The Indicator from Planet Money - Indicators Of The Week: Evergrande, Stuck Ships, Town Managers

From ghost apartments empty in China, to a backlog of ships in Los Angeles, to towns struggling to find city managers... yes, it's time for Indicators of the Week!

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This is the indicator from Planet Money. I'm Sally, herships in for Stacey Vanek Smith, TGIF. It is indicators of the week i o t w, I asked me to and thinking about indicators of the week. I know we have all been keeping an Eagle Eye on the numbers in the news to see what we can learn about the economy. And what is getting weird. That's right for going to visit ghost towns in China. Then head over to California and scope out a massive traffic jam. Unlike any, you've probably ever experienced. It is time for everybody's favorite topic. Municipal management. Get ready. People.

Don't worry if you be good.

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Darien Woods. Tell us about your indicator of the week. So he's real estate developer immigrant group. You might have heard about this message, Chinese real estate company, evergrande and then use it caused stock prices in the US to drop earlier in the week that looked all be honest. I never heard of the company before this week, but it is the second largest real estate company in China, which is a big deal because real estate is a big deal in China. So if a grand was building a lot of apartment buildings. So many that video do the talkin.

Oh my God.

That is, that is crazy seeing. Like, what? Looks like a dozen giant buildings, just collapsing simultaneously in a giant cloud of dust. Yeah. It's pretty amazing. This is the same from August whenever Grande decided to do a controlled demolition of a bunch of their apartment buildings because they just been sitting empty for years, which is a part of a wider Trend, estimates vary, but there seems to be roughly 20% of apartments on used in China. So this is my only about 20% of Chinese Apartments 1 and 5 lying empty. And just to be clear. This isn't happening in the big, big cities. We're not talking about Beijing or Shanghai. That's right, at least those departments are typically in medium and smaller cities and this growth in apartment after apartment being built. Even if there wasn't a huge number of people living there, just gross weight. On this Earth long because evergrande could keep borrowing, even if their business model wasn't actually that good people.

Seems that the government would bail them out. And for a long time that Chinese government was encouraging, Ava, Grande and other real estate companies to keep building because all of this construction create jobs and keep seeking him a high. But there is always a limit how much data you can keep taking on. And that's what happened this week with too many apartments and no new loans coming in. If a grand was put in the position where we finally, we got to pay what is owed on Monday. US Stock Market went down about 2% as people were worried about Eva Grant and just yesterday have a grand failed to pay a huge bill that came to on its loans. Am I all of this might make you think of the real estate collapse in the US that led to the global financial crisis in 2008. 2009. There is a difference that difficulties that ever Grande is having and getting the loan is a deliberate Choice by the Chinese government. They know there is a real-estate bubble and they're trying ever. So delicately to try to slowly puppet. And now from China, let's take a

It's actually a container ship all the way across the Pacific to Southern California. And the Adrian. What is your indicator of the week have a number for you? But before we get to that, I also have a little visual aid. All right, I'm seeing a lot of arrows in the ocean outside of LA and there's a lot of Emerald. Card. This, by the way, is from website called marinetraffic. It's kind of amazing. You could waste a lot of time on their basically. What it shows is these ships hovering right outside the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach. And so each of these little dots, essentially waiting to Dock and unload their cargo, you know, like furniture and clothes and Auto Parts, but earlier this week they were as many as seventy three cargo ships just waiting outside the port. Normally there would be, maybe one ship, just anchor there, waiting to park. Now. There are dozens or officials say.

Is a record. And what that means is if you are on one of those ships you could be waiting as long as a week just to get in. And this is actual ships that are delayed just literally delayed ships. And for these ports, it has gotten epically bad and it's sort of the the Confluence of a few different things for small bit. Time of year is normally a high-traffic time for ports. You have back-to-school season, you have stores trying to stock up their inventories for the holidays. And you have so many Merchants were just trying to restock their warehouses, and some more stuff than usual is trying to flow through these ports. Also, people are buying lots of stuff consumer spending is way up compared to what it was before the pandemic. And then on top of all of that ships have been really hard to get. Specially the big container ships, which means that the companies who move stuff have to resort to using smaller.

It's but since there has the same amount of stuff to move. They have to use more of them and it just means more ships trying to crash the ports that doesn't seem efficient. Not at all. So, you know in addition to just expecting a lot of delays in stuff that you're buying, one thing to think about here is how this is going to affect the price of stuff. Because more expensive, shipping means companies may affect costs on to consumers in the form of higher prices of the shipping, Jenny. Thank you Adrian now or in the USA Sally. Herships, tell us about your indicator. My very exciting indicator of the week is $115,000. That is the new higher salary for the job of town manager in Southwest Harbor, Maine, not bad. There. Are they taking applications for happy year, they've not been able to find anyone. So they are offering an additional $15,000.

By the way, in case you don't know, town or city manager, that person's job is to allocate the town's money, efficiently to make sure your trash is picked up on time to make your breasts. Have a working sewer system. It is like Ben's job in parks and recreation.

You need to understand that, just to keep this town afloat. We probably have to cut the budget of every Department by 40 of 50%.

Have you seen Parks and Rec? Yes, that is always the question of our graduate students in our field is because that is a stereotype certainly of the local government worker. Kendra Stewart, is the past president of the American Society for public administration. Kendra says, for example, in this shortage of these workers have been a problem for, at least, the past decade. And she says, this is also a national Trend, one reason. Why is that fewer young people see the government of the answer to solving problems? So they're less interested in working for the government. And there are also more problems leading to this shortage fewer. People, for example, want to work in rural areas like small town. And then we come to the good old glass ceiling 90% of city managers traditionally wear mail today. It's still pretty high around. 83% are men and that's because that type of model works.

Well, if you have one household income and can easily move around and in a lot of fields were seeing that has become more difficult. That families are no longer as relocatable as they once were with two incomes or two jobs. Finally. It is a really hard job. Kendra says, one of the number one thing. She hears is how hard it is to have your work scrutinize and criticized on social media and it's become even more challenging with the rise of polarized politics. And that managers are the people who have to buffer the staff for the city or county employees from the politics of a council. But Kendra said, she has hope. She says, she has seen a lot more small towns, recruiting managers locally from the private sector or pay is typically higher which creates a higher salary expectation, you know, salaries are still market-driven, so there is hope.

Typical applications in people to what was the name of the city again?

5th episode of the indicator was produced by Brittany Cronin. With help from Janesville. It is a fact checked by Caitlin Nicholas Alex goldmark edited the show, and the indicator is a production of n p. R,
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