In St. Louis, development officials are repurposing a century-old hat factory into a space for small manufacturers to bring jobs back downtown, while Baltimore has committed $500 million to a private-led overhaul of an old industrial zone.
The efforts reflect a growing consensus among economists and policymakers that keeping the overall economy on track will not be enough to help areas left behind by a decade-long recovery.
The current expansion is among the longest ever and the national unemployment is at an 18-year low. But, 6.3 million are still out of work, many of them clustered in cities with chronic, high unemployment.
Amid the tightest labor markets in two decades and labor force growth the slowest in half a century, local and national officials are turning to targeted training schemes, new investment incentives, and other strategies to bring jobs closer to the unemployed.
“We definitely need to be thinking in terms of place as an important component…Increasing the number of people who are connected to the economy is fundamental to the maximum employment goal,” Atlanta Federal Reserve bank president Raphael Bostic told Reuters in an interview. “What counts as success? Is it two million people? Five million people?” Bostic said, referring to the number of jobless. “We can get to maximum employment and still have a lot of distress.”