Improving Unemployment Claims Data Masks Decade's High Variance between the States

Over the past several months the labor market has been sending out some mixed signals in terms of its relative strength. For instance, initial unemployment claims data—typically a reasonable signal of the overall labor market—has been trending downward and is not far off from a new 35-year low. Once adjusted for the size of the current population, the September figure of the seasonally adjusted 4-week moving average of 305,000 initial claims would “traditionally” be associated with a very strong labor market. In October the number of claims have edged upwards, but still remain fairly low.

Reflections on the 2013 Workforce Boardroom Conference

Chmura Economics & Analytics recently presented its second annual Workforce Boardroom Conference. The conference theme was Illuminate to Innovate, and it brought thought leaders from a variety of disciplines together to discuss smart solutions to some big challenges facing our regions, states, and nation.

The event kicked off with a presentation from Marge Connelly, who brought her unique insight and private sector perspective on customer-centered innovation from her career in financial services and higher education. Following are some other highlights from the event.

Federal Issues, Sequestration and Your Economy

Chmura has been researching defense spending, the sequestration, and their impacts on state and regional economies. The team has developed one of the most complete datasets on federal defense spending ever constructed, and Chris Chmura’s remarks were designed to identify, inform, and inspire defense-dependent communities to action. Data-Driven Decision Making

Jay Dougherty, partner at Mercer and co-founder of the Workforce Sciences Institute, shared his candid experience with companies making location decisions today. He emphasized the use of quantitative data analysis to optimize the location, labor, cost of doing business, and business climate of a corporate decision.

Chmura team member Dan Meges joined Bruce Stephen of Monster Government Solutions to talk about workforce planning and the use of Real-Time Labor Intelligence. Monster, which started the online job posting revolution, is now manipulating its massive database of candidates and openings to help create a clearer picture of labor supply and demand. This perspective is invaluable for communities and higher education working to better align their program offerings with market trends.

Chmura’s chief statistician, Greg Chmura, took the stage to share some interesting analysis on the connection between education, innovation, and job growth. His research built on findings of the Fund for Our Economic Future in northeastern Ohio. The research is surprising - innovation and job growth don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

Measuring What Matters – New Paradigms for Economic Development

One of the goals of the conference was to challenge traditional thinking about economic development and Ed Burghard of the Burghard Group’s talk on the American Dream Composite Index (ADCI) did not disappoint. Ed suggested the audience push away from traditional outcome measures such as job creation and capital investment and instead focus on the well-being and satisfaction of the populace.

Ed has partnered with Xavier University to advance the ADCI, which uses household survey data to measure the pulse of the American sentiment. It’s a holistic measure that includes five components, including economic, a well-being, societal, diversity, and environmental indexes.

Four Business Perspectives

The conference brought four unique and valuable business perspectives to the forefront. The first was from a return presentation by David B. Trebing, General Manager, State and Local Relations for Daimler. David shared the new reality for manufacturers operating in a competitive, dynamic, global marketplace. This reality includes the need to locate production facilities in growing and emerging markets, a push towards cost reduction and efficiency, and the need for a qualified workforce.

The second business topic was presented by Carlos Solari, VP at Wilkitech. Carlos’s remarks enlightened the group on emerging trends in the cyber security industry and what communities need to know to attract and retain businesses in that sector.

Jeff Harris with Xerox Services spoke on the relationship between innovation, people, and the environment, and what that means for business and communities today. His futuristic remarks about the shifting trends in the definitions of work and the workplace prompted healthy discussions over lunch about how economic developers will adapt.

The conference closed with some practical public relations strategies from Hope Katz Bibbs, founder and president of The Inkandescent Group, LLC. Hope has helped many entrepreneurs and early-stage companies transform their innovative ideas into growth, and she shared her ideas about what it takes to help a new enterprise launch successfully and get the attention it deserves.

What’s Next?

It was an exciting two days in Richmond and Chmura thanks the engaged attendees and speakers. Now, we’re busy planning for 2014. If you would like to learn more about the 2014 conference, contact Maggie Bishop at

The Jobs Are Coming Back, Just Not Always Where They Were Lost

The latest U.S. jobs report from early July indicates the national economy continues to add jobs at a slow but steady pace. The latest data indicates the economy has added approximately 195,000 jobs each month for the past three months. If we go back to January 2011, the nation added on average close to 185,000 jobs per month. The U.S. economy is gradually recovering and now the labor market may even be gaining some momentum.

2013 Workforce Boardroom Conference

We know it. Workforce planning and workforce training are topics being discussed in boardrooms all over the country. Whether you believe the skills gap is real or imagined, it’s a big challenge facing businesses of all sizes as well as communities and educators. It’s also the reason Chmura started a plan in 2012 to bring smart people together to talk about new and innovative ways to change the conversation.

On September 16th and 17th, Chmura is hosting its second annual Workforce Boardroom Conference in Richmond, VA, and the list of speakers is impressive. This year’s theme, Illuminate to Innovate!, focuses on how data (the bigger the better) can help improve the way we develop and manage talent forces across the country.

The schedule includes some important names from economic development, workforce development, business and industry, the site selection community, and education. These five perspectives promise to provide new insight and a true 360-degree view of the workforce imperative. The full schedule can be downloaded here, but here are a few highlights.

Monday kicks off with a few words from Dr. Christine Chmura, President and Chief Economistof Chmura Economics and Analytics. Chris will be discussing the impact of sequestration on industries and regions, including the impact on supply chains.

Just prior to lunch, Ed Burghard, CEO of the Burghard Group, LLC and former Executive Director of the Ohio Business Development Coalition will be sharing new research and perspective on new ways to measure community success. Ed is a place marketing and branding expert working to advance the field of economic development.

The lunch keynote speaker on Day One will be David Trebing, General Manager, Sales and Local Relations of Daimler. Daimler is a global automotive company with headquarters in Stuttgardt, Bade-Wuttemberg, Germany. In 2012, Daimler sold 2.2 million vehicles and employed a workforce of 275,000 people.

Day One also features two site selection experts who will share their perspectives on how communities are evaluated as potential locations with a particular focus on the evaluation process for regional labor pools.

September 17th kicks off with breakfast and two special presentations on how data can measure and drive innovation as well as how new and better tools can facilitate better decision making and planning in workforce development.

This is just a snapshot of the complete agenda of this not-to-miss event, and registration is now open. For more information and to register, visit the conference page of the Chmura website.

Governor Announces New Chmura Economics Report Finding New Spending on Construction Will Annually Sustain 13,058 Jobs and Have $9.5 Billion in Economic Impact

Governor McDonnell Ceremonially Signs Virginia's Historic Bi-Partisan Transportation Funding Bill
– Legislation Provides Over $3.4 Billion in Statewide Funding, $1.5 Billion for Northern Virginia, and $1 Billion for Hampton Roads Over Next 5 Years Alone –

~Reduces Prices at the Pump While Providing Virginia's First New Dedicated, Sustainable Revenue for Transportation in 27 Years~

~At Signing, Governor Announces New Chmura Economics Report Finding New Spending on Construction Will Annually Sustain 13,058 Jobs and Have $9.5 Billion in Economic Impact~

***McDonnell: "This may technically be transportation legislation, but at the end of the day, it's a jobs bill."***

RICHMOND - Today, surrounded by legislators and community and transportation leaders from across the Commonwealth, Governor Bob McDonnell ceremonially signed Virginia's Road to the Future (HB 2313), the state's first comprehensive transportation funding plan approved in 27 years. Following on the heels of nearly three decades of inaction on the critical challenges facing transportation funding in Virginia, this historic bi-partisan legislation supported by Republicans and Democrats from each chamber will provide more than $3.4 billion in additional statewide transportation funding, more than $1.5 billion in additional funding for Northern Virginia, and more than $1 billion in additional funding for Hampton Roads, over the next five years alone.

"For 27 years our citizens have sat in traffic as congestion has increased and our bridges and roadways have deteriorated," said Governor McDonnell. "For 27 years our citizens and businesses have demanded solutions. For 27 years, Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly failed to reach an agreement on this critical issue. However, we stand here today, thanks to the leadership and support of Speaker Howell and a broad bi-partisan coalition of legislators, business leaders and citizens, to celebrate this historic achievement. Not only will this legislation address both the short and long-term funding needs of our transportation system, it will also annually sustain 13,058 new jobs, have more than $9.5 billion in economic impact, and improve Virginians' quality of life. Instead of sitting in traffic, our citizens will be able to spend more time with their families enjoying the many benefits this great Commonwealth has to offer. Most importantly, this legislation will ensure that Virginia's economy can grow in the years ahead, and that businesses will have the infrastructure they need to create the good-paying jobs Virginians deserve. This may technically be transportation legislation, but at the end of the day, it's a jobs bill.

"When we put forward our comprehensive transportation funding plan this year, we called for three fundamental changes to how Virginia funds transportation, all based on conservative fiscal policy. First, we called for a reduction or elimination of our dependence on an archaic, outdated gasoline tax in the decades ahead. Second, we called for tying future transportation funding to the far more sustainable sales tax. Third, we called for treating transportation like the true core function of government that it is, one essential to economic growth and job creation in our state. While the final bill was in some ways different than our original proposal, it met all three of the goals we established. The final product is the very essence of compromise in that this legislation has components some will like, and components others may dislike. That's the nature of any true compromise. Our success demonstrates that both parties - be it here in the Commonwealth or up in Washington - can still achieve a great deal when partisan differences are put to the side and we work collaboratively toward the solutions our citizens demand. This bill is crucial to the future growth of Virginia's economy, and this is a great day for job-creation in the Commonwealth."

Over the first five years, HB 2313 will:

  • Generate more than $1.8 billion in additional funding for maintenance, thereby eliminating maintenance crossover transfers
  • Provide $660 million in dedicated new construction funding, which, when combined with the elimination of maintenance crossover, will grow construction spending by more than $2.4 billion
  • Increase funding for Virginia's transit providers by $509 million
  • Provide more than $256 million in funding for intercity passenger rail, the first dedicated state funding for this vital service
  • Generate additional revenue for Virginia's airports and seaports
  • Generate annually between $272 million to $335 million in Northern Virginia and $172 million to $226 million in Hampton Roads for regional transportation priorities

Additionally, in his remarks, the governor today announced the findings of recently completed economic impact analyses conducted by nationally renowned firm Chmura Economics. The first analysis, which focuses on new roadway construction spending as a result of HB 2313, determined that the additional funds in the Commonwealth Transportation Board's Six-Year Improvement Program will have an economic impact of $8.1 billion and annually sustain 10,133 jobs from FY 2014 through FY 2019. The second analysis, which focuses on new transit and rail spending, determined that the additional funding provided to the Department of Rail and Public Transportation will have an economic impact of more than $1.4 billion support 14,625 jobs, or 2,925 jobs per year, between FY 2014 and FY 2018. The new dedicated intercity passenger rail funding will enable Virginia to extend passenger rail service to Roanoke within the next four years.

"This year, Republicans and Democrats put their differences aside, sat down at the table and demonstrated to our citizens that unlike Washington we are able to work together to achieve the results they demand," said Speaker of the House Bill Howell. "I applaud Governor McDonnell for his leadership and willingness to tackle the difficult challenges facing Virginia, and I thank the broad bi-partisan group of legislators and stakeholders who made today possible."

Speaking about this historic legislation, Marty Nohe, Prince William County supervisor and chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority said, "Years of inaction in the General Assembly have resulted in Northern Virginia now being ranked as part of the most congested region in the United States. No other singular issue has as great an impact on our ability to attract and retain economic development opportunities and jobs. Now, with the passage of this historic compromise, the local governments in Northern Virginia will be able to work collaboratively to address our critical regional needs so that we can remain economically competitive and improve our citizens' quality of life."

"As home to one of the largest naval installations in the U.S. and the economically crucial Port of Virginia, the Hampton Roads' region has for years struggled with our unique transportation challenges," said Hampton Mayor Molly Ward, chair of the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization. "Our region's infrastructure needs are tremendous and with the inclusion of the Hampton Roads regional component, HB 2313 will finally provide us with the foundation to begin tackling these difficult challenges."

"Following on the heels of the 2011 bond package, Governor McDonnell made a promise to continue his successful efforts to address Virginia's transportation funding needs by putting in place dedicated, sustainable revenues for the long-term," said Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance Executive Vice President Jeff Southard. "This year the governor delivered. Not only will this legislation improve mobility, reduce congestion and promote further economic activity, but it will put in place the sustainability necessary to build upon and continue the progress Governor McDonnell has made over the past three years."

Following General Assembly approval of the governor's recommended amendments, HB 2313:

  • Eliminates the 17.5 cents per gallon excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel
  • Replaces the motor fuels tax with a 3.5 percent sales tax on the wholesale price of gasoline and a 6 percent sales tax on the wholesale price of diesel fuel
  • Increases the state and local sales and use tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent
  • Partially eliminates the 2 percent motor vehicle titling tax exemption by increasing the rate from 3 percent to 4.15 percent
  • Creates a $64 Alternative Fuel Vehicle fee to ensure that all drivers are contributing to Virginia's roadways
  • Levies an additional 0.7 percent local sales tax, a $0.15/$100 Grantor's Tax, and a 2 percent Transient Occupancy Tax in Planning District 8
  • Levies an additional 0.7 percent local sales tax and a 2.1 percent fuel sales tax in Planning District 23

A final summary of the HB 2313 and the Chmura economic impact analyses can be found at: