21 April 2014


Original Story:  USAToday.com

The U.S. population rose by just 0.72% in 2013, the lowest growth rate in more than 70 years. Not only has the country become less-attractive to immigrants than in years past, with net immigration down from nearly 1.2 million as of 2001 to 843,145 last year, but also the U.S.'s domestic birth rate has dropped to a multi-decade low.

While the population of most of the country's metro areas grew at a low pace in recent years, in a small number of metro areas the population actually shrank. Looking at the most recent years, the U.S. population rose by just 2.4% between April 2010 and July 2013, but in 30 metro areas the population shrank by at least 1%. The population in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, fell a nation-leading 4.4% in that time. Based on recently released U.S. Census Bureau estimates, 24/7 Wall St. examined the cities with shrinking populations.

Most of the metro areas with the largest declines in populations have been shrinking for decades.The total population of Cambria County, Pennsylvania — which makes up the Johnstown metro area — has fallen 34% between 1940 and 2013. Allegany County, Maryland — the central county of the Cumberland, Maryland metro area — peaked in population during the 1950 Census. The county's population has since fallen by 18%, according to the Census Bureau's 2013 population estimates.

In many of these areas, long-term drops in manufacturing jobs are tied to specific industries. The Youngstown, Ohio; Weirton, West Virginia; and Johnstown, Pennsylvania metro areas were all once home to major employers in the steel industry. Each of these areas lost many of the jobs these businesses once supported. Similarly, automotive factory closures have hurt the Saginaw, Michigan and Mansfield, Ohio metro areas.

Kenneth M. Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, told 24/7 Wall St. that industry declines and job losses can lead to population declines. "It's entirely plausible that the loss of jobs in a specific industry sector could be be the driving force in that kind of decline," he said.

Of course, manufacturing jobs have declined nearly 30% in the U.S. between 2001 and 2013. However, in eight of the areas with shrinking populations, the number of jobs in the manufacturing sector fell by more than the nationwide decline, according to figures produced by Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. (EMSI). Flint, Michigan, lost the most jobs in the sector as manufacturing employment declined 57% from 2001 to 2013.

In general, these areas suffered from weak job markets overall. In Pine Bluff, the metro area with the single greatest loss of residents, the unemployment rate at the end of last year was more than 10%, among the highest in the country. Similarly, Flint, Saginaw, and Carson City, Nevada, all had unemployment rates of at least 9% in December 2013, well above the national rate of 6.7%

According to Johnson, young people leaving the area in order to look for work have driven the population decline for many industrial metro areas in the Midwest. "As a result, you would lose not only the young adults themselves but, over time, the children they would have produced."

The loss in younger residents has also lead to a higher median age in these areas. "You would have a higher death-to-birth ratio because there aren't as many births, but also because an aging population has higher mortality risk," said Johnson. In 2012, six of the metro areas with the largest declines had populations with a median age of at least 40 years, older than the national median age of 37.4. A typical Johnstown resident was 44 years old.

While most of these areas had long-term, steady declines in population, the decline in Carson City and Farmington was more recent. Since 1940, San Juan County, New Mexico, the central county in Farmington, and Carson City, Nevada have grown 639% and 1,585%, respectively.

"I think its important to make a distinction between these shorter-term population trends in the 2010 to 2013 period and these longer-term trends that have hurt these older, industrial areas in the Midwest," noted Johnson.

Based on recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates, 24/7 Wall St. examined changes in population for 381 metropolitan statistical areas from April 2010 through July 2013. We also considered figures from the Census Bureau's 2012 American Community Survey. We reviewed population figures from each decennial Census since 1940, using each area's largest county as a proxy for the metro area. Data on incomes and price levels, current as of 2012 and 2011, respectively, are from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Figures on home price changes are from the Federal Housing Finance Agency's (FHFA) House Price Index and are current as of the end of 2013. Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for December of each year from 2010 to 2013 are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Estimates for gross metropolitan product are from IHS Global Insight. EMSI data on changes in total jobs, as well as manufacturing and construction jobs, between 2001 and 2013 were also considered.

These are America's shrinking cities.

1. Pine Bluff, Ark.

> Net population change, 2010 to 2013: -4.43%

> Population change from peak (1980): -19.3%

> Unemployment: 10.2% (21st highest)

> GMP change, 2013: -1.7% (17th lowest)

Pine Bluff's population fell by more than 4.4% between 2010 and 2013, or by more than 1,000 people per year in each of the last three years.Most of this decline can be attributed to outward migration. Nearly 5,000 people left the area in that time, as Pine Bluff's population fell from just over 100,000 to less than 96,000. County officials remain unsure about what has caused the drop in population, although high crime rates are believed to be one possibility. Another contributing factor may be the lack of good area jobs — Pine Bluff's unemployment rate topped 10% at the end of last year, among the highest rates of any metro area. Despite substantial recent gains, per capita personal income in Pine Bluff was just $32,776 in 2012, among the lower incomes in the country and well below the per capita national income of $45,188. The area's economy has also been struggling, shrinking 1.7% last year, among the largest declines in the country.

2. Farmington, N.M.

> Net population change, 2010 to 2013: -2.72%

> Population change from peak (2010): -2.8%

> Unemployment: 6.4% (163rd lowest)

> GMP change, 2013: -1.4% (18th lowest)

While most metro areas with declining populations have been shrinking for a while, Farmington's population was actually growing until recently. Nearly 7,000 more people moved out of Farmington than moved in between 2010 and 2013, among the highest outward migrations in the nation over that period. While the area's 6.4% unemployment rate at the end of 2013 was below the U.S. unemployment rate, the area's per capita personal income was $33,092 in 2012, among the lowest in the country. The area's economy has also contracted for two consecutive years, shrinking 2.2% in 2012 and 1.4% in 2013 — both among the largest drops in the nation. However, the area is experiencing a spike in oil investment. This could provide a boost to the Farmington economy and lure people to the area.

3. Flint, Mich.

> Net population change, 2010 to 2013: -2.45%

> Population change from peak (1980): -7.8%

> Unemployment: 9.8% (25th highest)

> GMP change, 2013: +1.4% (135th highest)

Flint — known for its manufacturing industry — is still feeling the effects of General Motor's 2009 bankruptcy. While the company was rescued by the government, numerous, less profitable GM facilities were still liquidated, many of which were located in Flint. Nearly 10% of the workforce was unemployed as of December 2013, among the worst rates in the nation. The poor work climate may be contributing to the city's exodus. Flint's population was 415,376 last year, down 2.45% from April 2010, most of which can be explained by migration. Much of this decline occurred between mid 2011 and mid 2012, when the city's population dropped by nearly 4,000, the largest nominal decline nationwide over that time.

4. Johnstown, Penn.

> Net population change, 2010 to 2013: -2.21%

> Population change from peak (1940): -34.2%

> Unemployment: 8.1% (tied-75th highest)

> GMP change, 2013: -1.1% (29th lowest)

A falling population is hardly a new trend in the Johnstown area, which consists of Pennsylvania's Cambria County. Since 1940, when the county's population topped 213,000 people, the number of residents in Cambria County has dropped in every decade. Johnstown's population fell from 143,677 in 2010 to less than 140,500 last year. A portion of this was attributable to migration, as net 1,600 residents moved out of the area during that time. As of 2012, Johnstown's population was among the nation's oldest, with a median age of 44.1, while more than 19% of the population were senior citizens, among the highest in the U.S. The area was once a major steel maker, and before that it was a major source of coal. Bethlehem Steel alone accounted for more than 11,000 jobs in the area during the 1970s, according to the Johnstown Area Heritage Association. The Fortune 500 company, which no longer exists, permanently closed its Johnstown plant in 1992.

5. Mansfield, Ohio

> Net population change, 2010 to 2013: -2.17%

> Population change from peak (1980): -7.2%

> Unemployment: 8.1% (tied-75th highest)

> GMP change, 2013: -0.4% (tied-57th lowest)

Mansfield was hit hard by the bankruptcy of General Motors in 2009 when GM closed its plant in the area. The plant was the area's biggest employer at the time with more than 400 workers. Nearly 3,000 more people moved out of the area than people moved in between 2010 and 2013, one of the largest outward migrations in the country over that time frame. The area's unemployment rate was 8.1% in December 2013, higher than the U.S. unemployment rate of 6.7%. Mansfield's economy shrank by 0.4% in 2013, even as national output grew by 1.9%. The area's poor economy and the city's inability to generate sufficient funds from taxes, led the Mansfield city school district to declare a state of fiscal emergency in December.


Original Story: USAToday.com

PALMDALE, Calif. (AP) — Boeing will pay $47 million to hundreds of current and former Southern California employees who are owed back pay and benefits, a union announced Friday. A Binghamton Employment Lawyer was involved with the case.

An arbitrator ruled against the aerospace giant in January and laid down guidelines for the payments and interest, but it took months to cull through records and decide how much each worker was owed, said Bill Dugovich, a spokesman for the Seattle-based Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.

A union grievance filed 13 years ago claimed Chicago-based Boeing violated contracts with engineers and technical workers in Palmdale and at Edwards Air Force Base northeast of Los Angeles. A Corpus Christi Employment Lawyer had no comment.

The payments will be made in lump sums to 251 current and 233 former employees or their heirs.

The $47 million includes back pay, premium pay, interest, pension and 401(k) contributions along with interest.

The individual amounts range from a few dollars to around $400,000, with an average of nearly $100,000 per employee, Dugovich said. A Charleston Labor and Employment Lawyer suggested that may not be enough.

"Boeing spent more than a decade and countless dollars trying to break its contracts with these employees," Rich Plunkett, SPEEA's director of strategic development, said in a statement. "It's disappointing it took so long, but the employees prevailed."

Company labor spokesman Tim Healy said, "Boeing was disappointed with the arbitration ruling but we are working with SPEEA to fulfill the arbitrator's make-whole ruling." A Boston Employment Lawyer concurred with his statement.

The deadline to distribute the payments is May 21. Healy said Boeing hopes to send them out in early May.

Union officials have scheduled meetings around the country this month to explain the award to recipients. Meetings already have been held in Washington state. California meetings are scheduled next week in Long Beach, Palmdale and at Edwards, with other meetings planned in St. Louis, Philadelphia, South Carolina and Arizona, Dugovich said. The same goes for a Hudson Employment Lawyer.

16 April 2014


Original Story: USAToday.com

DETROIT — A full-scale Starbucks shop opened Thursday in downtown Detroit, nearly six years after the Seattle-based coffee chain closed two downtown stores and another near Belle Isle, Mich.

The new Starbucks (SBUX) is on the ground floor of the Ernst & Young building at One Kennedy Square.

It features unique design elements for a Starbucks location, including a decorative wall with Detroit neighborhoods and street names and a map of the old Detroit United Railway. In addition, the store's male baristas are required to wear black ties.

The return of Starbucks to the downtown business district — a brand that for many signifies commerce and wealth — is yet another sign of a momentum of growth in the district once left for dead just five or six years ago as General Motors and Chrysler declared bankruptcy during the Great Recession.

It also amounts to an endorsement of downtown's future, which has seen an influx of new residents and workers the last several years since Quicken Loans Founder Dan Gilbert moved his businesses to downtown and started purchasing buildings. It's estimated that greater downtown has added about 10,000 new workers over the last three or four years, many of them young upwardly mobile coffee drinkers.

"To have a Starbucks here that's been missing for so many years is just great," said Willie Kent, a native of Detroit and the new store's general manager.

The shop employs 15 people, takes Starbucks loyalty cards and is a licensed location with a different ownership structure than the sole corporate-owned Starbucks in the city's midtown. There are several smaller licensed Starbucks in the city.

Starbucks' absence offered an opportunity for other coffee shops to sprout downtown. One recent arrival was Roasting Plant, a New York-based coffeehouse company known for shooting coffee beans through pairs of clear pneumatic tubes.

Still, the return of a downtown Starbucks storefront was eagerly awaited. The opening was delayed by a day for final inspections.

"It's finally here," exclaimed Melissa Tipton, a downtown worker on a coffee break. "I've been waiting for months and I was kicking stuff when they weren't open yesterday."

The previous downtown locations were among the 600 that Starbucks closed in 2008.

A stand-alone Starbucks near Belle Isle also was closed at the time. That location had a drive-through window and often appeared busy. But it experienced multiple break-ins after business hours. The building later reopened as a Tim Hortons.

"It was a rough location, but the community still stood by it," said Kent, who was a manager there from 2002-04. "After hours, once the doors closed, it was a different story. But when it was open you couldn't tell if you were in downtown Birmingham or the middle of Detroit."

Basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson was once a franchise owner of more than 100 Starbucks stores, including at least three in metropolitan Detroit. He sold all of his remaining stores in 2010, according to news reports.

A Starbucks executive said the license for the new Detroit location is held by a group of individuals, whom the company declined to identify.

08 April 2014


Original Story: Detroit News.com

Detroit — Gov. Rick Snyder was called out by a Democratic official Monday at a breakfast forum over allegations of nepotism involving the governor’s cousin’s office furniture company.

“How can you justify cutting education and raising (taxes on the) senior and middle class, but at the same time doubling office furniture spending with a company owned by your cousin?” Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson asked at the Michigan Chronicle’s Pancakes and Politics breakfast gathering.

The question — surrounding the Republican governor’s cousin, George Snyder, and his company DBI Business Interiors — drew oohs from the crowd of nearly 400 people.

Snyder rebuffed Johnson by saying he wouldn’t be baited by “old-school politics” and “people looking to fight.”

“His company has been doing office furniture with state of Michigan business for decades,” Snyder said. “He has a contract ... with the state of Michigan. Do you know when that deal was done? Before I took office. So there’s nothing to this at all. It’s basically people trying to occupy time and space and make this a story, so we’ll spend so less time working on jobs. And I won’t play that game.”

The crowd applauded at Snyder’s response.

Bobby Schostak, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, followed Johnson’s question by sniping: “How about we get to something a bit more substantive” before asking Snyder about job creation.

Johnson is claiming that George Snyder’s contract with the state was doubled from $19 million to $41 million on Rick Snyder’s watch. The contract actually is with Holland-based Haworth Inc., which hires George Snyder’s DBI to install furniture. The amount of money from the Haworth contracts paid to DBI is not known.

Last month, the Michigan Democratic Party — citing a batch of newly unearthed emails from 2011 — also raised new questions about the governor’s secretive nonprofit group, the New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify (NERD) Fund.

“Republican Gov. Snyder is still dodging the $41 million question — why he doubled his cousin's new furniture contract, all while cutting education and placing unfair new taxes on our seniors and middle-class families,” said Johnson said in a statement after the forum. “This governor's use of the secret NERD Fund to ensure special treatment for his cousin and for campaign donors gives new meaning to the phrase 'friends and family first.' That's why this governor and his NERD Fund need to be investigated immediately.”

The state Department of Technology, Management and Budget has said the state is spending more on new furniture because it is consolidating state office space and getting out of leased buildings and trying to fill in state-owned buildings. The department is opting for new furniture, rather than moving around and refurbishing the old — something DBI does, too.

The DTMB also notes it did not spend the full $19 million or $41 million, which are spending caps in the contract.

Earlier, Snyder on Monday discussed a post-bankruptcy Detroit and his expectations for the city after emergency manager oversight ends, comparing it to New York City after its financial crisis in the 1980s.

Snyder said he envisions the bankruptcy will be “largely closed” upon Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s targeted exit in October with some “post-transition agreement” and a board to oversee the city’s finances.

“The illustration I would give you is New York City,” Snyder said. “New York City didn’t go bankrupt, but they had a huge financial crisis and in order to make sure they were able to borrow and able to continue on a path they actually set up a board to provide some good oversight financial matters to make sure good financial practices were being done.

“But I don’t think anyone in the city knew they were there because the main thing is as long as the city was running well, the board didn’t have much to do.”

Snyder called the collaboration between Mayor Mike Duggan and Orr one of the “great success stories” around the country, noting it hasn’t been a “normal environment” for a mayor.

When addressing education, Snyder downplayed a rumor that if re-elected, he would appoint Duggan as CEO of Detroit Public Schools.

“I’m not going to speculate on something,” Snyder said. “That’s a hypothetical that’s out there.”

Snyder also declined to give Orr a grade when asked to do so during the question-and-answer portion of the discussion, but said he thought Orr was doing a “very good job” on settling the anxiety over the city’s historic bankruptcy.

“We gave a timetable when we said we would like to get that resolved,” Snyder said. “We are probably within a couple weeks of that original timetable. ... Stuff is getting done, folks. We are cleaning up 50 years of mess.”