Economy

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That’s a lot of Chimichangas: The parent company of Austin restaurant chain Chuy’s made its initial stock offering Monday, raising $75.8 million.

Chuy's Holdings Inc. will begin trading shares today on the NASDAQ exchange, under the trading symbol CHUY. It makes Chuy’s Austin's newest publicly-traded company.

The Austin-American Statesman reports that the company originally filed for an initial public offering in August of last year, amid a market downturn when few companies were making IPOs. But the market has since strengthened, and the IPO window has reopened. 

Almost two billion dollars in Texas sales taxes were collected in June – some 15 percent more than the state collected in June last year.

Austin's share of sales taxes comes to about $12.5 million in revenue, which is up more than 10 percent from the same time last year.

"Sales tax revenue has increased for 27 consecutive months in Texas,” Comptroller Susan Combs says in a statement. “Strong business spending in industries such as manufacturing and oil and natural gas boosted the latest sales tax collections. Revenue from consumer spending in the retail trade and restaurant sectors also did well."

Losing your job is rarely good. Not being able to find one for months can be disastrous for individuals, and bad for society as well. Yet during the recent recession and the current anemic recovery, more people in the U.S. have been unemployed for longer than at any time since 1948.

Of all Americans who were unemployed in June, almost half had been without a job for 27 weeks or longer. In other words, 5.4 million people have been jobless for more than half a year.

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Home prices have again increased in the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos area.

Prices rose 5.7 percent since last May, and 2.3 percent since last month, according to a home prices index released by a real estate data company.

Amand Nallathambi is the president of CoreLogic, the company that released the report.  "The recent upward trend in U.S. home prices is an encouraging signal that we may be seeing a bottoming of the housing down cycle," he says in a press release. "Tighter inventory is contributing to broad, but modest, price gains nationwide and more significant gains in the harder-hit markets, like Phoenix."

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The Central Texas housing market continues to be a strong one, according to numbers released today by the Austin Board of Realtors.

May 2012 was the 12th straight month of sales increases. It’s also the fourth consecutive month of price increases.

“That has to do with our shrinking inventory,” says Board of Realtors chairman Leonard Guerrero, crediting the shrink to “the jobs that have been created in our state and in our local area, Austin, in particular. And the number of people that are coming into the state to fill those positions.”

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New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show the effects of a down economy: median household net worth declined by 35 percent between 2005 and 2010. That’s a loss of over $36,000, falling from $102,844 to $66,740.

”The overall decline in net worth reflects drops in housing values and stock market indices,” Census Bureau economist Alfred Gottschalck says in a statement.

While the households of people over 65 lost more money over the period, people under 35 lost a much greater percentage of net worth. Similarly, while groups at all levels of education also experienced declines, education provided a degree of economic insulation.

Austin’s unemployment rate went up last month.

It hit a three-year low in April of 5.5 percent, but grew last month to 5.8 percent.

According to the Workforce Solutions Capital Area Workforce Board, that increase is the largest the Austin area has seen since June 2011 (6.7 percent in May 2011 to 7.6 percent in June 2011). 

“Going up three tenths of a percent – it’s never positive to go up, we’d love to see the continued decreases that we’ve seen over the last few years – but we still created 2,000 jobs in the month of May. So while it may not be the number that we’re hoping for, it’s definitely positive and we continue to encourage employers to look at new job opportunities locally,” said Tiffany Daniels, Communication Coordinator for Workforce Solutions Capital Area Workforce Board.

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More Texans are planning to go on vacation this summer.

A new AAA Texas survey found 75 percent of Texans plan to take at least one summer trip. That’s up from 72 percent last year.

Lower gas prices may have something to do with the increase. In Austin, a gallon of unleaded is about 20 cents cheaper now than a year ago.

Around half of those who are traveling say gas prices are not significantly affecting their plans. The survey found those Texans who are going on vacation are finding ways to adjust their trip budgets for gas prices.

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The April unemployment rate in the Austin metro is the lowest it’s been in three years. It dropped half a point—from 6 percent in March to 5.5 percent in April. Last year at this time, Austin unemployment was at 6.3 percent.

"The Austin metropolitan area's unemployment rate has decreased in eight of the last nine months," said Texas Workforce Commission spokesperson Mark Lavergne.

The Texas Workforce Commission says Austin saw growth in nine of 10 major industries in April. 6,300 jobs were added in the Austin area last month —many in construction and in the Professional and Business Services sector.

Today the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce announced the launch of a new website designed to help fill Austin’s so-called “technology gap.”

The chamber says that Austin tech companies are having trouble finding qualified local candidates for mid-to-senior level positions. Last month the chamber found that 28 percent of posted job openings in the area were tech-related.

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A high school diploma is touted as the bare minimum students need to achieve. And now a new study pegs the financial value of high school graduation to the Austin region’s economy.

The Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington DC-based non-profit  focused on improving national graduation rates, has released a study detailing the effects on Austin’s regional economy if the amount of high school dropouts was cut in half – with benefits reaching into the millions.

It’s estimated that in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), some 6,100 students dropped out of the class of 2010. Home to 45 schools, the Alliance says the region is one of the lowest performing in the nation, with 28 percent of high school students failing to graduate on time and with a regular diploma.

Most of the estimated 1.5 million people graduating from a four-year college this spring will soon be looking for a job.

If the experiences of other recent college grads are any guide, many will be disappointed.

A new Rutgers University survey of those who graduated from college between 2006 and 2011 finds that just half of those grads are working full time.

Settling For Part Time

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

It being election season in Austin, you’ve likely heard some candidate singing the city’s praises – or blasting Austin’s inclusion on various Top 10 lists as a sign of increasing cost.

KUT News likes to compile the city’s latest Top 10 accolades – but take it one step further, into a Top 10 list of our own. You can see our previous Top 10 list here.  

As we wrote then, to get a gauge of just how many Austin-happy rankings are floating around, we look for “best cities” rankings including Austin over the last few months. And from that, we compiled this meta-master list, a Top 10 of the city’s most recent Top 10 rankings ranging from the apparent, to the arbitrary, to the really, really arbitrary. So without further ado:

1. You grow up so fast!: No surprise here, but Austin’s growing, and growing fast. Forbes ranks Austin Number One in its April 18 study of “America’s Fastest Growing Cities.”

Photo by KUT News

The unemployment rate is down again in the Austin area.

According to Workforce Solutions, the unemployment rate for March dropped to six percent — that’s just a tenth of a percent lower than in February but remains well below the state and national averages.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area Executive Director Alan Miller says things are moving in the right direction at a slow and steady pace.

Food stamps have long been a favorite whipping boy of politicians looking to beat up on government spending. But the massive food-assistance program does help keep people out of poverty, according to new research.

Food stamp benefits led to a decline of 4.4 percent in poverty from 2000 to 2009, according to a new report from the USDA's Economic Research Service.

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The percentage of low-income residents in Austin is going up. That’s according to the Community Action Network’s third annual Community Dashboard report, released this morning.

It's a popular idea in Texas that the Lone Star State — once an independent republic — could break away and go it alone. A few years ago, Texas Gov. Rick Perry hinted that if Washington didn't stop meddling in his state, independence might be an option. In his brief run for the White House, he insisted that nearly anything the feds do, the states — and Texas in particular — could do better.

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Mayor Lee Leffingwell proposed this morning that Austin apply for a program that would encourage international investment in local green jobs, by designating Austin as an EB-5 Regional Center.

But what on earth is an EB-5 Regional Center?

A designation of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), EB-5 Regional Centers allow cities to receive immigrant investor capitol – either $500,000 or $1 million. Investors must also present evidence the investment “will create at least 10 full-time positions.” In exchange, the investor and the investor’s family “is granted conditional permanent residence” – more commonly known as a green card – “for a two-year period.” 

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Texas government agencies have paid fired or resigning state employees more than $500 million in unused vacation time over the last decade. It’s a staggering sum that fiscal conservative critics call “ridiculous,” especially in tough budget times.

But state workers say what’s ridiculous is that so many jobs have been cut — and that agencies are so understaffed that employees can’t take vacations.

In each of the last 10 years, state officials paid out an average $50 million in accrued vacation time, according to data from the Texas comptroller’s office. That number crept up to $68 million in 2004 and $67 million last year — both on the heels of a budget shortfall and related layoffs.

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Texas manufacturing ticked up last month, according to a report from the Dallas Federal Reserve (DFR).

The Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey is conducted by the DFR monthly. It only complies results from 85 Texas manufacturers, so it’s more of a snapshot that a comprehensive assessment. Still, the findings reflect improving conditions among those surveyed.

The DFR points to several signs of manufacturing improvement: The state production index, the DFR’s gauge of manufacturing conditions, rose by over five points, from 5.8 to 11.2. New orders, shipments, and capacity utilization all posted gains for the month.

Employment measures – both new hires and hours worked by current employees – also saw growth.

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