Category Archives: jobs

Can suburbs catch up with cities?

The post-recession growth of large cities is slowing as suburbs — and their contribution to the economy– finally recover, Census estimates released today show.

Over half of the cities with more than 250,000 people added fewer residents than the previous year, according to calculations by demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

And in 53 metro areas over 1 million people, central cities slipped to the same 1% growth rate as their suburbs, Frey said. In 2012, those same cities were growing 20% faster than their suburbs. From 2000-10, the reverse was true: Those suburbs grew at three times the rate of their cities.

The trend may signal that smaller cities and suburbs can once again draw people seeking work and affordable housing.

“I don’t think we’ll know for sure until we have a full-fledged economic resurgence,” Frey said.

City-vs-suburb
City-vs-suburbs

But the last decade may have given large cities a strong leg up in the competition. Frey found that almost half of large cities already have grown more since 2010 than they did in the previous decade.

One is San Jose, which reached 1.02 million and became the 10th city to top 1 million (not including Detroit, which fell under 1 million in the 1990s.) Riding Silicon Valley’s boom, San Jose has grown 6.6% since 2010.

That boom also boosted San Francisco by 1.3% last year, enough to step over Indianapolis to become the 13th-largest city at 852,459. The effects of the boom have spread across San Francisco Bay, where Oakland has grown almost 6% since 2010, reversing a 2% drop in the previous decade.

Other highlights:

— Denver vaulted Washington, Memphis and Boston to become 21st-largest, at 663,862, up more than  2% last year and 11% since 2010.

— Las Vegas, once again growing strongly, stepped over Louisville, as did Portland, Oregon, to reach 29th and 28th, respectively. Louisville has grown almost 11% since 2010, but Portland has grown 17% and Las Vegas, 28%.

— Almost a decade after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans grew 1.4% to 384,320, topping Arlington, Texas for 50th. It has grown almost 12% since 2010 but remains 20% smaller than in 2000.

— Just 12 of the 100 largest cities lost population in the last year, and just seven have done so since 2010: Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Buffalo and Baton Rouge.

–Texas’ five largest cities — Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Forth Worth — together added 125,000 people, or 1.5%, to reach 6.68 million.

–Paul Overberg

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Unemployment rate obsession

Market players and financial journalists are hyper-focused this week over the April unemployment report, which is due Friday, following a shaky March report.

But the unemployment rate and job growth are inadequate measures. Adding people who can only get part-time work or have given up looking, for example, nearly doubles the  unemployment rate of 5.5%.

BLSUnemployment

Some of the rate’s recent improvement is due to boomers swelling the retirement ranks. Workforce participation – the share of people 16 or older who are working or looking for work – has dropped from 66% to under 63% since 2008.

Analysts — and the journalists who cover them — focus largely on the two headline numbers because they move markets.  Here are other yardsticks to help you get the full story:

  • Gallup’s payroll-to-population rate. It counts adults working at least 30 hours a week for an employer and divides them by the population. March: 44.1%, the highest for that month since tracking began in 2010. This omits some part-timers and all self-employed workers, but it’s broader than official measures and unaffected by most changes in the makeup of the workforce.

GallupP2pIndex

  •  Welch Consulting, an economic research firm, produces an index of full-time equivalent workers, which washes out changes in the size and age of the population. March: 98.3, unchanged from February but up 1.1% from a year earlier. It was launched at 100 in 2004. The index also shows that women have recouped recession job losses but men remain 3% shy of that mark.

WelchConsultingIndex

  • Turnover. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ March report is due next Tuesday. The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey shows how many jobs are open and how many workers were hired, laid off, fired or quit. The latter is considered an acid test of workers’ confidence. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has said she follows it closely. In February, quits hit 1.6%, up from 1.4% a year earlier. The survey showed 5.1 million openings or 3.5%, up from 2.9% a year earlier. Calculated Risk blog offers details.

JOLTSChart6

-Paul Overberg

Are you happier than a Santa Monica resident?

Flickr user João André O. Dias
Flickr user João André O. Dias

Santa Monica, Calif., on Monday unveiled an index of its residents’ well-being. Cue the California jokes.

But look again. Researchers spent a year and used a $1 million grant that the city  won from Bloomberg Philanthropies in its initial Mayors Challenge competition. Santa Monica’s index uses dozens of measures ranging from produce consumption to library card ownership to feelings of safety.

An explosion of social statistics has spawned city, state and national rankings, many not worth the time it takes to click through the photo gallery. They’re often a mess of inappropriate or incomplete data sliced down to a top 10 list.

But serious efforts to improve social yardsticks have been developing for years.  A growing body of research shows that cities where people feel happier have better economic gains. So an accurate measurement that focuses more on people and less on economic measures like gross domestic product,  is the Holy Grail.

The first United Nations Human Development Index was published in 1990. The playfully named Happy Planet Index made its debut in 2006. The U.S.-based Social Science Research Council published the first American Human Development Index in 2008.

And just this month, Gallup and Healthways published the latest version of their polling-driven well-being rankings of large U.S. cities and the UN-affiliated Sustainable Nations Development Network published its third World Happiness Report.

Most share a focus on how well people live, as measured by health, education and living standard data.

Santa Monica’s index goes farther. It includes outlook — how people feel — and a measure of the environment, both natural and man-made. Findings:

  • 70% report being happy all or most of the time; only 5% report being sad all or most of the time.
  • Older age groups score higher overall than young ones, whites and Asians higher than Hispanic and blacks.
  • On survey statements like “I am free to decide for myself how to live my life,” and “Most days I get a sense of accomplishment from what I do,” 70% to 80% of residents agreed, matching levels seen on similar surveys in Europe.

Many U.S. communities have assessed themselves at least once through a set of indicators. Few have used them to drive government policy, foundation funding or measure change with regular updates.

With its beautiful location, mild climate and strong economy, Santa Monica would seem to have few worries.

But the report uncovered weaknesses. A fifth of residents worry about paying their rent or mortgage, an affordability concern driven by high housing prices. That concern is higher among minorities and the young.

Residents score below the U.S. average in feeling they can count on the people around or in their ability to change local conditions.

The report authors suggested that the city try to strengthen civic engagement by leveraging its outdoor spaces and facilities.

Self-assessment,  change and reassessment — not list rankings — represent the real potential of well-being indexes.

–Paul Overberg

 

 

Data scientists’ pay: details worth $10K

The median data analyst makes about $98,000 –including bonuses — in the U.S., according to a new salary survey from O’Reilly Media. But data people being what they are, the report includes a regression that allows anyone to compare their salary based on 27 variables from location to experience, from tools used to gender.

The survey of 816 people (about two-thirds from the U.S.) isn’t random, and the fact that it deals with data wranglers certainly caught our eye. But a survey that actually breaks down the differences among salaries really stands out.

Why aren’t more salary surveys done this way?

totalsalaries_oreilly

Salaries have been a tricky thing in the past few years, especially for journalists. Publishing salaries of state or university workers is common at news organizations. They get lots of viewers — and a lot of push back for privacy invasion.

But others have argued that knowing everyone’s salary is the only way to insure pay equity,  and that salary is based on merit not one’s ability to negotiate. It can also avoid scandals such as an $800,000 city manager in a low-income suburb of Los Angeles.

Yet even if the human resources department decided everyone’s pay should be transparent, that still doesn’t provide context — is there a good reason someone earns more?

Which is why the O’Reilly survey is important. Even with the 27 variables that contribute to salary, the regression only explains about 58 percent of the variance. Still, even the attempt to explain variance reveals some interesting findings:

  • Geography matters. Not surprisingly, data scientists in California and the Northeast make more (between $17K and $26K). But working in Texas had the second-highest boost.
  • Startups don’t pay well; neither does government. Analysts in education lowered the expected salary by $30K; start ups drop the salary about $17K.
  •  Experience counts. Every year of age and each year working with data, together adds about $2,500 to the expected salary. Using tools such as Python, Natural Language Processing, NumPy and R can *each* add $1,900 in expected salary. SQL, Python, Excel and R are the most common tools used.
  • Being female hurts. The survey shows a $13K gender pay gap among data scientists — and says no differences in tools, experience or other factors account for it. See also Wage Debate at the Oscars.

Data science –whether it’s in journalism, government contracting or elsewhere  — is a rapidly expanding field, which makes predicting salaries difficult. The O’Reilly survey may not be perfect, but it gives people real tools  to create  transparency, without invading privacy.

–Jodi Upton

Wage debate at the Oscars

Actress Patricia Arquette used her moment at this year’s Oscars to spotlight gender pay equity. Admirable. But what do the data say?

arquetteAfter her speech for best supporting actress for “Boyhood,” social media lit up with comments, including an often-repeated, but highly flawed statistic claiming women make 77 cents for each dollar a man makes.

That number comes from a Census Bureau report that compares annual wages, which can include bonuses and investment income, but can be unfair to workers like teachers who don’t get paid in the summer.

A better measure is median weekly earnings, which is what the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Their latest figures shows women overall making 81 percent of what men make.

But even that’s flawed because it doesn’t measure women doing the same work. Women often work fewer hours (35 hours is considered full-time here) and are more likely to be in lower-paying occupations.

gender graphic

Women’s wages grow to 91 percent if you compare genders based on educational attainment and experience, and working in the same occupation and industry, according to a study by economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn.

Two other economists, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, did a deeper analysis of MBA students. At graduation, males and females had only a tiny difference in salary, they found. But 10 to 15 years later, women’s earnings were 60 percent of men’s.

What happened in the interim? The women were more likely to have taken a break to care for children (especially if they had high-earning husbands), and when working, they were generally clocking fewer hours. The researchers said nearly all of the gap could be explained by these factors.

The women in the study who did not have children had earnings that were 88 percent of male earnings, and economists said that gap can be explained by the fact that the women were disproportionately working in smaller firms, often in the non-profit sector.

These studies raise the question of whether the wage gap is due to discrimination or women’s choices of career and family.  You can read more about this debate here and here and here.

Arquette was basing her comments on personal experience, but outside of anecdotes in leaked Sony emails, getting that data isn’t easy, either. Forbes tried to put together a list of the top 10 highest-earning A-list Hollywood actors between 2013 and 2014. The result? All men.

–MaryJo Webster