Tracking Retail Closures

At Fourth Economy we have been tracking the news about retail store closures.  These store closures often can leave significant redevelopment challenges for local community and economic development officials. In future posts we will highlights some of the ways that communities are dealing with these buildings. According to Business Insider more than 5,000 store closures have been announced so far, with the potential for nearly 9,000 store closures by the end of 2017. These store closings are the most physical manifestation of the challenges facing the retail sector.

As a resource to the community, Fourth Economy has started to identify and compile a list of retail store closings. Tracking down the locations has proven to be a challenge, but we have identified 1,768 of these closings so far.  You can see the results in the above Working Map of Retail Closings, created in Tableau Public.  We are providing this as a resource to the community and will continue to update it as closings are announced and locations identified.  If you know of any closings in your area, please send them to and we will update the map.

Stay tuned for more.

Co-authors: Jamie Reese & Katie Grauer

Three Economic Disruptions Under the Radar

130823-3-DisruptionsAs Fourth Economy turns three years old it is a good time not only to reflect on the lessons of these past three years but also to think about what is next.  One of those lessons is that many surprises in the economy are things people should have known about, but didn’t get enough attention in the media.  Stories that lack sound bites or sizzle are ignored until they become a crisis.  Even then they may not get attention.  So here are three big economic disruptions that are flying under the radar:

3 – The Myth of the Self-Employed

2 – Catastrophe Losses and Insurance

1 – The Global Water Shortage Continue reading “Three Economic Disruptions Under the Radar”

Numbers Behind the News: The Truth about CEO Pay


CEO pay has been in the news a lot lately.  The AFL-CIO released its annual report showing that the pay gap between the top CEOs and average workers was a stunning 354:1 in 2012, compared to 1982 when the top CEOs earned on average only 42 times the average worker.   In 1982, the CEO would have to work 48 hours to earn as much as the average employee.  By 2012, the CEO would only need to work 6 hours.  Continue reading “Numbers Behind the News: The Truth about CEO Pay”

Debating the Mortgage Interest Deduction

Mortgage-RateMitt Romney lost the election but some of his fiscal ideas may survive.  Mitt Romney’s comments on an Iowa radio station re-ignited the debate about the mortgage interest deduction (MID) that has been simmering since at least 1984.  Romney’s plan calls for a $17,000 deduction budget that effectively caps and may even kill the MID:

 As an option you could say everybody’s going to get up to a $17,000 deduction. And you could use your charitable deduction, your home mortgage deduction, or others — your health care deduction, and you can fill that bucket, if you will, that $17,000 bucket that way. And higher income people might have a lower number.

The MID inspires deep passions.  It is also not likely to be received by the public with any objectivity.  The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)  released a poll showing that the MID was supported by 77 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of Independents and 71 percent of Democrats.  Real estate lobbyists have been arguing for some time that eliminating the MID while the housing market is weak would further destabilize housing.   However home prices and interest rates are so low right now that the benefit that the deduction provides to buyers has been significantly minimized.  As a result, there are new calls that now is exactly the right time to restructure the deduction. Continue reading “Debating the Mortgage Interest Deduction”

The Best of the Top of the Greatest

Photo-Rustiq-TemplateFor economic and community developers, a new “best of” and “top places” ranking season is underway.  While it may not be as popular as basketball’s March Madness, there is no doubt that economic and community performance rankings attract a lot of attention. They are of great interest to the media, elected officials, the business community and residents at-large.

But rankings are only one part of a very complex economic performance story. Compounding their use and reliability is the fact that not all adopt the most rigorous, relevant or transparent methods.  And positive or negative scores do not impact all business investment decision-making in the same way.
Continue reading “The Best of the Top of the Greatest”

Numbers Behind the News: What is Driving Unemployment?

U.S. unemployment peaked at 15.4 million persons in October 2009 and has been falling back towards 12 million ever since.    Unemployment has always been the most troublesome statistic because it is one of the most widely recognized and flawed of the economic indicators. The recent drop has brought claims that the numbers have been manipulated.  Of course, this would be very hard to do.  Unemployment numbers are reported by companies to state bureaus that are staffed generally by civil servants.  In 29 states, the Governors are Republican and it is not very likely that they would be manipulating numbers to make Obama look good. Continue reading “Numbers Behind the News: What is Driving Unemployment?”

Sacred Cows – The Political Economy of Tax Loopholes

If Social Security is the third rail in American politics, then tax loopholes are the sacred cows and we have a growing herd of tax dodge heifers. Whether you call them loopholes, expenditures, exclusions or deductions often characterize how you feel about them. Nobody likes loopholes, expenditures should be scrutinized, exclusions can be okay, but everyone loves deductions. We tend to think of loopholes as things that other people get and deductions are things we deserve. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) has been publishing reports on tax expenditures since the 1970s, so that is what we’ll call them here. The debate on tax expenditures has been simmering for decades but it has attracted renewed attention with the ascendance of Paul Ryan as the Republican Vice Presidential nominee and his call for closing tax loopholes. A lot of attention is focused on “…loopholes that let politically-connected companies avoid paying taxes…” What is also less known is that most tax expenditures go to individuals (Figure 1). From 2001 to 2011, individuals get more than $800 billion in tax breaks compared to just $98 billion for corporations. Continue reading “Sacred Cows – The Political Economy of Tax Loopholes”

Turtles All The Way Down

Physicists are excited by the recent near discovery of the Higgs Boson particle, called by some the God Particle and believed to be the keystone for the standard model of physics.  The Higgs Boson is the explanation for what gives elementary particles their mass.  For me this raises an important question:  “Where does the Higgs Boson get its mass?”

To that we don’t yet have an answer, at least not one that physicists like.  The conundrum however is a good metaphor for our inability to understand many of the fundamental forces that affect our lives.  Stephen Hawking‘s 1988 book A Brief History of Time, recounts a famous anecdote: Continue reading “Turtles All The Way Down”

Flying Pigs and 50 Foot Women

Gernot Wagner‘s new book, But will the Planet Notice?  How Smart Economics Can Save the World.  In this book, he argues that we are past the turning point where individual choices (reusable grocery bags or hybrid cars) will be enough the save the planet.  We need to change the rules of the game to harness the choices of billions of people by changing the economic incentives.

Continue reading “Flying Pigs and 50 Foot Women”

The Upside of Downturns

No one will deny that the American and global economies have been in an extended slump.  The question is what will lead us out of the doldrums?  Right now the big argument seems to be between advocates of clean energy (solar, wind, biomass) and legacy energy (especially coal, oil and natural gas).  In certain parts of the country, legacy energy is having an immediate impact, while clean energy remains for the time being a potential boon for some future economy.

Continue reading “The Upside of Downturns”