Economy

Texas
12:39 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Most Texans Plan to Take a Vacation this Summer

Flickr.com/exlibris

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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Austin
12:23 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Austin Unemployment Rate Lowest in Three Years

The latest numbers show fewer people are searching for jobs across Texas and here in Austin.
Photo courtesy Ben Thompson via Flickr

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.

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Business
1:04 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

Chamber of Commerce Aims to Lure Tech Talent to Austin

The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce hopes this new website will attract new talent.

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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Education
1:23 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

What’s the Value of Finishing High School? For Austin, It’s in the Millions

A report says communities can benefit greatly from increased high school graduation.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/nodivision

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.

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Education
8:56 am
Thu May 10, 2012

College Grads Struggle To Gain Financial Footing

Graduates of the University of Alabama's class of 2011. The economic downturn has hit recent college grads hard. New data show only half of those who graduated from 2006 to 2011 are working full time.
Butch Dill AP

Originally published on Thu May 10, 2012 3:48 am

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

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Austin
2:55 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

The Top 10 Austin Top 10 Lists, Part Two

Austin: The fastest growing, worst driving city for smutty, retired hipsters.
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.”

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Economy
1:37 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Austin Area Unemployment Rate Down to Six Percent

While the Austin-Round Rock area added jobs in March, construction jobs went down.
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.

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Economy
12:43 pm
Tue April 17, 2012

Food Stamps Helped Many Families Weather The Recession

Food stamps kept the carts rolling during the recession.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 10:26 am

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.

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Austin
12:54 pm
Thu April 12, 2012

Percentage of Low-Income Austin Residents Up

The Community Dashboard report aims to measure the social, heath, education and economic well-being of the area.
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.

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Texas
3:51 pm
Fri March 30, 2012

Lone Star State Of Mind: Could Texas Go It Alone?

Lone Star Nation: Today, the Texas capitol flies both the American and Texas flags, but after independence the Lone Star flag would fly on its own.
Steve Dunwell Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 30, 2012 1:46 pm

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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Business
3:21 pm
Mon March 26, 2012

What’s an EB-5 Regional Center? And More Importantly, How Can it Bring Jobs to Austin?

Mayor Lee Leffingwell and several others called for creation of an international investment agreement for Austin.
Photo courtesy facebook.com/pages/Lee-Leffingwell

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.” 

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Texas
11:03 am
Thu March 15, 2012

State Spends Big to Pay Workers for Unused Vacation

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
2:02 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

Manufacturing Rising in Texas, Says Dallas Fed

This five-year chart in the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey shows continued rising production.
Image courtesy dallasfed.org

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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Politics
12:18 pm
Tue February 28, 2012

With ‘Occupy’ Inspired Item, City May Shift Banking to Credit Unions, Local Banks

Occupy Austin marches on Chase Bank in a demonstration from last year.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/carolinehomerphotography

The City of Austin’s banking practices may soon get a thorough scrubbing with a resolution inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement.

An item before the Austin City Council this Thursday would examine the city’s banking practices, assess the impact of dissolving arrangements with large financial institutions and examine contracting with local credit unions and banks instead.

It would also direct the City Manager “to review the city’s current banking policies and make recommendations on changes to give preference to banks that support community reinvestment goals, such as the stabilization of the housing market, provision of loans to local homeowners and businesses, establishment of local branches in low-income communities, and opportunities for local employment.”

The item is sponsored by council member Laura Morrison. She tells KUT News a large part of the resolution is simply fact-finding.

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economy
5:09 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

With Thin Apartment Vacancy, Home Buying Jumps in January

January home sales showed a 10 percent spike over sales the same time last year, says the Austin Board of Realtors.
Photo by KUT News

Austin saw a surge in single-family home sales last month, according to the Austin Board of Realtors.

In a new report, the board says home sales were up ten percent last month over January 2011. While comparing two months worth of data has limitations, the finding speaks more broadly to Austin housing demand.

Eldon Rude, director of the Austin market for real estate tracking firm Metrostudy, says the January numbers are part of an ongoing recovery of Austin’s housing market.

Rude says the numbers are “driven by continued increases in population and household in the region over the last several years, and people beginning to react to increasing rents in the apartment market, and so they’re moving toward the for sale housing market.”

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Opinion
3:44 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

The Nation: The Romantic-Industrial Complex

Syrian demonstrators hold up a balloon for Valentine's Day in front of a portrait of President Assad, during a rally to show their support for their leader Damascus on Feb. 14, 2012. In the U.S., some fear that Valentine's Day has become serious business.
Louai Beshara AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 14, 2012 8:35 am

Samhita Mukhopadhyay is the Executive Editor of Feministing.com and the author of Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life.

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austin
9:02 am
Mon February 13, 2012

Top Morning Stories 2/13/12: Districts React to STAAR, Texas on Top in Exporting

At their headquarters on West Sixth tonight, AISD will consider the role the STAASR test should play in determining students' grades.
KUT News

STAAR-Crossed Educators Take Second Look at Test

Districts from across Texas are finding ways to curtail a component of the STAAR exam that makes the test  count towards students' grade-point averages and class rank, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The move comes in the wake of a growing unease with the role of standardized testing.

While the exam is required by law to compose 15 percent of a student's grade in each course, no specific guideline for doing so exists. With that leeway, individual districts are taking the reins into their own hands. Georgetown and Pflugerville, for example, have set minimum scores on end-of-course exams at 60 and 69, respectively.

In Austin, AISD has polled parents on several potential courses of action. Currently, all of the proposed options would affect class rank.  But now with the actions of surrounding districts, AISD is poised to change how they'll incorporate the scores.

The Austin school board will meet today to discuss end-of-course exams. The meeting is at 6:30 p.m., Carruth Administration Center Board Auditorium, Room B100, 1111 W. Sixth St.

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Austin
10:46 am
Fri February 10, 2012

KUT News Roundup: Rolling Blackouts for Texas, Drought Examples to Follow, a Mortgage Cash Payout

A big week for news around the city and the state. If you've missed anything, we've compiled this online report.
Photo by KUT News

It's Friday, so here’s an end-of-the-week look at what we’ve been following: News from KUT.org, our reporting partner StateImpact Texas, and our friends at the Texas Tribune:

AISD Teachers Weigh Options with In-District Charter (KUT News):

"A charter school operator from South Texas is moving into East Austin’s Allan Elementary School next school year. It’s the first step in a multiyear strategy that Austin ISD hopes will reverse years of academic setbacks. But for some teachers, it’s a cue to leave their campus.

“I do not want to be a part of what they’re bringing to our community, and it’s still not what I think is best for kids,” Allan Elementary bilingual education teacher Constanza Serna said.

Austin ISD’s first ever in-district charter school program starts next year and will be run by IDEA Public Schools from South Texas. Alejandro Delgado – a graduate of Bowie High in Austin – will be the first vice principal of the renamed IDEA Allan campus.

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Austin
8:48 am
Thu February 9, 2012

Top Morning Stories 2/9/12: UT in Talks With Players, City Eyes 'Bundlers,' Austin Economy Growing

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UT Board of Regents Negotiate Sale of Players Restaurant

As reported by The Daily Texan, UT’s Board of Regents affirmed their desire to purchase Players Restaurant from owners Carlos Oliveria and Edward A. Hempe. The news came at a Regents meeting in San Antonio on Wednesday.

The university does not have definite plans for the land but is considering adding a building to house the Red McCombs MBA program.  

University spokesman Gary Susswein would not comment on specifics of the sale because a discussion would undercut negotiations.

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Texas
4:49 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

Texas Comptroller's Report Assesses Drought's Impact

A report from Texas Comptroller Susan Combs says economic effects of the drought could reach into billions of dollars.
Image by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

A 12-page report released Wednesday by the Texas comptroller's office offers a wide-ranging look at the effects of the record drought that is still gripping Texas.

The report, "The Impact of the 2011 Drought and Beyond," contains few new figures for drought losses but offers graphics that depict the breadth of the problem, which hurt crops, threatens electricity production and forced 55 communities to ban outdoor watering.

"Texas is prone to cycles of drought which makes it important for residents, businesses, and state and local governments to manage water use," Comptroller Susan Combs said in a prepared statement. "Every Texan has a stake in water issues the state faces.”

Despite recent rains, 95 percent of the state remains in drought.

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