Transportation and GHG regulation

On October 15, the Detroit Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago will convene a conference examining various policy approaches to reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs). Following electric power generation, the transportation sector is the second largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the Midwest, as well as in the overall U.S. (Carbon dioxide emissions generally arise from the burning of fossil-based transportation fuel—gasoline more so than diesel fuel.)

Following the energy price spikes of the early 1970s, federal regulations were issued to improve fuel-efficiency of cars and light trucks. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations place fleet-wide fuel-efficiency limits on manufacturers for their passenger cars and separate standards for their light trucks (including so-called minivans and sport utility vehicles, or SUVs).

The CAFE standards are sometimes credited with maintaining fuel-efficiency during the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, when gasoline prices plummeted and one might have otherwise expected vehicle size and fuel consumption to have grown once again. Nonetheless, CAFE standards are often criticized. For one reason, the added cost of introducing new fuel-efficiency technologies into the latest models may be counterproductive. That is because, in confronting higher vehicle costs, automotive buyers may delay scrapping their old vehicles, thereby keeping an older (and less fuel-efficient) fleet of vehicles on the road.

Fuel-efficiency standards have also been criticized for imposing unnecessary and distorting restraints on consumers’ choices of vehicles. Logically speaking, penalties to modify behaviors to align with socially desirable outcomes should be fashioned to most closely target those behaviors that give rise to social costs. Accordingly, rather than forcing fuel-efficiency standards on specific types of vehicles, a preferable approach would be to penalize the actual behaviors that give rise to carbon emissions regardless of vehicle type. That is, a tax on fuel at the pump would be preferred to vehicle fuel-efficiency standards. And a tax per unit of carbon associated with a particular fuel—such as gasoline over diesel—would be preferred to a general fuel tax. Nonetheless, to date, fuel-efficiency regulations have been more palatable to the American public than alternatives such as direct gasoline taxes.

Midwest-domiciled automakers, especially the Detroit Three (Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor Co., and General Motors Corp.), have so far found it more difficult than other manufacturers to achieve CAFE fleet standards on cars and light trucks. Going back to the 1970s and earlier, Detroit Three automakers have tended to offer larger vehicle models for sale, and this specialization has continued into recent years.

The figure below displays the reported average fuel economy in 2006 for major companies selling vehicles in the U.S. market. For both passenger cars and light trucks, the measures of fleet average fuel-efficiency for both Toyota and Honda easily exceed those of the Detroit Three. Indeed, for passenger cars, the fleet fuel economies of Honda and Toyota already approach the hypothetical standard that is being considered for the year 2020.

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CAFE standards may soon become even more onerous for automakers. In June 2007, the U.S. Senate passed legislation mandating stricter standards on both passenger cars and light trucks. By the year 2020, fuel-efficiency standards would rise for such vehicles so that they must achieve 35 miles per gallon. (Such revised CAFE standards will likely be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives during the fall of 2007).

The vehicle fuel-efficiency of major automakers has been changing in recent years. Per the figure displaying the fuel economies of passenger cars below, Toyota’s and Honda’s have gained markedly over those of the Detroit Three during the decade. In contrast, these Japanese automakers have not widened their fuel-efficiency advantages in the light truck category. Within the category, Honda and Toyota have been selling more models that are heavier and less fuel-efficient than they had before; these models would include the Honda Pilot and Toyota Land Cruiser SUV.

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From a Midwest perspective, the region’s light vehicle production facilities tend to be those of companies that will likely find it most difficult to meet more stringent standards. The map below displays the assembly plant locations of the Detroit Three automotive companies, as well as those of the foreign-domiciled automakers. A large majority of the Detroit Three’s light vehicle production facilities are located in Midwest states. In the northern part of the U.S. automotive corridor, which includes the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri, 24 of its 31 light vehicle plants are owned by the former Big 3 domestics. Accordingly, the region’s residents will be interested to see that any prospective carbon reduction policies are as cost-effective as possible.

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Not everyone believes that GHGs from human activity are significantly contributing to global climate change or, if so, that mitigation policies are advised. Still, it would appear that mitigation policies, including more stringent CAFE standards, will be forthcoming. An informed and judicious choice of alternative policies can contribute to achieving cost-effectiveness while reducing GHG emissions.

The Midwest and the regulation of greenhouse gas

After years of inactivity in regulating so-called greenhouse gases (GHGs), U.S. policy may be on the verge of doing so. In April 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government was authorized to regulate GHG emissions from human activity, which some believe accelerate warming of the earth’s atmosphere, causing disruptive and costly climate changes. Carbon dioxide is the major source of such GHG emissions, making up 75–80 percent of the total volume. This fall, the U.S. Congress is expected to consider bills to control GHGs. Regionally, state and local governments are already acting to reduce GHGs or curb their growth. Most notably, California proposes to reduce emissions by one-third from 2004 levels by 2020. According to this plan, such reductions will be achieved by requiring more fuel-efficient cars and buildings and by requiring that the state’s electricity is generated from renewable energy sources and less carbon-intensive fuels.

Costs are an important consideration in choosing among the various ways to reduce GHG emissions. For this reason, some U.S. and global regions are choosing to set up or participate in “cap-and-trade” systems for GHG emissions, which will function like markets. Some private companies have also chosen to participate in cap-and-trade systems, such as the Chicago Climate Exchange. In these systems, the total allowable amount of GHG emissions is capped. Each participant is awarded or sold permits, or “allowances,” to release specified amounts of GHG into the atmosphere such that the total permitted GHG by all participants does not exceed an overall cap. In limiting emissions in this way, cost savings accrue from the ability of permit holders to buy and sell their allowances with other participants. Those who can manage to reduce their needs for permits can sell them to others; those who cannot manage must purchase permits. In cap-and-trade systems, there are strong incentives for participants to manage and conserve emissions, since doing so generates cost savings. More importantly, cap-and-trade participants are motivated to come up with emission-conserving technological innovations. Seven governors of the Northeast are moving their states toward a “Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” which will cap carbon emissions from the region’s electric power producers.

Market-based systems such as these can be important to regions in keeping down the costs and impact of mandated reductions of GHG emissions. How will the Midwest adapt to the regulation of GHGs? The Midwest economy will likely be affected by carbon regulation in two major ways, both of which will be addressed at a Chicago Fed conference to be held at the Detroit Branch on October 15. The first avenue of regional impact concerns the degree of direct carbon reduction that may be required of Midwest households and businesses, especially in the generation and use of electric power. A second avenue of impact is less direct. The U.S. Congress is considering greater stringency in the fuel-efficiency of cars, trucks, and other transportation vehicles. Major automotive companies are domiciled in the region, many of which are now financially beleaguered and many of which are thought to face added challenges in complying with heightened fuel-efficiency standards.

Emissions of carbon dioxide have been climbing over time in the Midwest and in the U.S. as a whole. Generally, carbon dioxide is released along with the burning of fossil fuels—coal, petroleum, and natural gas materials. Over time, our growing energy-hungry economy has burned more fuel. Since 1950, U.S. energy consumption is up over three fold, almost entirely from greater consumption of fossil fuels.

U.S. carbon emissions continue to lead the world (China is second), and U.S. carbon emissions have grown more rapidly than the nation’s overall energy consumption. Electric power generation is the source of the more rapid rise in carbon emissions. Among major energy-consuming sectors of the U.S. economy, electric power generation has outpaced the others. The burning of coal remains the primary means to generate electric power, and it is the most carbon-intensive fuel.

Despite rising emissions, the overall carbon intensity of the Midwest economy and the U.S. economy has been falling rapidly along with heightened overall energy efficiency. Over time, the U.S. economy can produce a dollar of real output with less energy input. As shown below, carbon dioxide emissions per dollar of real output are approximately one-half of what they were in the early 1960s. By this measure, the Midwest carbon intensity exceeded the nation by 17.8 percent in year 2001 versus an excess of 4.1 percent in 1963.

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Surprisingly, it is not the Midwest economy’s greater concentration in heavy industry that explains its greater carbon intensity—at least not directly. The figure below reports that the region’s industrial sector accounts for a lesser share of its overall carbon emissions versus the nation’s in its overall emissions. Rather, the region’s electric power sector makes up a larger share of carbon emissions versus that of the U.S., a 42.8 percent share in the Midwest versus 38.4 percent for the nation.

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Nor is it the case that the region’s residents consume considerably more electric power than the national average. Rather, the means of power generation in the Midwest tends toward the burning of coal along with attendant carbon emissions. As shown below, power generation facilities in every Midwest state (save Illinois) burn coal to a greater degree than those of the nation, a 41 percent greater share in May 2007. Illinois’ lower carbon intensity derives from its use of nuclear facilities to generate electric power. Indiana and Ohio are especially dependent on coal to generate power at the present time.

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From these cursory observations, it would appear that, to avoid costs and penalties, the Midwest’s electric power generators would be called on to reduce carbon emissions in the event that state or national policies begin to control GHG emissions. Possible avenues to do so are to rely on more (carbon-free) nuclear generating plants or on renewable means, such as the conversion of wind power to electricity. Various technologies to scrub coal of its carbon are also available or on the drawing board.

In choosing among these vehicles to reduce carbon, cap-and-trade systems are in some respects highly suitable for electric power producers. Electric power plants tend to be large and fixed in number. Accordingly, the issuance, monitoring, and trading of emissions permits can be carried out with little monitoring and administrative cost. Of course, the ultimate costs of achieving carbon reductions remain uncertain. In the 1990s, the nation had favorable experiences with a cap-and-trade market among power producers in reducing sulfur dioxide emissions as required under the Clean Air Act. Emissions were reduced below expectations at costs that were far below expectations. It is hoped that a similarly successful marriage of technological progress and market-based incentives will once again come about.

How should states tax business?

As much of the Midwest economy struggles to boost its economic performance and as Midwest governments try to maintain funding for public services, the subject of state and local business taxes arises. This summer, the state of Michigan replaced its innovative but contentious “single business tax” with two lesser taxes, one on business income and the other on business gross receipts. Meanwhile, Illinois’ Governor Blagojevich proposed a hefty tax on business gross receipts that was to begin in 2008. That tax proposal was defeated even as the Governor railed against the interests of high-powered lobbyists “who eat fancy steaks” and “shuffle around in Gucci loafers.” These and other new developments in state–local business taxation will be discussed and analyzed by some of the nation’s leading tax experts at a Bank conference this coming September 17.

What are business taxes, and how should they be viewed? By definition, and in accounting for them, business taxes are any taxes collected from businesses and legally imposed on business revenue, property, assets, sales, right to do business and inputs to production. Measured in this way, business taxes are estimated in a recent study by Ernst & Young to have been $554 billion in 2006, accounting for 45 percent of state–local government tax collections. By this reckoning, their share of these tax collections has fallen by only a couple of percentage points since 1990.

The table below, drawn from the same study, displays business tax collections by type for Seventh District states and the U.S. The following graph allocates property taxes by type into shares of the total collection. Property taxes, which are largely administered and collected by local governments, comprise almost 50 percent of business taxes. Seventh District states have historically drawn on these sources since local governments tend to be prominent here and because the Midwest economy has historically concentrated in property-rich sectors, namely agriculture and manufacturing.

It may surprise many to find that “retail” sales taxes on business transactions rank second in business tax share. Though it is often thought of as a tax primarily levied on consumers at the point of final sale, many intermediate purchases of goods and services between businesses (B to B) are not exempted from it. By one estimate, as much as 40 percent of retail sales tax collections in the U.S. may be collected from B to B sales.

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In fashioning business-type taxes, policymakers seem to be motivated in two primary ways. First, business taxes are often seen as a popular and expedient way of raising revenue for public services and do so at the expense of the business owners. There is a common notion that such taxes are “progressive” and are drawn from the wealth of well-to-do individuals. However, business-type taxes are imposed on certain transactions and not people per se. For example, a particular tax may be called a “retail” tax if it is imposed on telephone or electricity consumption, implying that the consumer is bearing the burden. But, the same tax may be called a “gross receipts” tax when levied directly on the public utility, implying that unidentified “business owners” are bearing the burden of the tax. Yet, in every action in collecting either tax, they are identical. “Who puts the nickel in tax collection box” makes no difference in real impact.

Similarly, while a business tax may be legally written to fall on the purchase of a business input or on the income of a corporation, behavioral adjustments take place in response to the tax that ultimately shift the final burden of the tax. Most commonly, excessive taxes are shifted forward into the prices of goods purchased by consumers—rich and poor alike; or taxes may be shifted backwards onto people who own the factors of production—laborers as well as nonworking households of various income strata.

If it is true that business taxes are shifted, why do we see that business organizations and business owners vigorously fight business tax hikes in state legislatures and in local city councils? Part of the answer is that taxes are only shifted in the long run. In the meantime, because business operators and owners cannot quickly adjust their behavior in response to tax hikes, the tax burdens may indeed fall heavily on them personally. Only after varying periods of time may businesses fully take offsetting actions, such as reducing investment and labor, retrenching production, or moving to other locales. And looking forward, many opportunities for business expansion may be nullified because of disincentives that are attendant to the expanded taxation.

In this light, the other major consideration of policymakers comes to the fore. State and local policymakers worry about their competitiveness in setting business tax policy. In the United States, “tax competition” is highly active among state and local governments. As localities compete for both jobs and tax revenues, taxes do not generally stray too far out of line. Outwardly, states keep their general business tax structures in line with their neighbors so as not to discourage business investment. So too, states and localities often offer generous and other selective tax abatements.

Tax competition serves not only to keep business taxes from being punitive, but in the competition for local investment, localities are often forthcoming in allowing commercial use of land and providing public services to business. In fact, because businesses do directly use public services such as roads, refuse disposal and public safety services, it is clear that business taxes should seldom or never be reduced to zero but should rather cover related costs. Other similar “business generating” costs that have been advanced in this regard include pollution-type taxes, which are more common in Europe, and the business benefits of allowing “limited liability” organization, which may impose costs on governments if businesses fail catastrophically or in unanticipated ways.

Some observers and analysts believe that local governments do not manage well the negotiations with savvy business firms for selective tax subsidies. For this and other reasons related to tax competition, insufficient revenues will be raised to fund basic services to households, such as public education. Accordingly, efforts to limit competition by statute have been advocated, along with proposals to assist governments in bargaining more effectively with arbiters of mobile capital investment.

Is the limiting of tax competition necessary to save governments from themselves? The answers are not yet clear. However, it can be said that local governments are competing on more than the basis of tax competition alone. Several studies have indicated that the quality of life and other household amenities are increasingly the determinants of metropolitan area growth. Local leaders, and especially big city mayors, have responded to this trend by building infrastructure and offering amenities to attract workers—especially educated and skilled work force—to their cities. Such efforts range from festivals and parks to school reform and public safety. Younger people are often the focus, since they are more mobile in their migration patterns. In tandem, cities often couple amenity initiatives with employment strategies such as college internship programs with local firms, recruitment fairs and regional marketing.

Governments also compete in providing public services to business, and they also construct the regulatory and legal environment in which businesses operate. In considering where and whether to invest, businesses must often look to an uncertain future. In choosing where to invest, they accordingly prefer to have some certainty with respect to state and local government behavior toward business activity. They may ask themselves: Do the state and local governments seem to be committed to standing as an attentive and steady partner in providing services as businesses’ needs change over time? Or has the past record of state and local government been punitive and myopic in expanding business taxation when revenue shortfalls arise?

Automotive wages in flux

As the “Detroit 3” automotive companies have experienced shrinking profits and market share, many midwestern communities have experienced falling jobs, income, tax revenues and public services—to say nothing of the households and families working in the industry. This summer, automotive workers and communities are watching closely as the terms of automotive employment—especially wages—are being renegotiated. On July 20, for example, the UAW labor union opens contract negotiations with Ford and Chrysler (July 23 for General Motors) for contracts that will run for 4 years. And earlier this month, auto parts maker Delphi announced settlement terms with its workers as it undergoes operational restructuring. Only four Delphi production plants will remain in operation in the U.S. as its customers will source parts from its overseas operations or from alternative suppliers. Remaining Delphi production workers will be on the receiving end of cuts to health care benefits, employment security, retirement and wages. Wages for production workers will be reduced from $27 per hour to a maximum of $18, $14 for new hires.

How should we view the wage settlements as they are announced in coming months? One perspective is to compare them to average wages for production workers in U.S. manufacturing. Production workers are typically those who have few or no supervisory roles in manufacturing plants; in other words, most assembly line workers would fall into this category. The chart below displays average wages for production workers back to 1967. These wages represent the average in compensation for overtime and regular time. The wages are expressed in current dollars, adjusted over time for changing prices by the Consumer Price Index.

The bottom line shows that, across all manufacturing industries, average wages have remained largely flat since 1967, ranging between $17 and $20 per hour. Wages were rising until 1980. With several deviations, the average wage settled at $ 18.59 in 2005, which is the latest available data from this particular source.

In the same graph, we can see that that production workers in motor vehicle parts industries (blue line) have fared somewhat better over time, but that their wages have been converging with the remainder of manufacturing workers since the 1980s.

Workers in the automotive assembly industry (green line) are smaller in number than those in parts production. In the U.S., there are approximately three workers in parts production for every worker in an assembly plant. Unlike their brethren in parts production, assembly workers’ wages have been generally rising since 1967. By 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau reported an average production wage of $35.84.

The second graph below plots the premiums in wages for automotive workers. This premium is expressed as the percent by which wages exceed the average of all U.S. production workers across all industries. As of year 2005, the average wages of automotive assembly workers topped their counterparts by 50 percent. For motor vehicle parts workers, the wage premium has fallen below 20 percent from a peak of 31 percent in 1980. Approximately one-third of workers in the parts industry are represented by labor unions versus three-fourths of domestic assembly workers.

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Declining employment has accompanied softening wages in many instances. From a geographic perspective, declining automotive jobs is nothing new for many midwestern states and communities. The industry was highly concentrated in the Midwest throughout the first half of the twentieth century but afterward began to disperse—first to other U.S. states and later around the globe. Considering domestic employment in automotive parts and assembly combined, the next graph shows that the states of Ohio, Michigan and Indiana accounted for over three-fourths of automotive employment through World War II. By 2005, their employment share had fallen under one-half.

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During the current decade, the automotive job decline has been precipitous. The final graphic (below) indicates that the three-state decline in automotive jobs has fallen by almost one-third since year 2000, from 576,000 to 383,000 over the first half of 2007.

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The reasons for these employment declines are several.

 As always, productivity gains are reducing the labor content in automotive production. Labor hours per vehicle assembled by the “Detroit 3” car makers, for example, declined from 24–28 hours in 2002 to 22–23 hours in 2006. Beyond assembly, estimates by Martin Baily of the McKinsey Institute and the Institute for International Economics report that labor hours to produce an auto in North America, including parts, are decreasing at an annual average of 1.7 percent annually since 1987, and are now approaching 100 hours total.

 Globalization of production has resulted in both off-shore operations and competitive pressures on domestic producers. Since 1996, the import share of light vehicle sales has increased from 12 percent of sales to 20 percent, year to date. Approximately one-quarter of domestically used automotive parts are now sourced abroad.

 Despite some periods of re-concentration over the past 2 decades and the siting of many new plants in various Midwest communities in recent decades, the overall industry continues to disperse to other states, especially in the South.

Note: Thomas Klier contributed to this entry.

State-local Business Taxation

To most people, the subject of tax structure is a sleepy one. An important exception is when looming changes to the tax structure raise the prospects for who will pay for public services (and how much they will pay). In characterizing this debate, Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana once said, “Don’t tax me, don’t tax thee, tax that fellow behind the tree!”

Public discussion also becomes animated when considering whether state and local tax structures (or changes to them) will hinder economic growth and development. That is to say, will tax hikes on business drive away jobs and income?

A recent symposium held at our Bank gathered experts together to consider emerging trends in business taxation. In recent years, there have been significant changes to business taxation in Midwest states, such as Ohio and Michigan. Ohio enacted a modest tax on business gross receipts in 2005, replacing a local tax on capital machinery and equipment. Michigan has phased out its largest business tax and is now considering how to replace the revenues that it formerly generated with its Single Business Tax.

The State of Illinois was considering a large “business” tax on business gross receipts to fund education and a subsidized health care initiative. To pay for it, Governor Rod Blagojevich advocated a large business tax on gross receipts because it would be paid by those who could afford it. Interestingly, the Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn disagreed on the very same grounds.

Who was correct? As with many such matters, there is no certainty. But at the business taxation conference, I stated that I did not favor the Illinois gross receipts tax, at least on equity grounds. I argued that our most common principle of equity in taxation is a poor guidepost by which to design a state’s business tax structure. By equity, most people mean “ability to pay” such that taxation should progressively burden high-income households relative to low-income ones. The trouble with this approach is that businesses are not households. Businesses are organized groups of people ranging from line workers to mid-managers to active owner-entrepreneurs to silent capital-owning partners.

So who are we really taxing? We are not really sure. In particular, the taxation of business activity often results in changes to product prices that burden consumers rather than wealthy individuals. In the same vein, business taxation can sometimes result in lower wage offers to a firm’s workers. The ultimate result of such “tax shifting” may mean that a tax intended to “soak the rich” may have the opposite result. For example, it is easy to see (and universally accepted) that unduly high taxes on companies that sell gasoline in a state or city are largely shifted forward to consumers of gasoline in that state or city. Why would the companies pay inordinate taxes on the gasoline they sell in Chicago, for example? The answer is that they would not and they do not. This is in part because gasoline (energy) companies sell their products and services into many markets worldwide. Accordingly, when taxes on gasoline are pushed too high in any one locale, the price of gasoline rises until it becomes profitable for companies to sell it there. And since gasoline is presently a necessity for nearly everyone in the industrialized world, low-income households end up paying taxes on it that are a larger share of their household income as compared with the share of high-income households. The intent to achieve equity, in this instance, is foiled.

More generally, analysts have only a fuzzy and foggy notion across the breadth of business taxes as to which ones (and how much of them) are actually shifted to workers and to consumers. And so, to achieve equity, tools such as direct income redistribution or manipulation of the individual income tax are more reliable for this purpose. For this reason, I argue that it is preferable to design state and local business taxes around our notions of efficiency rather than on equity.

In looking at the efficiency of taxing businesses, it is important to recognize that business organizations do use costly government services, including police, fire protection, roadways, and legal protections. Having businesses pay for such services, then, is not only fair, it is efficient in several respects.

In paying state and local governments for their public services, businesses will be motivated to articulate their service needs to these governments, just as customers do with service providers in market situations. In turn, this will promote growth and development in states and localities. The resulting negotiation and conversation between governments and businesses will help identify those essential roads, bridges, and property protections that make businesses more productive. So too the process of haggling over the price and cost of government services to businesses will tend to keep governments cost efficient.

This give and take between business and government will only take place if a state’s business taxes are structured as a user charge and not set unduly high in an effort to redistribute income.

The purposeful conversation on business taxes and business service levels will also spill over in positive ways to government service provision to households. In recognizing that “business” taxes are not really subsidizing household services, such as education and health care, households and their representatives will more carefully evaluate the costs and benefits of government services.

The structure of taxes can be a sleepy one. However, those who doze off during the debate may very well find themselves stuck with the tab.

The Stability of State Economies

By Guest Blogger Michael Munley

In recent years, Fed Chairman Bernanke and other economists have been analyzing the causes of the increased stability in the U.S. economy, a phenomenon known as “The Great Moderation.” Most of their analyses have focused on the national economy, noting that the fluctuations, or volatility, in GDP growth, employment growth and inflation have declined noticeably over the past 25 years or so. But a Philadelphia Fed economist, Jerry Carlino, recently wrote a paper that looks at the issue at the state level and finds that every state has shared in the decline in employment volatility.

Increased stability has numerous benefits for both households and businesses. When employment is growing at more stable rates, people can be more certain of their job prospects, which makes it easier to decide whether to buy a new car, for example. Similarly, businesses have an easier time deciding whether to invest in new machinery when they can be more certain about the state of the economy. In turn, better decision-making by people and businesses can minimize the potential waste in the economy created by bankruptcies and other problems that can arise when people make decisions that turn out poorly.

Comparing the average volatility (measured in Carlino’s paper as the standard deviation of quarterly changes in employment) before and after 1984, Carlino’s results show that the states of the Seventh District all had declines that ranked in the top half of all U.S. states. Michigan ranked 2nd with a 63.6% drop in volatility, Indiana 4th with 57.1%, Wisconsin 8th with 52.5%, Iowa 16th with 45.3%, and Illinois 20th with 42.7%.

The following graph illustrates how the volatility in total employment has changed over time in each of the District states, converging toward the national average.

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One reason for the relatively bigger declines in employment volatility in the Midwest is our concentration in manufacturing and, specifically, our concentration in durable goods manufacturing. Carlino reports that volatility in U.S. factory employment was cut in half after 1984, whereas the declines in employment volatility in services were much smaller. And by my estimates, the volatility reduction in durable goods manufacturing employment was much sharper than that in nondurable goods.

As a result, Seventh District states ranked in the top half of all states in terms of the magnitude of the decline in manufacturing employment volatility. Michigan ranked 1st with a 66.3% drop, Indiana 3rd with 63.1%, Wisconsin 7th with 56.9%, Illinois 12th with 55.7%, and Iowa 22nd with 48.8%.

I’ve also looked at other state-level data series to see if they too reveal evidence of the Great Moderation. The quarterly changes in unemployment rates show similar reductions in volatility to those seen in employment (though the state-level unemployment data only go back to 1976). Real per capita income also shows a reduction in volatility, but the relative reductions are smaller.

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Interestingly, whereas the District’s concentration in durable goods manufacturing seemed to lead to larger reductions in volatility compared with other states, that is not the case with changes in unemployment rates and personal income. As shown in the following table, the Midwest states’ reductions in unemployment and income volatility were rather middling.

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Carlino notes that the economists who have been tracking the Great Moderation have proposed numerous reasons for the decline in volatility nationwide. Explanations include better monetary policy, structural changes (such as improved inventory management, the decline of unionization, the redistribution of jobs from manufacturing to services, banking deregulation), and plain good luck, in that the economy has not faced any significant crises like the oil embargo of the 1970s.

Regardless of the causes, it is clear that changes in employment and other variables are much more stable here in the Midwest than they were 25 years or so ago. Yet while lower volatility has its benefits, it does not uniformly deliver positive outcomes. Typically, volatility rises during a recession (as shown in the graphs above) then settles back down when the economy recovers and employment expands again.

However, that has not been the case in Michigan. Its volatility in all three variables increased during the 2001 recession and retreated since then, but the state economy has not recovered. Michigan’s employment has been stabilizing around an average decline in jobs (-0.2 percent per quarter over the past five years). Its unemployment is high; in April the unemployment rate in Michigan was 7.1%, the highest in the nation. And per capita incomes in Michigan are stabilizing around slow growth of 0.1% per quarter, which is below the national average and among the slowest in the nation.

If you buy the assumption that the observed volatility affects the confidence of business and household decision-making, this means that Michiganders could be getting more certain that the local economy is heading in the wrong direction.

The mouse that roared: Putting the sale of Chrysler in context

By Guest Blogger Thomas Klier

On Monday, May 14, 2007, DaimlerChrysler Corporation announced it would spin off its Chrysler division by selling it to Cerberus LLC, a private equity company. The news ended speculation regarding a possible sale of Chrysler as well as the identity of its ultimate acquirer. The pending sale of Chrysler has since been widely covered in the media. Some have referred to the sale as a watershed event for the U.S. auto industry, which has been undergoing structural change for a number of years. In recent years such changes resulted in new ways to approach the industry’s underlying problems, such as rising health care costs. Witness, for example, the unprecedented mid-contract negotiations between the Detroit Three, comprising Ford, General Motors (GM), and Chrysler, and the United Auto Workers (UAW), which resulted in increased cost-sharing for health care by employees and retirees of Ford and GM toward the end of 2005.

What follows is a brief analysis that places the sale of Chrysler into context from a Midwest perspective.

Who and what

Chrysler represents one of the most venerable names in the U.S. auto industry. For many years, it was one of the companies simply referred to as the Big Three. In 1998, Chrysler merged with Daimler AG of Stuttgart, Germany, in what was then widely hailed as a merger with great chances of success. By way of a $36 billion transaction, the DaimlerChrysler Corporation (DCX) was born.

However, the bond that was then forged by the merger was not to last for even a decade. On May 14, 2007, DCX ended several months of speculation by announcing its intention to sell Chrysler to Cerberus. This transaction is expected to close during the third quarter of this year. According to the terms of the agreement, Chrysler will subsequently be incorporated as Chrysler LLC. Cerberus will own 80.1% of this entity. DCX, soon to be renamed Daimler, will retain a 19.9% stake.

Cerberus is a private equity company based in New York City. It has controlling interests in a number of companies, representing various industries. Among them are a number of auto supplier companies. In 2006, Cerberus made news by acquiring 51% of General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC), GM’s financing arm.

Chrysler’s footprint

The newly incorporated Chrysler LLC will no longer be a Big Three company. It is now common to refer to the Big Six auto companies in the North American market; they are, ranked in order by U.S. market share: GM, Ford, Toyota, Chrysler, Honda, and Nissan. Chrysler will, however, rejoin GM and Ford as one of the Detroit Three.

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Chrysler is currently in the midst of a downsizing program that was announced on February 14, 2007. That restructuring will reduce its total number of employees in North America by about 13,000. The company is also cutting back its production capacity by closing one assembly plant and shutting down lines at two other plants. The new Chrysler LLC will be more concentrated in the Midwest in its production operations than the other domestic automakers (see map). It will also produce a higher share of its output as light trucks than any other Big Six automaker. Finally, of the Big Six, Chrysler will be the automaker most dependent on the North American market.

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Why does this matter?

These are challenging times for the domestic auto sector. The Detroit Three continue to lose market share, a number of auto parts makers are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the domestic automakers have been in strained negotiations with their unionized employees for the past two years. Delphi—GM’s former parts subsidiary, spun off in 1999 and instantly becoming one of the largest auto parts supplier companies—filed for Chapter 11 in 2005. Negotiations between GM, the UAW, and Delphi about finding a way for Delphi to emerge from Chapter 11 have been going on for over a year.

At the same time, private equity and venture capital firms have been quite active in restructuring the U.S. auto industry for a number of years. Against this background Cerberus’s purchase of Chrysler is noteworthy in that it represents the first time a private venture capital firm has acquired an automaker. As a consequence, by way of becoming a private company, Chrysler LLC will likely have the ability to take a longer-term, strategic approach toward regaining profitability. Yet its owners will want to see a return on their investment along the way.

On the product side, these demands on the company may require refocusing Chrysler products so that they line up with consumer demand. On the cost side, this primarily means addressing the growing health care liabilities that Chrysler, along with the other Detroit automakers, is facing. The next opportunity to do this will arrive soon. This summer the Detroit Three and the UAW are scheduled to negotiate a new labor contract, because the current four-year contract will expire in September. The presence of Cerberus at the bargaining table is likely to change the dynamic of these negotiations.

As the Detroit-based carmakers are struggling to stem their market share losses, Chrysler, the smallest of the Detroit Three, has just been moved into the spotlight by way of its sale to Cerberus. In the process of addressing a number of difficult competitive challenges, Chrysler—the car company that invented the minivan and, in 1980 as it was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, was bailed out by the federal government—could well set the course for the Detroit Three for years to come.

Seventh District Housing Market Update

For several years running, the national pace of investment in housing greatly exceeded historic norms. Accordingly, housing market observers speculated that strong rates of home building and price appreciation would falloff markedly at some point in the near future. Nationally, real residential investment growth averaged 9 percent from 2003-2005; average home prices rose by 6.8 percent in 2003, 10.7 percent in 2004, and 13.1 percent in 2005.

During the first half of last year, the pace of home construction and home price appreciation finally slowed. Since then, home building activity and sales have declined sharply and, by some measures, changes in home prices are now running in negative territory. Since the fourth quarter of 2005, U.S. residential investment has been declining, averaging over 11 percent on an annualized basis. The growth of the OFHEO measure of national average home prices has slowed to 5.9 percent year-over-year for the last quarter of 2006 (new data will be released on May 31).

During the current decade, home prices appreciated in the Midwest as well, though less so than in the nation and much less so than several southern and coastal markets such as San Diego, Las Vegas, and many parts of Florida. For this reason, during the years of strong price appreciation, some observers believed that the Midwest would be spared the eventual price and building falloffs that would unfold in other regions. So far, this does not seem to be the case. Most major residential real estate indicators currently show the Midwest region with comparable or weaker fundamentals than the national average. The chart below illustrates the pace of new home construction starts in the Seventh District states versus the U.S. Measured on a year-over-year basis, home starts in the Midwest have been running below the nation since early 2006.

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For the most part, the weaker Midwest economy lies behind its weaker housing markets versus the national average. The current slowing of the U.S. economy has been accompanied by a marked slowing in manufacturing which has, in turn, softened the housing market in many local Midwest communities. In addition, ongoing structural upheaval in automotive-oriented communities is reflected in several housing market indicators including home purchases, home prices, and in foreclosures of existing properties.

Residential real estate market conditions are highly local. The maps below juxtapose home price appreciation and unemployment rates in Seventh District metropolitan areas. Looking at the top map, unemployment rates in many Michigan communities are notably higher than the general pattern in the other Seventh District metropolitan areas. Retrenchment in domestic automotive assembly operations and suppliers in Michigan has resulted in significant work force upheaval. Automotive-oriented communities in other states of the Seventh District—such as Kokomo, Indiana—have had similar experiences. After Michigan, Indiana is the second most automotive intensive state in the Seventh District.

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The second map (above) displays year-over-year house price appreciation for the same metropolitan areas. To some degree, areas with a slack labor market are experiencing less home price appreciation. This is especially evident in Michigan and Northwest Indiana where the domestic automotive industry troubles are centered.

The linkage in these states between the local economy and the housing market is consistent with available information on home loans. The pace of loan delinquencies and mortgage foreclosures in both of these states are now running higher than both the nation and other states of the Seventh District.

Home price appreciation is stronger in Chicago and in many other metropolitan areas in Illinois and Wisconsin. In the Chicago area, job growth in business services, travel-tourism, and financial services industries have continued to expand. In other metropolitan areas to the west of Indiana and Michigan, manufacturing tends to be concentrated in more buoyant product lines, such as construction and farm machinery or food processing. As a result, home prices are generally holding up better in those areas.

Labor market conditions fare well in many Iowa metropolitan areas. Yet, average home price appreciation there is generally tepid. To some degree, home price appreciation has been very steady in Iowa over many years and the current pace of appreciation does not differ markedly from the norm of the past 15 years (see below).

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Nationally, residential real estate activity continues to adjust downward to align with its rapid expansion of recent years. In particular regions and communities, the extent of adjustment varies with both the stock of existing housing and with local trends in economic growth which drive the demand for housing. Generally, new construction activity and price appreciation have softened in the Seventh District but local conditions can be seen to vary with local economic indicators.

Congestion tolling and privately operated roads—An idea whose time has come?

As our roads become increasingly congested, tolling and privatization of highways will be increasingly important lifelines, especially for large urban economies. The idea that motorists should pay tolls when driving on congested highways has long been advocated by economists. Conceptually, the “public” part of highway transportation is limited to the necessary intervention by public authorities to strategically acquire land for transportation and assure that all have access to travel freely in pursuit of commerce and recreation. However, the individual’s use of a roadway is often “private” in that it imposes congestion costs on other drivers (and some pollution as well). That is, in the motorist’s decision to use a road, the individual driver does not consider the congestion costs imposed on other drivers, thereby leading to the overuse of limited public roadway capacity. As a remedy, congestion tolls bring these individual driving decisions back into line with the greater public good. As the degree of road use (and congestion) varies by time of day and by day of the week, so should the amount of tolls vary accordingly.

After a long hiatus, interest in congestion tolling and privately operated roads has been climbing. European and Asian cities have made innovative headway in congestion fees. Both Stockholm and the City of London have implemented motor vehicle charges for the privilege of access to their central area; so has Singapore. Most recently, New York City has proposed to charge auto motorists $8 for the privilege of driving around Manhattan during peak traffic hours, with higher fees for those driving trucks.

Such actions are largely being spurred by rising congestion—which did not materialize overnight. The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) creates a “travel time index” that indicates the relative change in travel time from peak traffic to free-flow traffic. In a TTI report, Chicago in 1982 had a travel time index of about 1.2, meaning that given a 40-minute commute during a free-flow period, a person driving during peak hours would drive about 48 minutes (20% longer than it “should” take). This had climbed to 57 percent longer by 2003. In four major cities of the Seventh District, the added time to a commute during peak hours has increased from 14% in 1982 to 46% in 2003.

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Prior to the recent spate of toll programs, some highway authorities experimented with non-price-rationing measures such as “high occupancy vehicle” (HOV) lanes. To curtail congestion, HOV lanes set aside and dedicated freeway lanes to those vehicles, including cars and buses that have multiple occupants. Unfortunately, the results were sometimes disappointing in relieving congestion because HOV lanes merely attracted vehicles that already contained multiple occupants, without prompting a significant number of single-passenger motorists to carpool. So, too, the dedicated HOV lanes, while often uncongested, tended to push even greater congestion onto unrestricted lanes of the highway.

In response, the so-called “high occupancy toll” or HOT lanes have sometimes been called into action. HOT lanes are essentially HOV lanes that allow single-occupancy vehicles to motor in them—but for a price.

What has brought us to this state of affairs? Under the best of circumstances, motorists prefer to drive when and where they choose at no charge. But Americans’ penchant for driving has far outrun our financial ability to build roads. Lifestyle changes have tremendously raised the miles traveled in cars by U.S. households. Rising household incomes have lifted the desires for ever larger houses and lots, which are, in turn, often satisfied by homes located quite far from work sites. In addition, owing to the desire for residential privacy, homes are often built on dead-end or nonthrough streets, which has aggravated traffic on the major arterial roads surrounding residential communities.

Also, the rising trend of two-earner households makes it difficult for both earners to simultaneously live near their workplaces. More generally, there are extensive logistics (and driving miles) for today’s American family to coordinate their many trips for work, shopping, education, and recreation. By one estimate (DOT), highway travel miles climbed 23.4% from 1995 to 2005 in comparison to a population increase of 11.4%. To accommodate such rising traffic, road expansion has climbed by only 2.6% over the same period.

Many observers recognize that improved community land use planning could help curtail our appetite for driving. For example, allowing developers to build high-density apartment-type residences around existing commuter rail stations would allow at least one of a household’s commuters to keep a car parked during the workday commute. So, too, stronger community planning efforts to assure that households of modest means can find affordable housing could help curtail the need for very long commutes. In the Chicago area, for example, policy think tanks such as Chicago Metropolis 2020 and the Metropolitan Planning Council spearhead efforts and programs that promote such community planning. Still, however sensible such planning may be, there has been very little of it implemented in many U.S. cities to date, and so, the increased commuting has often overtaken existing roadway capacity.

In past decades, state governments have often tried to keep pace with rising demands for driving and for far-flung housing by building more roads, including freeways. Several forces are now conspiring to slow such construction, especially tight fiscal conditions. The primary source of highway grant assistance to states, the Federal Highway Trust Fund, is replenished from the federal tax on gasoline. But the tax of 18.4 cents per gallon has not been raised since 1993 so that while revenues do rise somewhat along with vehicle miles traveled, they do not keep pace with rising gasoline prices and higher milage automobiles. Meanwhile, the revenue resources of state governments have also been besieged. Many state gasoline taxes are themselves imposed on a stagnant “cents per gallon” basis, and the voting public strongly resists the raising of gasoline taxes—especially as motor fuel prices have put increased pressure on household budgets over the past three years.

This leaves state government officials in a quandary, since the costs for competing public services, especially health care, education, and prisons, are concurrently squeezing state budgetary funds. State and local governments are hard pressed to even maintain existing highways, let alone fund expansions to curtail growing traffic congestion.

In addition to charging tolls, elected officials are also responding by increasingly turning to the private sector to assume responsibilities that include the financing, planning, marketing, construction, operation, and pricing of roads and bridges. Many combinations and arrangements of these functions are being attempted, from simple outsourcing of management and toll collection of highways to the all encompassing long-term leasing of highways as a publicly regulated private business entity.

Increased congestion and financial stress are not the only reasons behind the privatization and tolling of transportation infrastructure. New and improved technologies for payment of highway tolls have recently come to the fore. In contrast to the driver of yesteryear who had no option but to deal with the delay-plagued coin and cash toll booths, today’s driver can often make payment with little or no slowing down. Toll payments can be made online by transponders carried within vehicles or offline by remiote reading of license plates.

Seventh District initiatives lie at the recent epicenter of these movements in the U.S. In particular, the City of Chicago entered into a 99-year lease to a private consortium in 2005, turning over operational responsibility for and revenue returns from an 8-mile stretch of toll highway called the Chicago Skyway. By many accounts, the City benefited greatly from this transaction, while the public interest of drivers was also well served by enhanced operational efficiencies. The City of Chicago used income from the deal to retire existing debt on the Skyway infrastructure, and with the remaining revenue, it also set up a trust fund and purchased a sizable annuity that will help finance the city’s general operating funds well into the future. The driving public now enjoys rapid roadway maintenance and toll collection and eased congestion, albeit with prospective increases in toll fees.

Following Chicago’s lead, the Indiana Finance Authority leased its east–west toll turnpike for $3.8 billion in 2006. In large part, Indiana will use the proceeds to fund and maintain highway infrastructure throughout the state.

Meanwhile, in an effort to reduce rush-hour congestion around the Chicago area, the Illinois Tollway Authority introduced differential time-of-day pricing for only trucks in 2005. This program also doubled tolls for drivers in autos who choose to pay by cash at toll booths rather than by electronic transponder as they drive through rapidly. Revenues from these schemes are being used for repairs and expansion of the tollway system; they are also being used for the capital costs of new and reconfigured “open road” (or no-stop) toll collection system, which enables vehicles to pay tolls while traveling at highway speeds.

As the Illinois Toll Authority and other examples show, privatization and tolling of roads are separable actions. But in some ways they reinforce one another. Turning one’s operations over to private companies may provide one way to overcome the public’s resistance to congestion pricing, especially in contrast to government authorities who may be encumbered or distracted by non-transportation responsibilities or political constraints (i.e., the lack of political will to appropriately price use of the asset). Privatization potentially may also allow the operational authority to change pricing regimes and payment technologies more quickly in response to changing roadway conditions. Also, cost efficiencies and service quality are presumably improved when private agencies are watching the bottom line, though this has not always proved to be the case.

Still, the issues inherent in privatization schemes are contentious with respect to both purported operational efficiencies and sound fiscal management by governments. In awarding operational and pricing autonomy to private companies, it is not always clear whether the public interest is less than optimally served in favor of the profitability of the private operator. In particular, monopoly-type pricing by a private operator may be worse than publicly directed underpricing of congested facilities. Similarly, the data collected from the publicly rather than privately operated system may be more readily available for systemic public land use and transportation planning across entire metropolitan areas. For these reasons, as they enter into such partnership arrangements, elected officials must carefully craft contract terms and then follow up by monitoring the private companies during the terms of the contract.

Other concerns center on the behavior and actions of governments when they first enter into such agreements. Upfront revenue windfalls from the leasing of public infrastructure may cloud the judgment of governments and elected officials. Without proper disclosure and oversight of government by the public, the sale and leasing of transportation infrastructure to private buyers may pander to the near-sighted proclivities of elected officials. To plug current budget holes, or to plump up current spending for self-motivated reasons, public officials may unwisely commit large revenue streams immediately received from the sale or lease, while concurrently widening future budget deficits by eliminating public revenue streams. As always, the voting public and their representative think tanks must be on guard to oversee the terms of public–private partnership arrangements.

Elected officials must also represent and protect the public’s interests in matters of fairness and equity. Lower-income households are those who will be disproportionately burdened to pay for the use of less-congested roadways. In many ex-urban and suburban places, lower-income households must travel long distances to access their workplaces. Equity concerns are often compelling, since these workplace commutes are often lengthened by land use restrictions undertaken in high-income communities that limit the availability of affordable housing near work sites.

In response to equity concerns, some states and localities are adding capacity and subsidies to public transportation—both light rail and buses. When funding is short, as it usually is, governments often earmark part of highway toll revenues to such dedicated purposes.

However, for many households, public transportation is not an option. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, only 4.7 percent of workers currently use public transportation. The table below shows average usage of public transportation for Seventh District states. Public transportation is, of course, more viable in densely populated places, including large cities such as Chicago. Since large cities also coincide with highway congestion and tolling practices, the use of tolls to fund public transportation subsidies will work better there.

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The use of congestion pricing, privatization, and new payments technologies remain in their infancy. Yet, because of the ever-increasing demand for driving, accompanied by little highway expansion and poor land use planning, heavy congestion will soon be a reality in many communities. For this reason, the Federal Reserve Bank will hold a one-day workshop this June to understand how pricing schemes, public–private partnerships, and emerging payment mechanisms can be used to address congestion and efficiency in commuter networks.

Financial Services Employment Growth in Chicago

Financial and insurance activities have historically concentrated in cities. In large part, this location tendency follows from the deep and broad information that is needed in allocating capital to those endeavors of highest return. Owing to their intense human interaction, large cities are advantaged in gathering and processing information about potential investments, and in matching specialized financial market participants on both sides of financial transactions.

Although it might seem otherwise, the heightened ease of global trade and communication in recent years has done nothing to break loose the urban advantage in financial services. To be sure, technological advances in information technology have lowered the costs of transmitting information over long distances, thereby allowing some financial functions to disperse to less urban areas. For example, routinized activities such as the processing of insurance claims and billing invoices can now be more cheaply carried out in small U.S. cities or even overseas. However, to the contrary, the complexity of financial transactions has grown considerably, putting a high premium on the advantages of urban location as the domicile for many higher order financial transactions and for highly skilled financial workers and entrepreneurs.

As the fourth largest metropolitan area in the world, measured by total annual output, the Chicago area harbors some hopes for a strong and growing financial services sector. Chicago has long served as a significant regional financial capital for the Midwest, especially in banking and insurance. So too, its risk management exchanges and member firms have evolved these particular specialties into industries of global reach and employment. Accordingly, while Chicago’s economic roles in manufacturing and other activities have waned, Chicago’s stature in financial services remains highly important in supporting the region’s economy. For 2005, financial and insurance payroll jobs amounted to 246,000 in the metropolitan area, comprising 5.8 percent of the total job base.

The current industry classification system (NAICS) breaks down financial services into three parts: Credit intermediation (NAICS 522), Securities and Commodities Contract Brokerages & Other Financial Services (NAICS 523), and Insurance Carriers and Other Activities (NAICS 524). “Credit intermediation” includes commercial banking along with credit card issuing, consumer lending, sales financing and mortgage lending. NAICS 523 includes not only stocks, bonds, commodities brokerage and exchanges, but also investment banking, portfolio management, and investment advice.

Using payroll employment by industry as a measure, the graph below displays the relative concentration of large U.S. cities in these industries versus the overall U.S. economy. An index value of one indicates parity with the U.S. in the industry’s job concentration; a value exceeding one indicates that the city’s employment concentration exceeds the U.S. For example, a value of two indicates that a particular industry concentrates twice as much employment in the city as compared to the U.S.

Generally, Chicago and other large metropolitan areas are seen to concentrate more highly than the U.S. across major financial industries. The Chicago area’s payroll employment index registers a value of 1.33 for 2006, indicating a concentration over the entire 522-524 sectors that is 33 percent more concentrated than the U.S. (This concentration was approximately the same as back as 1990).

The Chicago area’s sharpest employment concentration lies in the NAICS 523 sector, securities and commodities brokerage etc. with an index value of 1.96. In large part, this derives from the city’s world-prominent risk exchanges and their member firms. In addition, however, concentrated sub-sectors also include investment banking, portfolio management, and investment advice.

In addition to these activities, Chicago’s economy also concentrates employment in insurance related sectors (NAICS 524, an index value of 1.15) and credit intermediation (NAICS 522, an index value of 1.30).

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Despite some ups and downs, Chicago’s financial sector employment has contributed to the city’s growth. As elsewhere in the U.S., the wave of banking deregulation led to profound consolidation during the 1990s. During the era, the Chicago area experienced employment declines in NAICS 522 concurrent with waves of bank acquisitions, mergers, and attendant consolidation. Since then, Chicago area employment in credit intermediation businesses has grown. For one reason, in a recent study, Tara Rice and Erin Davis document the proliferation of commercial bank branches in the Chicago region. Previously, severe legislative restrictions on the branching of banks in Illinois resulted in an underserved population.

Similar performance experiences befell Chicago’s risk exchange community during the late 1990s and early years of this decade. Prior to their recent structural re-organization and successful adaptation to electronic trading, Chicago’s risk exchanges stagnated as emerging exchanges around the world gathered market share from them. Since then, Chicago’s risk exchange and risk management community is once again expanding, including firm spinoffs into emerging business lines and technologies. One recent study entitled “Exploring Entrepreneurship: The Chicago Futures Trading Industry” documents the spawning of local economic ventures centered around “technologies developed to enhance the buy-side of trading as well as post-trading management and technologies that cope with the increasing volume of market data that is being generated through electronic trading.”

Through such upheavals, the graph below shows that finance-insurance employment growth has kept pace with overall job growth in the Chicago metropolitan area over the longer term. Employment in the insurance arena has declined 10 percent since 1990. However, these losses were made up for by growth in both remaining financial sectors. In particular, job growth in the securities and commodities sectors expanded by 30 percent since 1990, an increase of about 10,000 jobs.

In more recent times–since year 2000, all three finance and insurance sectors are helping to pull along the Chicago area’s labor market. On an annualized basis, in 2006 Chicago’s total payroll job levels across all sectors, financial and otherwise, remained 2-3 percent below the peak year 2000. Yet, financial and insurance sector payroll employment jobs has risen 5 percent over the period.

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How important is this financial service performance to the Chicago regional economy? In some measure, Chicago’s financial industries serve the surrounding Midwest region and its industries which would suggest some drag on Chicago’s financial sector activity. Yet, despite slow growth of the broader Midwest, Chicago’s financial and insurance sectors continue to expand payroll. Such growth bears watching. Averaged across all sectors, payroll jobs in the NAICS 522-524 sectors carry an average annual payroll that is 75 percent above the region’s average annual payroll per job, clocking in at more than $81,000 per payroll job in 2005.