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The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s monthly business surveys include special supplementary questions on topics of interest. April’s survey questions focused on how difficult it has been for firms in the region to find and retain workers with basic skills, such as math and English, as well as advanced computer skills and “soft skills,” such as punctuality and interpersonal skills. Overall, the level of difficulty finding workers has not changed much since April of last year, when these questions were previously asked. Workers with advanced computer skills were the hardest to find, for both manufacturing and service firms. Manufacturers report much more difficulty than service firms in finding people with basic English, computer, and especially math skills, and even seem to be having difficulty in finding workers that are simply punctual and reliable. Service firms say they’ve had particular trouble finding candidates with good interpersonal skills. These findings suggest that although the job market recovery remains tepid, demand for workers with particular skills is still significant.
The New York Fed’s latest Beige Book report indicates that harsh winter weather hampered economic activity in the region in early 2014.
Eight times a year, each of the nation’s twelve Federal Reserve Banks produces a report on current economic conditions in its District, based largely on anecdotal information obtained from regional business contacts. The New York Fed’s report covers New York State, northern New Jersey, and southwestern Connecticut. The twelve District reports are combined with a national summary to produce what’s come to be known as the Beige Book—a report that provides some of the most timely information available on economic conditions.
Puerto Rico’s economy has been in a protracted economic slump since 2006. If there were officially designated recessions for the Commonwealth, it probably would have been in one for the better part of these past seven years. Real GNP had fallen 12 percent before finally leveling off in 2012. But the economic measure most widely relied upon to gauge the island’s economy—because the data are monthly and timely—is payroll employment. Between early 2006 and the first half of 2011, this measure fell by a similar amount (13 percent); it then started to recover gradually in late 2011 and into the first part of 2012. But late in the year it began to nosedive again, reaching new lows in mid-2013—Or did it? More complete tabulations of employment presage upward revisions to Puerto Rico’s payroll job count, suggesting that current employment (and thus economic) conditions are not as gloomy as they appear, based on currently reported data.
Today, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York begins releasing its monthly survey of regional business activity, called the Business Leaders Survey. This survey is a close cousin of our Empire State Manufacturing Survey, with some differences. The Business Leaders Survey covers the service sector rather than the manufacturing sector, and its respondents come from New York, northern New Jersey, and southwestern Connecticut, instead of just New York State. This new monthly release will provide another timely regional indicator to help gauge both local and national business cycles, and it will be available well before hard economic data on the region from other sources become available. In this post, we show that data from the survey, which have been collected monthly since 2004, provided some early signals about the most recent recession and recovery, at both the national and regional levels. The January 2014 survey points to continued modest growth in service-sector activity in the region, coupled with increasingly widespread optimism about future conditions.
Fairfield County, comprising the southwestern corner of Connecticut, is sometimes thought of as an affluent “bedroom community” outside New York City—a place filled with commuters taking home large paychecks. On average, it’s indeed one of the most affluent counties in the United States, with a median household income of $80,000. Yet a fairly small minority of working residents—fewer than one in ten—actually commutes to the Big Apple. Fairfield County has a sizable industry base of its own. In particular, the finance industry, based largely in Stamford and Greenwich, accounts for a disproportionately large 9 percent of the county’s employment and generates 27 percent of aggregate income. These proportions aren’t only well above the respective nationwide averages, but are even slightly higher than they are for New York City. Fairfield is also a major hub for corporate headquarters: The proportion of jobs in management of companies is more than twice the nationwide average and, again, higher than it is for New York City. Manufacturing (largely aircraft) is also somewhat prevalent, though not nearly to the same extent it was a couple of decades ago: It’s fallen by more than half since 1990. An economic and demographic profile of Fairfield County can be found on our District Profile page.
A Tale of Two Cities While Fairfield County’s average income is among the highest in the nation, so is the degree of income inequality in the county. To illustrate this, let’s consider the two largest cities: Stamford and Bridgeport. Stamford’s median household income, at $76,000, is again half as high as the nation’s. Similarly, its poverty rate is well below the nation’s, and a whopping 43 percent of adults hold college degrees. In contrast, Bridgeport’s median income is $38,000 (half of Stamford’s) and its poverty rate is double that of Stamford’s. Just 15 percent of adult residents hold college degrees—barely more than half the U.S. average and just over a third of Stamford’s rate. Quality-of-life measures show similar differences: The overall crime rate in Bridgeport is roughly three times as high as in Stamford, and its violent crime rate is roughly quadruple Stamford’s.
The results of this morning’s November Empire State Manufacturing Survey point to slightly weaker conditions in New York’s manufacturing sector. After five consecutive months of positive readings, the survey’s headline general business conditions index moved below zero, declining four points to -2.2. The index had been slowly drifting down since July, and was only slightly positive in October. The report also pointed to declines in new orders and unfilled orders. One hopeful sign in the report is that the six-month outlook remained quite optimistic.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are a small and unique component of the Second Federal Reserve District. Situated just east of Puerto Rico, the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John are home to roughly 106,000 residents—less than one-thirtieth of Puerto Rico’s population—and make up a territory of the United States. Yet the U.S. Virgin Islands are often ranked as the Caribbean’s top vacation destination on U.S. soil. In this post, we briefly describe the structure of the local economy and look at trends and developments over the years—especially the past few years, during which the islands lost a major employer and endured a prolonged and wrenching economic downturn . . . that now appears to be bottoming out.
In late October last year, Superstorm Sandy devastated and disrupted much of the tri-state region, including a large swath of Long Island. For most of Suffolk County and inland parts of Nassau County, the disruptions were widespread but relatively short lived—they mostly involved power, transportation, and communications outages. However, the southern coast of Nassau County was particularly hard hit, and the recovery in cities like Long Beach has taken considerably longer. Overall, though, Long Island’s economic rebound appears to be progressing well. In this post, we give a short overview of the Island’s economy and track its performance before and after Sandy.
A key institution that was significantly affected by the Great Recession is the school system, which plays a crucial role in building human capital and shaping the country’s economic future. To prevent major cuts to education, the federal government allocated $100 billion to schools as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), commonly known as the stimulus package. However, the stimulus has wound down while many sectors of the economy are still struggling, leaving state and local governments with budget squeezes. In this post, we present some key findings on how school finances in New York State fared during this period, drawing on our recent study and a series of interactive graphics. As the stimulus ended, school district funding fell dramatically and districts across the state enacted significant cuts across the board, affecting not only noninstructional spending but also instructional spending—the category most closely related to student learning.
Jaison R. Abel, Jason Bram, Richard Deitz, James Orr, Kaivan K. Sattar, and Eric Stern
The New York metro region’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy is well under way. Spending on restoration and rebuilding activities following a natural disaster is a potentially powerful economic stimulus to the affected area. Indeed, money from outside the region—in the form of federal aid and private insurance payments—flowing to the damaged areas in the region gives a temporary boost to economic activity. But does this mean that Sandy—along with the federal aid and insurance payouts associated with it—was actually good for the region’s economy? In this post, we examine the nature and magnitude of the stimulus the New York metro region is receiving as it recovers from Sandy and provide some thoughts on how the economy may be affected over the longer term by rebuilding activities.
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