Accelerated Nation

Green Shoots

Posted in economy, environment by Ashley on 2009/05/19

A year ago it seemed we were barreling headlong into a green-tinted future.  Then the economy imploded and “green shoot” became a byword for the struggling economic recovery.

So in today’s budget-crunched and belt-tightened reality, greenshootdoes anyone still care about the environment?  The answer, apparently, is yes.

Between October 2007 and October 2008, when the economy was weakening but green issues were at the fore, more than 684,000 news articles were published on the environment.  Just 154,000 pieces covered the weakening US economy and dawning recession.

As you might expect, a year later the situation is somewhat different.  Between October 2008 and May 2009 coverage of the environment plunged—to 369,000 news items.  But even this reduced press attention still nudged out the economy.  In that same period, only 308,000 articles touched on the recession. 

Apparently, green shoots can still refer to things that grow.

Will the Stimulus Work?

Posted in Data, economy by Ashley on 2009/05/12

The below graph, from TIPStrategies is aggregated from Bureau of Labor Statistics data and tracks job gains/losses from January 2004 through the first half of 2009. 

A few (unsurprising) things leap out at you:

  • The pace of job creation is much slower than the swinging reductions we’ve seen during the past six months;
  • Locales that grew the fastest are experiencing the deepest contractions (with the exception of the Detroit area); and
  • Job losses are very uneven, with the deepest cuts concentrated in California and Arizona, the Northeast, the Southeast, and the post-industrial Midwest.

Job Losses

(source and map: TIPStrategies)

If the goal of the stimulus bill and the government’s recovery plan is job creation, this map—in all of its red misery—previews that it might not work very well. 

Stimulus money is spread over all 50 states and the District of Columbia, despite the fact that a whole swathe of states (e.g., North Dakota, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma) still boast robust employment figures.  And with stimulus cash tilted heavily towards infrastructure, and allocated through a complex formula of mileage + per head basis (with no state receiving less than 1/2 of 1%), hard-hit states with high unemployment like North Carolina (10.8%), California (11.2%), Oregon (12.1%), and Michigan (12.6%) will proportionally lose out (i.e., the minimum % + mileage allocation favors small population states with high mileage road networks, like Kansas or the Dakotas).

As it stands, the stimulus in its current form risks creating large numbers of new jobs and showering with cash states with little need (lots of lightly used roads), relatively low unemployment, and a tiny fraction of the national population.

Full state-by-state March 2009 unemployment rates can be found here.


Deceleration Nation

Posted in depression, economy, Pacific Northwest, recession by Ashley on 2009/05/12

Welcome to Accelerated Nation, my baby, brainchild and first foray into serious blogging.  I hope you enjoy what you read and keep coming back for more.

I thought it would be fitting to kick off the blog by asking a central question—how fast is the economy decelerating today?  The answer is quickly.  But as Steven Levitt points out in yesterday’s Freakonomics blog on, this isn’t your grandparents Depression.  In 1933 Americans produced 26% fewer final goods and services than in 1929.  As Levitt points out, that’s equivalent to shuttering the national economy west of the Mississippi River.  That pace of deceleration is an order of magnitude faster than today.

Check out the post—it’s well worth the time.

And if you’re already in penny pinching mode, there’s always Portland