The New And Improved Geography Of Jobs

October 20, 2014

By: Jeff Marcell, Senior Partner and John Karras, Consultant, TIP Strategies


We hope you will take a moment to check out our “new and improved” Geography of Jobs. In our updated version, we’ve included 372 metros* and extended the timeline back to 1999. As in the previous version, each bubble shows the net change in employment in a given metro area compared to the same period one year earlier. The diameter of each bubble reflects the size of the loss or gain. But, unlike the original Geography of Jobs, you can now place your cursor over any of the metros and watch the actual job numbers change over time . If you press the pause button, you can also move your cursor over any metro and compare actual job losses or gains at any point in the timeline. Another “behind the scenes” feature is our ability to map new datasets, such as job change by sector.

At TIP Strategies, we are always looking for ways to translate data into insights about economic development. We hope you will help us with this task by providing feedback and sharing your insights at the end of this blog post.

Map highlights:

  • The Great Recession officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, but the job losses spanned a longer timeframe, beginning early in 2007 and extending well into 2010. Some regions were hit harder than others, some were hit earlier, and some took longer to recover, but no corner of the US was spared.

  • The Dot-Com Bubble was marked by rapid job growth in some of the country’s leading high-tech regions (Silicon Valley, Boston, Seattle, Austin) in 1999 and 2000. You can then see these same regions losing lots of jobs from 2001 to 2003 during the Dot-Com bust and subsequent recession. Silicon Valley actually continued losing jobs into 2004, even while the rest of the country had come out of the recession and was gaining jobs.

  • The Housing Bubble, following the relatively mild recession that began in 2001, led to unprecedented job growth across the country. Buoyed by easy money (i.e., subprime mortgages), housing supported strong job growth in places like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Atlanta, and Southern Florida. You will also see that these same places were the first to begin losing jobs as the housing market collapsed, starting in 2007.

  • Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans in late July 2005, a disaster that had an immediate and lingering impact on jobs in the region. However, you will notice that metros in the periphery, most notably Baton Rouge, actually saw a significant uptick in jobs during that time due to temporary (and perhaps permanent for many) outmigration from New Orleans.

  • Watching the Midwestern US, especially the manufacturing-centric states of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, reveals that many of the metro areas in these states never enjoyed the economic growth experienced by most of the country from 2003 to 2006. Red bubbles cover much of the area surrounding Detroit from 2002 all the way until the end of the Great Recession in 2010. However, the employment situation in the Midwest has taken a turn for the better in recent years thanks to the recovery of the US automotive industry beginning in 2010.



We are excited about the upgrades to the Geography of Jobs and hope you find it useful. And we would love to hear from you. Please take a moment to share your comments on how the tool did (or did not) provide any insights about your community, any regional or national trends of significance, and other datasets we should consider mapping.

Thanks for viewing.

*NOTE: Map includes the 372 MSAs for which data are available from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

TIP Hired To Assist With An Economic Development Action Strategy For The Minneapolis–Saint Paul Region

December 15, 2014

By: Caroline Alexander, Senior Consultant, TIP Strategies

Image credit: 2008-0712-MPLS-panorama by Bobak Ha’Eri via wikimedia commons (CC BY 3.0)

A broad-based regional partnership has hired TIP Strategies to develop the Minneapolis–Saint Paul Economic Development Action Strategy. The primary goal of this work is to create a strategy with short and medium-term actions to accelerate investment and job creation in the region’s core cities.

Though the work will be guided by economic development principles, it will also integrate strategies with community and workforce development to ensure that market-challenged areas and lower-skilled workers also benefit.

The project partners include Greater MSP, the City of Minneapolis, the City of Saint Paul, the Saint Paul Port Authority, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, and Minnesota Philanthropy Partners.

The Greater Fargo-Moorhead Region Hires TIP For Workforce Strategy

December 1, 2014

By: Caroline Alexander, Senior Consultant, TIP Strategies

Image Credit: Fargo by ethankan via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

TIP Strategies was recently engaged by a regional collaborative that consists of the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, the Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation, and the United Way of Cass-Clay. The engagement will consist of a comprehensive labor study and a regional workforce strategy. With an unemployment rate of 2.5 percent, the Greater Fargo-Moorhead region faces formidable workforce challenges as their economy continues along its stable growth trajectory. The collaborative formed to undertake a regional approach to addressing these challenges. The TIP study will create the foundation for this initiative, providing information and strategic recommendations that will guide regional investments in workforce development.

In Highly Educated Larimer County, Skills Gap Persists

November 5, 2014

By: Madeline Novey
Via: The Coloradoan


Photo credit: "techshop_members_welding_project" by TechShop via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Employers want people like Lexynton Seeley.

The 17-year-old Berthoud High School senior is one of about 60 students in Front Range Community College’s welding certificate program for high school students. Raised by a dad who’s skilled in the craft, she later dated someone enrolled in the program and thought: “It looks really interesting to me, this trade that’s in such high demand.”

After graduation, she’s considering going to New Mexico State University or the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to study biomedical engineering or mechanical engineering, with the hope of one day building prosthetics or bodily implants.

She plans to weld during the summers to pay tuition: “I didn’t want to be eternally paying debt.”

Seeley is part of a new generation of workers who could change the face of employment in Larimer County and the nation, bridging the gap between skills employers need and the workforce.

Blue-collar work is changing. Workplace environments are safer and cleaner. The wages are in many cases higher than jobs filled by a plethora of college graduates.

National labor statistics indicate there’s a need for roughly 300,000 machinists, welders and other skilled tradespeople to fill vacancies left by a wave of people in their 50s and 60s nearing or in retirement. Media have widely reported that industry-specific phenomenon, but the skills gap touches other facets of Larimer County’s job market.

September’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.2 percent — the lowest level since 2007 — but people are still looking for work.

Jobs in retail, restaurants, hospitality and personal services are among the county’s fastest-growing industries that support the population, according to TIP’s labor market profile, but are relatively low-paying and highly competitive; the region has an “overqualified” workforce to meet the needs of these industries. At the same time, Larimer County employers are having trouble hiring welders, machinists, electricians, sales representatives, drivers, engineers and more.

About half of Larimer County workers have a bachelor’s degree or higher. But only 23 percent of the region’s jobs require college degrees, as reported in a September labor market profile compiled by Austin-based TIP Strategies.

Closing the gap is imperative to building a healthy economy.

Josh Birks, the city’s economic development director, thinks it’s the responsibility of the entire community — the city, educational institutions, employers, the Larimer County Workforce Center and others — to close the skills gap. He said his office will work with partners to further dissect TIP Strategies’ labor market profile and use the data to inform a current revisit of the 2012 Economic Health Strategic Plan, presented to the City Council on Tuesday.

Closing the skills gap will require a number of steps. Programs such the machining shop at Front Range Community College’s Longmont campus — one of nine community colleges to receive a portion of dollars from a $25 million U.S. Department of Labor Grant to build a pipeline of advanced manufacturing workers — can’t do it alone.

Birks said such steps could include increasing alignment between employers and educational institutions, as PSD, Front Range and other institutions have been doing. It could also mean helping connect the labor force with training programs and create greater awareness of employer needs, as the Economic Health Strategic Plan rework addresses, he said.

The city’s Economic Health Office is also aiming to create less of a mismatch between the highly educated workforce and the relatively low percentage of jobs that require a college degree, said Caroline Alexander, a consultant at TIP Strategies. She said the office is cultivating key industry clusters, supporting an innovative ecosystem that fosters new business development and growth; and is ensuring the city has space for these businesses to grow.

“Of course, these strategies will take time to narrow the gap,” she wrote, “but the city has gained traction over the last three years since it adopted its Economic Health Strategic Plan.”

How we got here

Some say it’s too difficult to pin down one culprit for the skills gap.

Some point to impending waves of baby boomer retirements and a lack of trained people to fill tens of thousands of vacant positions, as is the case in skilled trades such as welding and machining. Some think there’s a lack of awareness about the aforementioned jobs and how good they can be. Others say we as a society pushed too hard to get everyone to go to college and, thus, siphoned off pipelines feeding blue-collar industries.

“It’s pretty well known that if you go to college, you will make higher wages than if you don’t. That’s certainly the push that we put out there,” said Martin Shields, CSU’s regional economist.

Shields was referring to the oft-advertised statistic that college graduates will, on average, make $1 million more in their lifetime than someone without a degree.

But “wages for college-educated workers are stagnant and others are declining. A college education is not this path to riches, necessarily; it’s the path to treading water,” he said.

George Newman, director of Front Range Community College’s machining program, said “there’s been an overemphasis on four years of college for everyone.”

He’s noticed a philosophical shift that puts college and trade work education on more equal footing. It’s driven by increased awareness about the skills gap, a greater consideration of whether students want to take on significant student loan debt to pay for college and shifting perceptions about machining.

Contrasted with their oil-splattered, 20th-century machining shop counterparts, today’s facilities are cleaner and safer, Newman said. Instructor Brian Glover joked on a recent day in October that one could “eat off the floors” in the new machining shop at Front Range Community College’s Longmont campus.

“I mean, look at this facility,” he said, motioning to rows of computer-controlled equipment programmed by humans to do precise work. “It’s not your grandfather’s machine shop anymore.”

Impact on employers

Mandy Dicker is a recruiter for A World of Tile, which has 15 stores in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. The company intends to grow annual revenues from $15 million to $100 million by 2020, and it “absolutely” faces a challenge to fill sales representatives positions.

College graduates are great, Dicker said, but employees don’t necessarily need the degree to make the cut; eagerness to serve people and sales skills (taught in company-specific trainings) are key to getting a position she said pays an average of $50,000 a year.

In the Fort Collins market, Dicker said she’s yet to figure out where and how to reach job seekers. The secret to closing their skills gap is yet unsolved. She thinks people may not consider sales as a career because the job is overshadowed by a negative reputation. People don’t want to be used car salesmen, she said.

Steve Anderson is CEO of Forney Industries, one of the oldest manufacturing companies in Fort Collins. He’s working with others in the Northern Colorado Manufacturers Group, as well as partners PSD, Front Range and CSU, trying to bring more manufacturing to the region. He is struggling to find people to do the work.

“We are seeing a real void in kids that have the ability to get into manufacturing. They are not aware of the jobs, for sure, but they don’t have the training,” he said.

The college path isn’t for everyone, something Poudre School District recently stressed in its long-term vision for what graduates should look like.

Jason Walsh, director of Front Range Community College’s welding technology program at the school’s south Fort Collins campus, said his shops are running at full steam. He’s enrolled all the students he can and is excited for the campus’ new integrated technology building to open later in 2014 with a larger footprint and extra welding bays.

Roughly 50 students graduate from FRCC’s welding programs each semester; a bigger building could increase the number of graduates 10 percent to 20 percent, he estimates. However, another challenge is finding and hiring trained instructors who are willing to earn less in academia than in the field.

“We’re in a weird spot where we’re not really having a major shortage in people who want to learn. We’re seeing a bottleneck in being able to train them quickly for it,” he said.

When Walsh started at FRCC’s Larimer campus 10 years ago, he got calls from parents asking him whether it was safe for their children to work as welders and if they’d make enough money to make ends meet. Things have changed.

“We’re constantly getting calls from parents that want us to talk with their kids about welding instead of going to a four-year college,” he said. A significant factor is money.

A young person could spend four years and accrue tens of thousands of dollars in debt for a liberal arts degree and make $30,000 to $40,000 a year, Walsh said. Or they could pay about $6,000 for an associate degree in welding technology at Front Range “and they’ll have a job waiting for them” at graduation day making $16 to $20 per hour.

Even with “low skills and low experience,” companies across Northern Colorado are “giving people a chance.”

“It’s really a no-brainer if you want to pay the bills,” Walsh said.

“Blue collar, we make more than people with history degrees,” said Jen Steen, prevision machining instructor at FRCC’s Longmont campus. And for the self-described entrepreneur with an MBA working in manufacturing means being part of something bigger, something necessary to keep America’s economy vibrant.

“I think there’s a lot of pride to being part of what keeps the world turning,” she said.

Coolest Job Data Visualization You’ll Ever See

October 23, 2014

By: Chris Tomlinson
Via: The Houston Chronicle

Graphic shows how jobs surge and contract across the country

Job data is important to understanding the nation’s economy, but the spreadsheets can be painful to analyze. The economic development consulting firm TIP Strategies, though, has developed a very cool visualization tool to understand how employment surges and contracts over time and geography.

The Greater Houston Partnership recently crowed about adding 600,000 in the first nine months of this year, and that is truly remarkable. But how does this recent boom compare to the last 15 years? When Houston is adding jobs, what is the rest of the country doing?

Hitting the play button, it’s fascinating to watch the pulsing blue circles of added jobs from 1999 to 2002. Dallas and New York added jobs at a much higher rate than Houston. Then a recession hits in 2002 and the whole country begins losing jobs as the dot-com bubble burst. Other parts of the country suffered much more than Houston.

Then in early 2004, Houston lags behind the rest of the nation as the economy takes off elsewhere. This is where you can see how a growing economy demands more energy, and in response, Houston begins adding jobs to meet those needs.

Perhaps most stunning, Hurricane Katrina hits in 2005 and like a bomb, the orange circles of lost jobs explode over New Orleans as thousands of jobs are lost. The number of new jobs in Houston surges as workers flee Louisiana.

Then in 2007, Houston’s job growth begins to lead the rest of the country. The recession hits, and while most U.S. cites, particularly Los Angeles, lays off tens of thoussands of workers each month, Houston continues to add until 2009 when it begins registering losses. The fracking boom takes hold in 2010, and we know the story from there.

The lesson from the data is that Houston has done remarkably well compared to the rest of the country. The reasons are many and debateable. There’s also an intense debate over the quality of those jobs, and the state’s 15.9 percent poverty rate which just dropped to become the same as the national average.

Fundamentally, though, the map is simply very cool, and a reminder of how good Houston has it.

The Best Map Ever Made Of America’s Racial Segregation

October 17, 2014

By: Kyle Vanhemert
Via: Wired


Last year, a pair of researchers from Duke University published a report with a bold title: “The End of the Segregated Century.” U.S. cities, the authors concluded, were less segregated in 2012 than they had been at any point since 1910. But less segregated does not necessarily mean integrated–something this incredible map makes clear in vivd color.

The map, created by Dustin Cable at University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, is stunningly comprehensive. Drawing on data from the 2010 U.S. Census, it shows one dot per person, color-coded by race. That’s 308,745,538 dots in all–around 7 GB of visual data. It isn’t the first map to show the country’s ethnic distribution, nor is it the first to show every single citizen, but it is the first to do both, making it the most comprehensive map of race in America ever created.

White people are shown with blue dots; African-Americans with green; Asians with red; and Latinos with orange, with all other race categories from the Census represented by brown. Since the dots are smaller than pixels at most zoom levels, Cable assigned shades of color based on the multiple dots therein. From a distance, for example, certain neighborhoods will look purple, but zooming-in reveals a finer-grained breakdown of red and blue–or, really, black and white.

“There are a lot of moving parts in this process, so this can cause different shades of color to appear at different zoom levels in really dense areas, like you see in NYC,” Cable explains. “I played around with dot size and transparency for a while and settled on the current scheme as being adequate.” You can read more about Cable’s methodology here, but it comes down to this: When you’re dealing with 300 million dots at varying levels of zoom, getting the presentation just right is as much an art as a science.

Looking at the map, every city tells a different story. In California, for example, major cities aren’t just diverse, they’re integrated to a great degree, too. We see large swaths of Sacramento dotted variously with reds, blues, oranges, greens and browns. Los Angeles is more distinctly clustered, but groups still bleed into one another.

In the Midwest, though, the racial divide can be shockingly exact. In Chicago, bands of whites, blacks, and Latinos radiate out from the city center like sun beams. In St. Louis, a buffer of a few blocks separates a vast area of largely black citizens from another of white and Asian ones. In Detroit, the most segregated city in America according to one recent study, there’s no buffer at all. We see how 8 Mile Road serves as the dividing line between two largely homogenous swaths–one predominantly white and one predominantly black.

Looking at the Southeast, a wide, faint band of green represents the Black Belt, a region originally named for the dark soil in Alabama and Mississippi that eventually came to describe the greater region shaped by plantation agriculture. And while the West looks awfully barren, the density of cities like Los Angeles, Dallas, and Houston gives us a sense of why those states are actually so populous.

Responding to the Duke University study last year, experts were quick to expound on the complexities of the issue. Housing desegregation, one pointed out, is not a magic bullet for equal opportunity. Another made clear that blacks remained more segregated from whites than Latinos or Asians. Here, at least, Cable’s given us a chance to see how things stand today in greater detail than ever before.

Check out the full, interactive map for yourself here.