Positive jobs numbers, moving forward on pre-K


Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

Bookmark and Share


Last week, I shared some specific progress our Workforce Investment Network is making with preparing our young people for careers. Today, I want to broaden the theme a bit, sharing more about jobs and our economy in general.

There are a couple of key points I think you need to know:

In September, the most recent month for which the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has firm data, 282,729 Memphians were employed. In January 2016, our first month in office, 270,255 Memphians were employed. That’s an increase of more than 12,000 employed Memphians in less than two years.

But the news gets even more positive. In September, our unemployment rate was 3.7 percent — the lowest of any of the monthly rates in the publicly available federal data going all the way back to 1990. When we took office, our unemployment rate was 5.8 percent.

I share those today not necessarily to celebrate, as the work is not finished. Yet we must also understand that we have special momentum in this city at this point in our history. The lion’s share of $11 billion in development in our area is now inside the city limits. ServiceMaster is putting the finishing touches on its new Downtown headquarters. And the city, county and economic development leaders at places like EDGE and the Greater Memphis Chamber are working together more than ever, thanks in no small part to the all-hands-on-deck approach we initiated to pursue Amazon’s HQ2. (I’m looking forward to working with new Chamber chairman Richard Smith, and I suggest you look at his speech at this week’s luncheon for a good pep talk.)

Yes, we have great challenges ahead of us. Our poverty rate — particularly with our children — is way too high. Our violent crime rate is plainly unacceptable. Our economy has plenty of room to grow. We’re working hard on all of that. But it’s worth noting that in our first two years, we’ve seen some progress on these fronts — and I’m committed to ensuring we see even more of it.

Nice recognition: Crosstown Concourse, the massive rehabilitation of the old Sears Crosstown building, has received some nice praise for Memphis. The adaptive re-use has made a list of 15 projects recognized by The Architectural Review, a London-based publication.

The kicker? It’s the only project in the entire United States recognized.

Apply now: December is the application window for our two youth jobs programs. Visit this site to learn more.

About pre-K: You probably saw a few headlines this week about a discussion at the City Council concerning expanding pre-Kindergarten. I was glad to participate in that discussion Tuesday afternoon and want to share with you where it currently resides.

We’ve reached a consensus on the council and the administration that expanding pre-K funding, particularly in light of the upcoming loss of a federal grant, is something we want to do. This isn’t terribly sticky; I’ve long been a proponent of pre-K. It’s a no brainer. The hard part is identifying the funding solution. Our administration is studying avenues, and we hope to be able to identify our support for a funding plan in the coming weeks and months.

This effort is a great example of the partnership we enjoy with the City Council. Sure, we’ll disagree on issues from time to time, but you’ll find that we work together instead of having a constant adversarial relationship. Kemp Conrad and Patrice Robinson have particularly led the charge on the council’s side, and I’m grateful for their leadership and forethought.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: A child in third grade who can read at a third grade level has a 90 percent chance of graduating high school — even if they grow up in poverty. Third grade reading level is extraordinarily important.

It's been shown that pre-Kindergarten helps prepare our children for that milestone. Pre-K is showing success, and we need to close the gap and provide universal pre-K. It truly can be a game changer for our young people and for our entire community.

Stay tuned.

Mayor's signature