Study Showing Area’s Shaky Economy No Surprise

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frank Nemeth, of Wilkes-Barre, doesn’t need a study to tell him the region is in rough shape.

Nemeth works at the Main Street Trading Post, a pawn shop south of Public Square, and he said his job has exposed him to the harsh realities of the city’s economy.

“I don’t see any recovery happening,” he said.

Instead, Nemeth said he sees some of the same people everyday — sometimes two or three times — trying to sell their belongings to afford necessities like food and gas.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/news/1334175/Study-showing-areas-shaky-economy-no-surprise

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Pittsburgh #2: Top 10 Cities To Achieve The American Dream

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most important lessons from today’s blockbuster social mobility report is that place matters. (And, because your parents choose the place where you’re born and live, parents matter.)

Tucked into the appendix are two colorful maps of America that tell you where social mobility—the chance to move up the income ladder, a.k.a. The American Dream—is living and where it’s not. First, the graphs. Then, five facts. [GlossaryAbsolute upward mobility measures how children stack up to their parents. Relative mobility measures their chances of moving up or down the income ladder relative to their peers. Different measures; similar stories. Lighter colors suggest higher mobility.]

To check out the rankings and maps, click here: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/the-geography-of-the-american-dream/283308/

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Pennsylvania Climate Plan, Recommendations Released

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pennsylvania’s climate action plan arrived just in time for Christmas, but it’s already a year late.

The draft document — an update of a 2009 plan to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the state — comes out of the Department of Environmental Protection. It’s based on workplans recommended by a 15-person committee representing industry, government and nonprofits.

The legislation that required this report said the update should have been issued at the end of 2012.

The latest climate action plan proposes expanding natural gas distribution pipelines to give more Pennsylvanians access to the fuel. It also advocates encouraging operators of coal mines to capture some of the methane vented into the air before, during, or after mining activity.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/environment/2013/12/20/State-climate-plan-recommendations-released/stories/201312200062#ixzz2o2UTDBS7

Good-Bye Ruby Tuesday?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Casual-dining restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday issued a press release last week meant to show investors that the company is taking steps to turn itself around, but what it told me is that theroad to recovery may be a long one.

Coming on the heels of worse-than-expected results for its fiscal first quarter and then the sudden resignations of the company’s chairman and a key vice president, plus a downgrade of its debt by Moody’s deeper into junk territory, the press release gave more details about the cost-cutting initiatives Ruby Tuesday is undertaking in attempts to right its ship.

In its efforts to cut $6 million from its selling, general and administrative costs beginning in 2015, the company is reviewing its cost structure. The first move will be the elimination of 50 jobs at its Maryville, Tenn., restaurant support center. Next, the restaurant chain will hire a consulting firm to help it cut cost of goods sold and other restaurant operating costs.

Read more: http://business-news.thestreet.com/philly/story/good-bye-ruby-tuesday/12124084

Fast-Food Workers’ Low Pay Costs The Government

Ben and Sharneka Hunter are a fast-food family.

The Wilmington husband and wife work at Burger Kings in different cities – Ben, 43, in Wilmington, Sharneka, 30, in New Castle.

Both earn hourly minimum-wage salaries of $7.25. And both need food stamps and Medicaid to augment their combined $17,000 yearly salary – $2,500 under the federal poverty line – so that they and their 9-year-old daughter can survive.

“I don’t think it’s fair to be underpaid,” Ben said.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/homepage/20131020_Fast-food_workers__low_pay_costs_the_government.html#oAbI1DavEof2fDXe.99

Dollar General, Like Its Shoppers, Weathers Tough Times

Four years ago, Jacqueline Horne lost her job as a business agent for a union and became a regular shopper at the Dollar General store in Pennsauken.

On a recent visit, the 46-year-old mother of two, who now works part time at a Wal-Mart store, bought cleanser for 50 cents, candy for $1, press-on nails for $1 (she said she can’t afford to get her nails done), and spices for $2.25, the most expensive item in her cart.

“Actually, it turns out to be cheaper,” Horne said of items at the Dollar General at 3400 Haddonfield Rd., on the border of Pennsauken and Cherry Hill. “When you’re on a budget in this economy, you watch everything.

“They really do have everything you need.”

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/mc-dollar-general-stores-tough-times-20130926,0,3690723.story

PA Turnpike To Be Widened From Valley Forge To Downingtown

Pennsylvania Turnpike/Interstate 95 Interchang...

Pennsylvania Turnpike/Interstate 95 Interchange Project (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has picked a construction manager for a $480 million road-widening project between the Valley Forge and Downingtown interchanges.

Hill International of Marlton, N.J., will be paid $17.1 million to manage the project. Roadwork is expected to begin in the summer of 2014 and will continue into 2020, Pennsylvania Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said Wednesday.

The roadwork will be done in two phases, DeFebo said, beginning next summer at the Valley Forge interchange and going west for about six miles.  That work is expected to last about three years, the spokesman said.

Read more:   http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130718/NEWS03/130719320/turnpike-to-be-widened-from-valley-forge-to-downingtown-#full_story

Lehigh Valley Unemployment Rate Lowest In More Than 4 Years

The Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate dipped below 8 percent in May for the first time in more than four years, another indication that the labor market continues to slowly recover from steep job losses inflicted during the Great Recession.

The Valley region’s unemployment rate in May was 7.9 percent, down from 8.1 percent in April.  It was last below 8 percent in February 2009.  The Valley’s unemployment rate remains higher than the state, 7.5 percent, and nation, 7.6 percent.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/business/mc-lehigh-valley-jobs-may-20130702,0,2579010.story#ixzz2XusnKSrE 
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Census: Asians Fastest-Growing Group In Berks

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An increase of Asians in Berks County is now outpacing a persistently booming growth of Latinos while the number of non-Latino whites has decreased.

With a growth rate of 8.7 percent between the April 1, 2010, Census and estimates taken July 1, 2012, Asians were the fastest growing minority nationwide and in Berks, according to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Click here for charts showing population growth in Berks County, Pennsylvania and the nation

Berks reflects long-standing state and national trends of rapid growth among Asians and Latinos.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=484432

Under The Gun: Increase In Crime In Norristown Can Be Traced To Economic Decline

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is Part One in a series examining crime in Norristown and possible answers to stem the tide.

NORRISTOWN — Renee Goldman remembers one of the sheer simplicities of Norristown’s golden age: leaving the door wide open on warm days.

She also remembers when crime — largely petty and non-violent, initially — slammed shut the door of her dad’s Main Street business and locked it for good.

“Eventually we went from keeping the door open when the weather was nice to keeping the door locked and opening it only when the customers came,” recalled Goldman, who began working at her father’s Custom Hearing Aids office in the 200 block of East Main Street as a teenager in the 1960s.

Back then she felt safe walking down to Woolworth’s on Main Street on whatever errand her dad, Henry Ginsberg, sent her on.

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/article/20130601/NEWS01/130609968/under-the-gun-increase-in-crime-in-norristown-can-be-traced-to-economic-decline#full_story

Regional Housing Market Rebounds

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Prudential Fox and Roach Realtors’ most recent HomExpert market report showed positive signs in the housing market for Chester County and the Greater Philadelphia region.

“We’re seeing an increase in sales and median and average sale prices, and we’re seeing a reduction in inventory and a significant reduction in days-on-market,” Prudential Fox and Roach Senior Vice President of Marketing Steve Storti said, “So, we’re seeing a market that is significantly improving, and we hope it continues.”

In April, 517 homes sold in Chester County, with a median price of $287,000.  The number sold was 15 percent higher than April 2012, and 64 percent more than April 2011.

In the first quarter of 2013, Greater Philadelphia saw a 7.8 percent home sales increase over the same quarter a year ago.  Chester County had 1,027 existing home sales during the quarter, up 6.8 percent over 2012.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130611/FINANCE01/130619868/regional-housing-market-rebounds#full_story

Report: NEPA Economy Is Turning Around

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 2013 annual report by The Institute for Public Policy & Economic Development indicates Northeastern Pennsylvania is showing signs of an economic turnaround.

The eighth annual Indicators Report, to be released and discussed at a forum Thursday at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, tracks the region’s performance on an array of categories, including demographics, public safety, jobs and the economy.

“The annual Indicators Report serves as a yardstick for measuring growth and trends in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Patrick Leahy, Wilkes University president and chairman of the institute, which is a partnership among Keystone College, King’s College, Luzerne County Community College, Marywood University, Misericordia University, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, The University of Scranton, and is owned and managed by Wilkes.

Reports covering more than 120 indicators for Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, as well as statewide data, will be discussed next week.  And reports from the institute’s five task forces also will be provided to show data on health and health care, jobs and the local economy, education, housing, transportation and land use.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/523150/Report-NEPA-economy-is-turning-around

PNC Forecasts Strong 2013 For Pittsburgh Region

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro ar...

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pittsburgh regional economy, which snapped back from the recession early but stalled in 2012, is poised to head higher again this year, according to forecasters at PNC Financial Services Group.

A reviving national economy will provide the oomph needed to reignite growth locally, PNC economist Kurt Rankin said in an interview.

The Pittsburgh region experienced above average growth in the first two years of the economic recovery in 2010 and 2011, but hit a lull the middle of last year.

Pittsburghers were more willing to spend coming out of the recession than consumers in many other regions because the local economy did not fall as far, but that willingness has been fully tapped, Mr. Rankin said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/pnc-forecasts-strong-2013-for-pittsburgh-region-679225/#ixzz2NYkffzC6

Pennsylvania: Life Is Good, Despite Some Concerns

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A majority of Pennsylvanians back the gun control measures endorsed by the White House, and nearly as many support the National Rifle Association proposal to put armed guards in schools.

On pocketbook matters, angst is growing.  A majority have a negative view of Pennsylvania’s economy, and satisfaction with family income fell 10 percentage points from last year, according to The Morning Call/Muhlenberg College 2013 Pennsylvania Quality of Life survey.

John Geist, a 62-year-old from South Whitehall Township, is a Pennsylvanian who falls into both categories.

Geist used to consider himself middle class, but he was laid off when his company outsourced and had to settle for another manufacturing job earning substantially less.  It was the second time in his life he’d lost his job through no fault of his own.

Read more:

http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/pennsylvania/mc-pa-quality-of-life-poll-guns-20130216,0,6655627.story

Pennsylvania Gasoline Tax May Soon Be Highest In U.S.

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gov. Tom Corbett struck a populist note in this week’s budget address, saying lifting the Oil Company Franchise Tax cap would force oil and gas companies to “pay their fair share.” But the increase will likely be passed onto consumers at the pump and may make Pennsylvania gasoline the most heavily taxed in the nation.

As levied now, the tax is about 9 percent of the price of a gallon of gas, but calculated on a maximum price of $1.25 per gallon, yielding about 20.3 cents. By gradually lifting that cap over time to reflect actual gas prices – already more than double the cap – the amount of the tax paid per gallon could more than double.

Gov. Corbett tried to soften the blow by cutting another state tax on fuel, the excise tax, from 12 cents down to 10 cents.

That could be cold comfort for consumers.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/business/pa-gasoline-tax-may-soon-be-highest-in-u-s-1.1441386

Mexico: The New China

3-D perspective image of the San Diego-Tijuana...

3-D perspective image of the San Diego-Tijuana area from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In November I quit my job as the editor of Wired to run 3D Robotics, the San Diego-based drone company I started with a partner as a side project three years ago.  We make autopilot technology and small aircraft — both planes and multirotor copters — that can fly by themselves.  The drones, which sell for a few hundred bucks, are for civilians: they don’t shoot anything but photographs and videos.  And they’re incredibly fun to build (which we do with the ample help of robots).  It wasn’t a hard decision to give up publishing for this.

But my company, like many manufacturers, is faced with a familiar challenge: its main competitors are Chinese companies that have the dual advantages of cheap labor and top-notch engineering.  So, naturally, when we were raising a round of investment financing last year, venture capitalists demanded a plausible explanation for how our little start-up could beat its Chinese rivals.  The answer was as much a surprise to the investors as it had been to me a few years earlier:  Mexico.  In particular, Tijuana.

Read more:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/opinion/sunday/the-tijuana-connection-a-template-for-growth.html?_r=0

Abundance Of Attractions Makes Lancaster County Marketable

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lancaster County, Kathleen Frankford contends, is no one-trick pony.

“It’s probably the most diverse destination in the country,” she said.

Sure, it is known for its Amish and the outlet shopping that attracts people by the busload.  But, there is also live entertainment, dining and lodging.

And, “within each of those categories, you have such a wide range of offerings,” Frankford said.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/807662_Abundance-of-attractions-makes-Lancaster-County-marketable.html#ixzz2JEbUTqMC

Voters Saddle Governor Corbett With Dismal Midterm Grade

Standard of the Governor of Pennsylvania http:...

Standard of the Governor of Pennsylvania http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/us-pa.html#gov (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since a 1968 constitutional revision allowed Pennsylvania governors to seek a second term, every one of them has, and all five have been successful.

Gov. Tom Corbett has said he intends to keep the two-term tradition alive, but poll numbers released last week underscore the possibility that he could break that winning streak.

A Public Policy Polling survey noted that voters gave him some of the lowest approval numbers of any incumbent the organization has tested across the country.  Although his decision to sue the National Collegiate Athletic Association over the draconian sanctions it imposed on Penn State University has proved popular with the state’s voters (despite widespread condemnation by editorial boards), the support for his legal decision has not translated to a boost in his personal popularity.  According to the archives of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll, his midterm job performance numbers were the lowest approval of any recent Pennsylvania governor.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/state/voters-saddle-gov-corbett-with-dismal-midterm-grade-670203/#ixzz2Huxy3OZJ

Lancaster County Jobless Rate Improved Slightly

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The jobless rate in Lancaster County fell in November to 6.6 percent, the state announced Thursday.

By declining from October’s 6.7 percent, the local jobless rate decreased for the first time since April.

“It’s a slow go,” said Bill Sholly, an analyst with the state Department of Labor & Industry.

Sholly explained that employers typically are cautious about rebuilding their work forces after a recession.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/799290_Jobless-rate-here-improved-slightly.html#ixzz2GxQXClVI

Gas Prices Falling This Holiday Season

Falling gas prices have brought a little bit of holiday cheer at the gas pump where many in the region had grumbled while the price of unleaded hovered around the $4 mark.

The average price of unleaded regular has dropped to $3.75 a gallon in the Buffalo area, down from $3.89 a month ago, according to GasBuddy.com, which tracks gas price trends across the country.  Nationally, the average price was down to $3.27 a gallon as of Saturday.

The downward trend can be attributed to two things, according to Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.

Read more:  http://www.mcall.com/business/sns-mct-gas-prices-falling-this-holiday-season-20121216,0,1755611.story