Increasing Productivity: The Key to Jobs in Memphis

Productivity is a key determinant of wages and ultimately income and corporate profits. Multifactor productivity is a measure of economic performance that compares the amount of goods and services produced (output) to the amount of combined inputs used to produce those goods and services. Inputs can include labor, capital, energy, materials, and purchased services.  Growing and recruiting businesses with high productivity creates higher wage opportunities for local workers. In order to improve the Memphis labor market, economic development efforts should focus on upgrading the workforce and increasing the number of high wage job opportunities.

The following presentation was put together by Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research Intern Christopher Bailey. It reports multifactor productivity data for Shelby County manufacturing industries between 2014 – 2015.

Shelby County Multifactor Productivity

How Do Tennessee Traffic Counts Reflect Recent Economic Progress Across the State?

By Ryan Hanson

Traffic can be one of the least appealing aspects of urban living. No one wants to be caught in gridlock traveling to or from work. Despite an individual’s perspective, previous research shows that the traffic impeding employees’ commute may be a sign that the economy is driving forward.[1] However, this relationship is complicated. While slight increases in congestion may be good for the economy, traffic that goes unchecked can slow delivery times, reduce workers’ quality of life, and limit employers’ access to labor, making a city undesirable and stalling its economy.[2]


With federal budget plans being debated in Congress, this article takes a look at the economic impact of potential federal budget cuts in Shelby County, Tennessee in 2018.  The estimates are based upon President Trump’s budget document America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again and the companion Trump administration document Budget of the U.S. Government: A new Foundation For American Greatness, Fiscal Year 2018.  However, while presidents propose budgets it is up to the Congress to actually pass budget legislation for the President to vote on and those discussions are on-going. 

Comparing Memphis to Other U.S. Locations Using Internet Ranking Sites

By Ryan Hanson

Ranking websites have become a popular trend on the internet recently. These sites rank everything from vacation destinations to new restaurants to the hottest baby names and frequently are referred to as “clickbait,” sites that encourage viewers to click as many times as possible to increase advertising revenue. As part of the trend, cities are frequently ranked in an effort to support relocation decisions by both companies and individuals. Organizations such as Site Selection Magazine, CNBC, WalletHub, Forbes, and periodically publish these lists, ranking the various attributes of potential relocation destinations.

Analysis of Memphis Area Demographics

The Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Memphis published two recent articles considering demographic trends in the Memphis area. Follow the links below for more details.

Can Memphis Survive with Slow Growth? An Analysis of Demographic and Economic Data Help Answer the Question

by John Gnuschke, Ph.D., Director and Jeff Wallace, Ph.D., Research Professor

Shelby County Demographics on the Maps

by Ryan Hanson, MA, MSBA, Senior Researcher

A Better Understanding of Memphis Health with Data from the 500 Cities Project

By Ryan Hanson

The 500 Cities project is a collaboration between the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Foundation. The goal of this partnership is to provide communities and decision makers with data and tools to better identify health disparities and create targeted interventions. Typically, data relating to public health are only collected at the state and county levels. The 500 Cities project provides statistics on a select number of chronic disease measures for 500 U.S. cities at the city and Census tract level.  Currently preliminary data is available on the CDC’s Chronic Data Portal and through a series of interactive applications and map books on the project’s website. The project is scheduled to be officially launched in the Summer of 2017 with more interactive web applications and GIS capabilities.

The Tennessee Opioid Epidemic by the Numbers

By Ryan Hanson

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the United States is in “the midst of an unprecedented opioid epidemic.”  More people died from drug1 overdoses in 2015 than in any other year on record.2 Since 1999, the death rate from overdoses involving prescription opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone have more than quadrupled.  Between 2000 and 2015, more than half a million people died from drug overdoses, and 91 people die in the United States daily from opioid abuse.3

FedEx Corporation Ranks No. 1 in the Top 50 Global Freight Carriers

By Jeff Wallace, Ph.D.

The trucking and freight newspaper, Transport Topics, in cooperation with SJ Consulting Group, recently released a ranking of the top 50 global freight carriers by revenue in 2016.  At the top of the list in first place is Memphis’ very own FedEx Corporation with Louisville, Kentucky based UPS a close second. Below is a table showing the top 10 on the list. In addition to FedEx, Memphis also benefits from local service and employment from No. 2 UPS, No. 5 Union Pacific Corporation, and No. 8 BNSF Railway.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in Shelby County, alone, there were nearly 53,000 persons employed in transportation and warehousing in 751 establishments 2015 (latest available data).

Source:  Transport Topics at in cooperation with SJ Consulting Group.

Source:  Transport Topics at in cooperation with SJ Consulting Group.