Economy & Business

Economy & Business news from 90.5 WESA.

A recent PNC survey found that many millennials, a group generally considered born in the 1980s and 1990s, are not saving money, but they'd like to.

More than 3,000 people were surveyed, and 56 percent identified savings and budgeting as their biggest financial issue. The problem is many millennials don’t know where to start when it comes to saving.

When Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services’ top economist looks forward to 2014, he is doing it with cautious optimism.

“We think we can sustain (good economic growth) for at least one more year and maybe for several beyond that,” said PNC Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman.

Hoffman thinks the economy will see GDP growth inching up and unemployment inching down. By the end of 2014 Hoffman is predicting GDP growth of 2.5 percent and an unemployment rate of about 6.5 percent. 

On the local employment front, new jobs in construction will lead the way.

Retailers in the Pittsburgh region have their fingers crossed that business will pick up in the days leading to the New Year after disappointing sales figures leading up to Christmas.

“After Christmas sales are going to be extremely important to retailers because the holiday season wasn’t as strong as they hoped, and as a result, they want to get us in the stores and keep us there spending money,” said Duquesne University marketing professor Audrey Guskey.

The 2013 economy might have stumbled a bit coming out of the gate, but at least one local economist says it recovered well.

“As the year went on it gathered some momentum,” said PNC Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman.

The year began with “sequestration” which reduced government spending nearly across the board and made several tax law changes including a hike in the payroll tax from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent, a phase out a some key tax exemptions, an increase to the so-called death tax, and an increase in the top marginal tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. 

Nick Frost / 90.5 WESA

Apple has chosen a Pittsburgh-born app as its free app of the year.

Duolingo teaches people how to speak a new language, and it's been downloaded more than 10 million times since being released a year ago. 

Duolingo CEO Louis Von Ahn said more than a billion people are trying to learn a new language. He believes two-thirds of them are from the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder, and the reason they are learning a new language is because they are trying to get ahead in life.

The first phase of a riverfront revitalization project north of Pittsburgh is now complete.

The official ribbon cutting ceremony for Bridge Street freight access took place Thursday morning. It's an effort that has been in development for about a decade.

“The road was in horrible condition, and the business fronting the road makes specialty window systems, and for a number of years they weren’t able to use the road effectively because of the potholes and such,” said Iris Whitworth, executive director of the Allegheny River Towns Enterprise Zone (ARTEZ).

Dyanna Hyde / Flickr

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers has introduced a bill to create a "Made in PA" program, complete with a logo and website to encourage consumers to purchase products made close to home.

State Rep. Eli Evankovich and David Taylor, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association, say consumers already look for labels such as "Made in the USA," while shopping.

Namaste and the Business of Yoga in Pittsburgh

Dec 17, 2013
BYS yoga studio / Facebook

From the downward sun salutation, to the archer, yoga enthusiasts are striking poses across the country. And yoga studios are springing up everywhere.

According to business contributor Rebecca Harris, the classic techniques of yoga date back more than 5 thousand years, and come from a desire to develop greater personal freedom, health, and self understanding.

An increase in deals and consumer confidence is drawing more shoppers to online retailers than ever before, and with this comes an increase in packages.

United States Postal Service spokesman Tad Kelley says that they’re seeing a rise in shipments over last holiday season.

“We’re looking at 15 percent above our normal packages we would handle from last year," Kelley said. "We’re doing a couple hundred thousand packages a day here through the Western Pennsylvania district.”

Many Pennsylvanians will start the New Year with a little extra money in their pockets, but that’s only if they apply for a tax rebate rebate.

The Department of Revenue is encouraging eligible adults to apply for Pennsylvania’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program before the deadline on Dec. 31.

Department spokeswoman Maia Warren said the holidays are a great time to remind older friends and relatives to apply.

Chris Wieland / Flickr

The bad weather currently blanketing the northeast did not keep our intrepid business contributor, Rebecca Harris from making it to the nation's capital Monday.  She sat on a business roundtable at the White House which focused on the government's interest in local businesses. 

Harris received the invitation from Sam Brown, Director of the White House Business Council, a part of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Some of the leading minds in sustainable business models will gather in Pittsburgh Tuesday for a rapid-fire event exploring what has become known as the triple bottom line.

“This is the essence of sustainability,” said Court Gould, Sustainable Pittsburgh executive director. 

The group is putting on the conference, Sustainability EXPOsed.

After more than three years without a hospital, Braddock is set to get another medical facility.

On Friday, ground was broken on a new commercial development that will include a Highmark and Allegheny Health Network full service urgent care center, to serve the more than 2,100 people who live in the borough.

“They’ll have access to health care services as well as good, positive development on the main drag of Braddock,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

UPMC Braddock closed its doors in early 2010.

It might not a huge shopping mall, but the State Treasury is offering shoppers a way to find unusual presents this holiday season.

Treasurer Rob McCord suggested holiday shoppers log onto the Treasury’s eBay auction site.

“One reason why it’s great at this time of the year is people start to look around for unusual gifts and great buys, great discounts,” McCord said. “And I’m very proud that Pennsylvania was the first state to have a continuous eBay auction for unclaimed property.”

Millennials Driving the Business of Tattoos

Dec 3, 2013
Kenzie Saunders / Flickr

Tattoos were once the domain of sailors and bad guys in movies and television. Over the past two decades the art of inking has increased.

Tattoo parlors are everywhere and they’ve achieved the ultimate pop culture status of reality shows devoted to the craft.

Business contributor Rebecca Harris says Millennials are driving the trend.

Black Friday and Buy Local Saturday have come and gone, and Cyber Monday is just around the corner, but nonprofits across the region are hoping Pittsburghers will still have a little something in their checking accounts come Tuesday.

More than 7,800 organizations across the world are encouraging people to donate to charities and nonprofits to mark what has become known as Giving Tuesday.

The United Nations Foundation and 92d Street Y launched the initiative last year, and it trended globally on Twitter as #GivingTuesday.

Each year the holiday shopping season kicks off with the huge savings and massive crowds of Black Friday — or is it Black Thursday?

The unofficial holiday for all things retail is the single most important day of the year for merchants, though increases in online sales and disappointing predictions have some jumping the gun.

The National Retail Federation is predicting a 3.9 percent growth in holiday retail sales over last year, a disappointing forecast that has some retailers opening their doors early.

The week leading up to Thanksgiving is always a high volume time for liquor sales, and the action in the Pittsburgh area is always among the heaviest in the state. In fact, PLCB stores in Allegheny County sold more wine and spirits in all of 2012 than any other county in Pennsylvania.

According to the state Liquor Control Board (LCB), the county made up 13.4 percent of state sales, bringing in more than $260 million; Philadelphia was second at $231 million.

A company known as a “Taiwanese tech giant” is investing in Pennsylvania.  

Foxconn, a major supplier of Apple products, plans to spend $30 million in the commonwealth on what it’s calling a new “high end technology manufacturing facility.”

The company, alternately known as Hon Hai, will invest another $10 million into a joint research and development effort with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

If you have ever wondered where your call has been sent when you dial up customer support you might be happy to learn that legislation moving through Washington would force the operator to answer just that question.

The U.S. Call Center and Workers Protection Act of 2013 has been dubbed the “Dial one for America” bill.  Among its provisions is a requirement that call center operators handling calls from the U.S. identify their location as part of the call.

A new regulation slated to go into effect in early 2014 would tighten lending requirements for those seeking a home loan. The Qualified Mortgage Rule is aimed at preventing another housing crisis like the one that hit the U.S. in 2008.

But some in the financial community and on Capitol Hill worry that rule is too broad and will have unintended negative consequences.

Thanksgiving week is one of the busiest when it comes to travel, and this year will be no exception. AAA forecasts that nationally 43.4 million people will travel during the holiday week. In the mid-Atlantic region, which includes Pennsylvania, 5.01 million people are expected to travel, a 2.4 percent decrease over last year.

Many have deemed shale drilling controversial due to concerns with groundwater contamination and even earthquakes, but the shale gas industry says it creates hundreds of thousands of jobs.

However, five research and policy organizations claim the shale industry is overestimating its impact.

Lim CK / Flickr

China has one of the world's fastest growing economies. But, how do changes in China affect people in Pittsburgh?

PNC Vice President and Senior International Economist Bill Adams is co-author of the new book, In Line Behind A Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China’s Ascent in the Next Decade.

Looking at the state of its current economy, and projections for the future, Adams is concerned about what happens if China runs out of the things it needs to keep growing.

Miranda Everitt / Flickr

For many Americans, the workplace is exceptionally challenging for all of the wrong reasons. Some employees hate their jobs because they’re not in a position where they can excel, or perhaps they're victims of workplace bullying. Essential Pittsburgh's Paul Guggenheimer explored these reasons with Sasha King, independent career consultant.

“There is a big issue in that a lot of employees are overqualified for their positions, yet because of such a highly competitive job market, people are sticking with jobs they normally would have moved on from already,” says King.

Inequality for All Film / Facebook

The number of Pittsburgh residents living at or below the poverty level has increased nearly 9% since the fall of 2007, according to the Urban Institute

The documentary, Inequality for All, focuses on the fact that one half of all Americans have zero wealth, no savings, no assets that outweigh their debts, no retirement savings or investments.

The film grew out of the economic lectures of former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich at the University of California at Berkeley.

The University of Pittsburgh is combining resources to spark innovation and increase support for entrepreneurial initiatives on and off campus.

Pitt Thursday launched the Innovation Institute, which consolidates the existing offices of Technology Management and Enterprise Development as well as the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence.

Flickr user mknobil

The housing market in southwestern Pennsylvania continues to strengthen, according to numbers released by West Penn Multi-List.

In October, the number of residential homes placed under agreement increased 15.07 percent; new listings increased 8.69 percent, and average days on the market decreased 4.82 percent over the previous month.

Trend Shows More Shelter Animals Find Homes

Nov 12, 2013
Jerry Wong / flickr

Lost and stray animals are finding their way to better homes, according to a recent trend at animal shelters.

According to business contributor Rebecca Harris of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, fewer pets are landing in animal shelters and the number of euthanized dogs and cats has decreased. What has emerged is a trend toward adopting these unwanted animals, instead of going to a pet shop or breeder.

Three years after the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania began divesting from companies taking part in “scrutinized activities” in Iran or Sudan, it has not resulted in a loss of investment revenue but rather a net gain.

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