Horrific is a word that quickly comes to mind about the news from Bangladesh concerning a fire Saturday in a garment factory where clothes were made for retailers around the world, including some in the U.S.

Here's how The Associated Press starts its latest report:

Gray Thursday may become the new Black Friday. Many big retailers have moved up the beginning of their shopping season, traditionally the Friday after Thanksgiving, to Thursday evening.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are feeling pressure from online retailers, which have given consumers an earlier shopping option.

"In the past, online retailers have had Thanksgiving Day all to themselves," says Marshal Cohen, retail analyst with the NPD Group. "And what that means is by the time Black Friday comes around, a lot of consumers have already spent a bunch of money."

Eight days after his re-election — with the fiscal cliff looming, questions being raised about the deadly attack on the U.S.

The post-election negotiations over taxes, the economy and the so-called fiscal cliff moved into a new phase this afternoon when President Obama stepped up to a microphone at the White House to lay out his latest thoughts about what needs to be done.

In many ways, this words were echoes from the hard-fought campaign.

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There used to be a stigma attached to living at home into one’s twenties and thirties – but not so much these days.

Blame it on rising housing prices, or dwindling employment opportunities for grads – but nowadays, young adults between the ages of 25 to 34 are feeling more comfortable about moving back in with their parents.

According to a recent Pew Research Center report on the so-called “boomerang generation,” three out of 10 young adults have moved back home in recent years, thanks to a weak economy. 

The good news concerning multi-generational households is that it looks like all parties are benefiting from the trend. Of the 2,048 adults surveyed nationwide, 48 percent have reported paying rent to their parents and 89 percent say they help with household expenses, like utilities.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

Update: Oct. 25, 2012 at 9 a.m.:

After airing this story on Monday, listeners have been wondering what happened to the Yount family.  The first thing was that a listener drove by the parking lot where they were and gave them a cell phone.  Others have called asking for ways in which they can help.  KUT now has a way to get in touch with the Younts.  If you have any interest in helping them, you can contact KUT.

Original Story posted on KUT.org Oct. 23, 2012 at 5:30 a.m.:

The city of Miami claims to have taken almost half of its homeless population off the streets in the last 10 years. In Austin, where homeless services are stretched to the limit, the City Council is looking for new solutions. Last night, council members met with officials from Miami. The challenges of one local homeless family that is struggling on the streets show how complex the problem can be.

Teresa Vieira for KUT News

Midsize companies — firms with annual revenues of $10 million to $1 billion dollars — are now adding jobs at almost double the national average.

Middle market companies account for just 0.5% of all Texas businesses. But they employ 30% of the state’s workforce. Anil Makhija teaches finance at Ohio State University. He says midsized businesses are more reliable job creators than small ones.

“If you think about small firms, they do deserve our attention, because they are frequently the centers of innovation. But they have a very high failure rate.”

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The unemployment rate in Texas saw its biggest one-month drop in nearly two decades in September.

Statewide, the jobless rate fell from 7.1 percent in August to 6.8 percent in September. That was the result of an additional 21,000 jobs.

Here in Austin, the unemployment rate fell from 5.9 percent to 5.3 percent. That rate doesn’t account for seasonal changes in employment. Still, Texas Workforce Commission spokesperson Lisa Givens says the Austin area added 3,000 jobs last month, largely in fields including education, health services and government jobs.

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State lawmakers met Wednesday to discuss the Texas drought and how extremely low Central Texas lake levels are hurting the economy. 

The Texas House Committee on Culture, Recreation, & Tourism heard testimony from Travis County Commissioner Karen Huber and the Central Texas Water Coalition. Both Commissioner Huber and the Coalition are seeking assistance from the state for the populations living and working around the lakes. They told lawmakers that funding and assistance is needed to support the impacted communities.

Huber recounted stories she's heard from several Lake Travis business owners:

"One gas station owner says he has shut 3 of his 4 gas stations. Another business owner who owns several business on the lake says he is raiding his kids' college funds for two years. My partners and I have cashed in every IRA we have tucked away. And we are running out of options."

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Computer chipmaker AMD announced this afternoon that it’s laying off 15 percent of its workforce. 

AMD is based in Silicon Valley, but employs about 25,000 people at its southwest Austin campus. The company says poor earnings and falling sales have forced cost-cutting measures.  

Analysts say AMD has suffered from an overall slowdown in computer sales as consumers have switched to tablets and smartphones—the same trend that has hurt Austin-based Dell.  Hans Mosesmann is an investment analyst specializing in semiconductors. He says that while AMD is slimming down today to be smaller and more flexible, the company may soon be hiring again.

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The UT College of Liberal Arts is co-hosting an open house today that may place thousands of Saudi Arabian students in Texas community colleges.

The open house is organized by The Global Initiative for Education and Leadership and hosted by the Saudi Arabia Cultural Missions (SACM), The US-Alhabra Chamber of Commerce and the College of Liberal Arts.

At the event SACM officials will present their intention to place 8,000 Saudi Arabian students in two-year community colleges. The students are fully funded and sponsored by the Saudi Arabian government, which will includes their tuition, books, medical and housing needs as well as $2,000 to $4,000 a month stipends. 

UT says its main goal is to foster relationships and knowledge between our countries. "Education is one of the ways in which we can begin to build collective futures across these boundaries," says Richard Flores, senior associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts. "Where students begin to know each other, recognize the differences but begin to see the similarities, and begin to build those relationships."

Saying that the global economic recovery "has suffered new setbacks, and uncertainty weighs heavily on the outlook," the International Monetary Fund today warned that the probability of "recession in advanced economies and a serious slowdown in emerging market and developing economies" next year have gone up.

The fund said its research indicates the risk of those things occurring in 2013 "has risen to about 17 percent, up from about 4 percent in April 2012."

The news that the nation's jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent in September from 8.1 percent in August immediately led some of President Obama's critics to charge the the books had been cooked to help his reelection campaign.

With the first presidential debate now behind us, what's the next big item on the campaign calendar?

It's Friday's 8:30 a.m. ET release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics about the September unemployment rate and how many jobs were added to payrolls last month.

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The Second Annual SXSW Eco Conference and Festival kicks off today and is aptly named Evolving the Environmental Conversation.

The three day conference will bring in experts from all over the globe who are working to find sustainable environmental solutions. Attendees will get top-level presentations and discussions with professionals in the public, private and academic sectors. SXSW Eco hopes that the participants will gain access to information that will allow them to both collaborate and advance solutions for the challenges facing the environment, economy and society. 

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The Austin area experienced the greatest jobs gain in Texas last month, as unemployment dropped half a percentage point.  

In August, the Austin area added 5,900 jobs, according to the Workforce Solutions Capital Area Workforce Board.  This brings the Austin unemployment rate down from 6.4 percent in July to 5.9 percent in August. This is third time this year that the unemployment rate has dropped below six percent. Prior to April 2012, Austin had not seen an unemployment rate below six percent since 2009.

Tiffany Daniels, of Workforce Solutions Capital Area explains where Austin saw its biggest gains:

In professional and business services, we saw gains of 2,300 hires in August.  That is one of our strongest segments [in Austin], and again, expect to see continued growth in those areas. Local government, retail trade and financial activities also saw significant increases of 1300 and 900, respectively.

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