Category Archives: Indiana

Understanding the Seventh District’s economic slowdown in 2015

As I noted on this blog in February 2015, 2014 was a pretty good year for the Seventh District. Real District gross state product (GSP) grew 1.2%, the unemployment rate fell from 7.3% to 5.8%, and payroll employment grew 1.5%. The strong finish to 2014 led me to feel quite optimistic for how 2015 would turn out. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly clear that economic activity in the Seventh District has steadily slowed as 2015 has progressed. While the District is certainly not in recession, it is now likely growing at a below-trend pace. In this blog post, I provide evidence of the slowdown and explore how the fortunes of District states’ signature industries have both contributed to and helped mitigate the slowdown.

While we wait for the GSP data for 2015 to be released (due out in June), arguably the best overall indicator we have for 2015 District economic activity is our Midwest Economy Index [1] (I should note here that we will be releasing a new survey-based activity index later this month). Figure 1 shows values for the MEI from 2014 to the present. The index was well above zero throughout 2014, indicating that growth was consistently above trend. Just as 2015 began, the index began to decline, and it entered negative territory in June. The most recent reading of the MEI (for November 2015) indicates that District growth is somewhat below trend.


Some important indicators included in the calculation of the MEI are payroll employment, the regional Purchasing Manager Indexes (PMIs) [2], and per capita personal income. Not surprisingly, they also largely suggest that economic activity in the District slowed in 2015. Figure 2 shows that while District payroll employment grew by an average of 23,000 jobs per month in 2014, the pace of growth slowed to only about 12,000 new jobs per month in 2015. Figure 3 shows the simple average of the five PMIs available for the Seventh District. This average also indicates that economic activity declined notably starting in 2015. As a counterpoint, figure 4 shows that the pace of growth in real personal income per capita has not slowed much in 2015: The annualized growth rate for 2014 was 3.08% and the available data for 2015 (through Q3) indicate that the annualized growth rate has only slowed to 2.94%.



While the preponderance of evidence suggests that Seventh District economic activity slowed in 2015, it turns out that the experiences of individual states within the District have been quite different. Figure 5 shows the sum of the contributions to the MEI for the eastern states of the District (Indiana and Michigan) and the sum for the western states of the District (Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin). Growth in 2014 was above the District’s long run trend in both sub-regions, but the western states outperformed the eastern states. The pace of activity in the eastern states picked up steadily through the first half of 2015 and has since slowed to near the District’s trend. This experience contrasts quite notably with that of the western states. Activity in these states began to slow at the end of 2014 and continued to slow until the middle of 2015, at which point conditions improved some.


One approach to understanding the different experiences of eastern and western District states is to do an economic base analysis for each state. Such an analysis identifies the industries whose employment is especially concentrated in a state (and therefore likely quite important for the state’s economy) by calculating a location quotient (LQ). A location quotient is the ratio of the share of employment in an industry in a state to the share of employment in an industry in the U.S. as a whole:


As an example, if the machinery industry’s share of employment in Michigan is 1.3% and the machinery industry’s share of employment in the U.S. is 1%, then the location quotient is 1.3, and we say that the machinery industry is 30% more concentrated in Michigan than in the U.S. as a whole.

For this blog post, I calculate location quotients for each state for each of the 3-digit NAICS industries that are available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) payroll employment survey.[3] I then consider the industries in each state with a location quotient greater than 1.5. This approach successfully identifies the signature industries one typically thinks of for each state in the District. For example, the analysis picks up Michigan’s auto industry, Indiana’s steel industry, and Illinois’s, Iowa’s, and Wisconsin’s machinery industry.

Table 1 shows the high-location quotient industries for Indiana and Michigan, along with the percentage of overall employment the industry represents and the year-over-year employment growth rate of the industry from November 2014 to November 2015. With the exception of the primary metals industry (where employment fell by 0.93%), employment grew for all of Indiana’s high-LQ industries and was solid for most of them. The story is even clearer in Michigan, where the auto industry dominates. Employment in the transportation equipment industry grew 4.59% over the past year.

To summarize the overall growth of District states’ flagship industries, I calculate the average growth rate for the industries, weighted by their relative size. Employment in Indiana’s flagship industries grew 1.35% over the past year, while employment in Michigan’s flagship industries grew 3.38%. Thus, even though the pace of growth in economic activity slowed in Indiana and Michigan in the second half of 2015, it was still a good year for both states.

6-Table 1

The story is more mixed for the states in the western part of the District (table 2). Machinery (and the fabricated metal producers who support them) has not faired well in the past year: Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin all saw notable declines in machinery and fabricated metal employment (with the exception of Wisconsin’s machinery employment, which was flat). However, Iowa and Wisconsin were helped by strong growth in other flagship industries (food products in both Iowa and Wisconsin and finance in Iowa). Illinois has few other flagship industries to help it, though it’s worth noting that Chicago has fared much better than downstate Illinois because of its concentration in business services and finance. Average employment growth for Illinois’s high-LQ industries was dismal (-2.04%), while growth was solid for Iowa’s (1.58%), and slow for Wisconsin’s (0.73%). Thus, although some flagship industries have done well in the western states in the District, the struggles of the machinery industry appear to have put quite a damper on their economic performance.

7-Table 2

So we see that the overall slowdown in the District in 2015 was not a shared experience across District states. The eastern states (Michigan and Indiana) did notably better than the western states (Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin) and these differences are relatively consistent with the performance of states’ flagship industries. What does the future hold for these flagship industries? At the moment, it’s hard to find much evidence that there will be a significant reversal of fortunes in 2016. The auto industry is likely to continue to benefit from steady growth in the U.S. economy and low gasoline prices, while the machinery industry is likely to continue to suffer from weaker global growth and depressed commodities prices (which hurt demand for both mining and agriculture machinery).

That said, while flagship industries certainly play an important role in a state’s economy because of all the related industries that support them, there are still many industries that are not closely related to them. For example, Iowa’s contribution to the MEI has been negative for most of 2015 (not shown), likely because of the struggles in the farming industry (see the Chicago Fed’s latest AgLetter for more details). The converging trends in the MEI (figure 5) suggest that these other factors are also making their presence known.

[1] The MEI is a weighted average of 129 Seventh District state and regional indicators measuring growth in nonfarm business activity from four broad sectors of the Midwest economy: manufacturing, construction and mining, services, and consumer spending.

[2] The PMIs included in the index are for Chicago, Iowa, Detroit, and Milwaukee.

[3] Data are not available for all 3-digit NAICS industries because there is not sufficient employment in some industries in some states for the BLS to be able to cover them accurately.

Foreign Direct Investment in the Midwest–Update

Americans sometimes harbor mixed feelings about investment in enterprises on U.S. soil that are owned and directed by companies domiciled abroad. Yet for the most part, investment from overseas represents a validation of the productive business climate in the domestic economy. Here, our system of law and contracts, along with productive workers and well-conceived public infrastructure, offer conditions that are conducive to value creation. In turn, foreign direct investment (FDI) activities can benefit our workers and households. New investment and ownership often bring new technology and ideas to American shores, thereby boosting our own growth, wages, and standards of living.

In recent decades, FDI has grown rapidly to comprise a larger share of the U.S. economy. As documented in our recent article, the share of employees working for all companies that are U.S. affiliates (those in which a foreign investor owns at least 10%) grew from 1.8% in 1979 to 4.7% in 2000. According to more recent data, this share has remained fairly constant through the middle of the current decade—now 3.9% by that estimate.

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Much of recent growth in inbound FDI has resulted from accelerated globalization and rapid world economic growth. Due to a greater ease of communication and lower cost of personal travel and goods shipment, global breadth of enterprises has expanded. General Electric employs 316,000 worldwide, 155,000 outside of the U.S. General Motors employs 335,000 worldwide, 193,000 abroad.

In addition, although the U.S. has maintained its economic prominence in the world economy, the U.S. economy now comprises a smaller share of global production (27% as of 2006). And so, without any countervailing forces, this simple arithmetic would suggest more inbound FDI as a share of the U.S. economy. By one estimate, the U.S. share of global outbound FDI outflows have in fact declined from its 1970 value of 54% of global FDI to 18% in 2006.

While global economic growth is the largest generator of inbound FDI to the U.S., the exchange value of the U.S. dollar versus other currencies can also be influential. The value of the dollar has fallen by 25% since 2002, measured against a basket of currencies weighted by our trade with other countries. For this reason, investment in productive capacity on U.S. soil may look increasingly attractive to foreign-domiciled companies. For one, for those foreign companies that hold their earnings and assets in foreign currencies, the purchase price of physical capital in the U.S. such as real estate, intellectual property, and factories will be cheaper. For companies that now sell into the U.S. market from production facilities abroad, the shifting of production to the U.S. may be advantageous in generating production costs in the same currency as their sales.

Further, for those companies that use their U.S. facilities as a platform from which to export to markets outside of the U.S., earnings on sales will likely be denominated in foreign currency rather than in U.S. dollars. Recent developments in FDI in the U.S. automotive sector may be reflective of these considerations. Several European carmakers are currently considering setting up production in North America, among them Volkswagen and Audi. And exports of U.S.-produced light vehicles have been rising, according to Chicago Fed economist Thomas Klier. From 2002 to 2007, the share of U.S. production that is exported to non-NAFTA countries alone has risen from 3.0% to 11.6%.

In recent years, the state of Indiana has done well by FDI in automotive and other (mostly manufacturing) investments from abroad. The Business Research Center at Indiana University (BRC) has recently issued an extensive report that reviews the global environment for FDI with an emphasis on Indiana and surrounding Midwest states. According to U.S. government data as of 2005, Indiana’s economy ranks 8th in the nation and first in the region as measured by the ratio of FDI to state economic output. (Michigan also exceeds the U.S. average.) As measured by jobs, the United Kingdom and Japan were virtually tied as the number one source of FDI into Indiana, each accounting for 32,000 jobs.

The U.S. government data on FDI for states does not necessarily reflect new investment or added jobs. Rather, most FDI transactions are mergers and acquisitions. For this reason, and because government data are not very timely, the BRC also gathered information from a private vendor on announcements of FDI expansions and new facilities. Since these are announcements rather than completed transactions, we cannot be certain these investments will actually take place. But according to BRC estimates, Indiana will gain nearly 5,000 jobs from 2007 announcements, mostly in the automotive industry. The implication is that Indiana will widen its lead among Midwestern states in the FDI category. An appendix to the BRC report proudly maps the specific FDI projects in which Indiana’s state development agency has completed or participated.

Competing state and local development agencies throughout the Midwest will surely take note.

Sports Franchises and Urban Development

Are there worthwhile benefits to large urban economies from professional sports franchises and events? Critics are especially hostile to the idea of tax breaks, incentives and other public subsidies to sport franchises and events. At best, they claim that local spending on sports events displaces local spending on other activities, with no net impact on expenditure or income. Worse, they claim that public monies spent or foregone to subsidize sports franchises or events could have otherwise been more productively spent on enhanced public education or the like.

In rebuttal, there is another school of thought that posits that the changing nature of urban economies has heightened the value of recreational amenities as a draw for coveted workers. As the productive basis of city economies has shifted away from the manufacturing and distribution of goods, and towards a greater focus on information exchange by skilled and educated workers, some policy analysts argue that the successful workplace location is now driven by where people want to live rather than by its strategic location for moving materials.

In some instances, major league sports teams and professional sports events, such as the Super Bowl, can be counted highly among cities’ “public goods” amenities that attract and retain productive workers. In this, sporting events may be among several amenities whose sum total is more than the some of the parts because a large city’s varied restaurants, museums, cultural diversity, arts, and sports all go into making it “an interesting and exciting place to live.”

The measurable evidence on this effect is sparse, but several statistical studies have found favorable impacts. A thorough and balanced review of studies has been conducted by Mark Rosentraub. No doubt that many subsidies are ill-conceived. But Rosentraub concludes that the net value of a sports investment by the public sector rests on its context and the particular outcomes for the city and county making the investment. For example, the placement of publicly-subsidized stadiums in downtown areas have been found to help enliven and revive struggling downtowns. Another study found that Indiana residents valued the intangible benefits of having the Indianapolis Colts sufficiently to justify public subsidies. And in a statistical study across metropolitan areas, Jerry Carlino and Ed Coulson found that households tend to pay higher housing rents in metropolitan areas that choose to host sports franchises. Apparently, the value of nearby sports activity affects land and housing congestion that arises as greater population is attracted to such sports-minded places.

Among the most intangible, most difficult-to-measure benefits attendant to sporting events are the advertising or marketing values associated with the opportunity to re-cast a city’s image to a national or international audience. Places whose images become distorted or unfairly known due to their past travails may especially view large sporting events as valuable in setting the record straight.

In particular, an enhanced image may be helpful as businesses consider investment decisions and as workers consider various recruitment offers. The City of Detroit, for example, went to great pains and took great pride in successfully hosting the Superbowl XL in their new stadium situated amidst extensive downtown renewal.

This year’s two Super Bowl contestants, Chicago and Indianapolis, likely welcomed the media coverage of their cities deriving from both the Miami telecast and from national pre-game media hype. Chicago has been working to boost its image as a national and global city having superior amenities and functionality. In fact, it is one of two U.S. cities still vying to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis has been pursuing sports-minded economic development for quite some time. During the 1970s, the city began to boost its support for amateur sports facilities and events, meeting some success in hosting the Pan American Games in 1987 and, among other things, it is now the headquarters locale of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. During times when high-profile events are not taking place in Indianapolis, its sports facilities are often in use by young athletes who come to town (often with their families), patronizing the city’s hotels and restaurants.

Despite scoldings by the majority of public policy analysts, many of which are well-founded, some cities still see gold in them thar’ games!

Indiana observations

Each autumn, I have traveled down to the Indianapolis area to deliver a local perspective on the economy to the Indiana Economic Development Forum. This autumn, the Forum addresses the theme of “work force training and education.” As I survey Indiana’s economic performance over the past 15 years, it strikes me that Indiana is on the right track with its strategic focus on boosting work force training and education. So too, where feasible, an emphasis on technology transfer, firm growth, and entrepreneurial activity may be needed to create matching job opportunities for the more highly skilled Hoosiers.

Indiana and its neighboring Midwestern states rank near the top in manufacturing concentration. Even so, as the figure below shows, the deep recessions of the early 1980s sharply shifted the region’s share of manufacturing jobs elsewhere (right axis, green line). As the steel and auto industries waned here, the computer and military equipment industries grew elsewhere.

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The figure also reveals the period’s depressing effects on the region’s per capita income as a result of manufacturing job loss and slow recovery (left axis, blue line). Since then, per capita income, as compared to the national average, has not fully recovered in the Great Lakes region, nor in Indiana, for that matter.

However, Indiana’s job growth and share of manufacturing jobs have recently out-performed the surrounding region (bottom chart). Indeed, even though the level of jobs has declined, Indiana has exceeded its 1980s share of the nation’s manufacturing jobs. Consequently, while the relative per capita income in the Great Lakes region has taken a dive over the last few years, Indiana’s income has remained about the same in relation to the national average.

Something is going right in Indiana, or at least it is going a little better than in surrounding Midwestern states. But given the notably stronger performance gains in Indiana’s share of the nation’s manufacturing jobs, shouldn’t its per capita income be rising a bit, rather than being stuck in place?

The answer again likely lies in today’s broad economic trends. Indiana’s manufacturing wages lie below its Midwestern neighbors. This can be seen in the figure below, which illustrates the higher hourly earnings of production workers in Michigan versus Indiana. Perhaps the state’s favorable wage environment for employers, along with other business climate attractions, partly explain its job share gains in manufacturing, even as per capita income gains are not quite so robust.

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Another reason for less robust progress in Indiana’s per capita income can be found in service sector versus manufacturing wage trends. While average wage levels in manufacturing tend to exceed average service sector wage rates in the nation, service sector wage growth has been catching up to manufacturing.

How can Indiana improve its living standards? In our market-oriented economy, higher wages and earnings are currently being paid to those with higher skills and education. For this reason, investment in education and work force training are one important part in achieving higher income for Hoosiers.

In addition to higher skills, there must be job opportunities available for those enhanced skills and training. Sometimes, such local job opportunities do emerge as new firms and capital investment migrate into states in search of favorable work force skills and education. However, in other instances, skilled workers move out of state in search of greater opportunity. To forestall this loss of skilled workers, Indiana and other states are pursuing not only work force training and education, but also local technology transfer from technical universities along with the encouragement of entrepreneurial ventures.