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Hello from San Antonio, where I will be covering the National League of Cities' annual City Summit for the next few days. Drop me a line if you are here, too.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
City governments are feeling a staffing squeeze as baby boomers retire in droves and the tight job market makes it harder to attract millennials into municipal gigs.
Why it matters: Vacant positions means state and local governments are less able to provide services. They're also struggling to find workers with the expertise to drive tech- or data-intensive projects.
The big picture: With a national unemployment rate of less than 4%, public sector jobs are not as enticing for experienced workers who can command higher salaries in the private sector.
"Of course, we all love super-low unemployment rates. But it adds a challenge for cities looking to attract and retain talent, particularly in the public safety fields. As much as people say millennials don't understand pensions, [pensions are] still a powerful recruitment and retention tool."— Brian Egan, legislative manager for finance, administration and intergovernmental relations at the National League of Cities
Public sector hiring has been slowing for some time and didn't bounce back as fast as private sector hiring after the Great Recession.
Meanwhile, retirements are increasing at an alarming rate.
Zooming in: Redding, California, a town of 95,000 about 150 miles north of Sacramento, is dealing with vacancies "in virtually every department," mostly due to retirements and trouble recruiting younger professionals away from larger metros, said City Manager Barry Tippin.
The gap is widening between the number of public sector job openings and the number of job candidates applying for those roles, according to a survey of jobseekers by NEOGOV, which provides public sector HR software and runs the job board GovernmentJobs.com.
The top two reasons people apply for state and local government roles are job security (61%) and benefits packages (58%) across all age groups, per the survey.
Fellowship programs can be useful for hiring recent grads or mid-career private sector employees, said Hollie Russon Gilman, fellow with New America's Political Reform Program.
While robots upend blue-collar factory work and trucking in the middle of the country, AI and machine learning are poised to hit white-collar jobs in superstar coastal cities.
Why it matters: No one is immune to the shockwave of automation in the workplace.
What's happening: A new analysis released Wednesday by Brookings overlaid the keywords in AI-related patents with job descriptions to get a more detailed understanding of which jobs are most likely to be affected by AI — and where they are.
Industries at risk: Carmakers and clothing makers are using AI for advanced manufacturing on production lines — that’s far more complex than the routine, task-oriented automation that most robots power.
Cities highly exposed to AI disruption are established or emerging tech hubs like San Jose, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Boulder and Huntsville.
The big picture: Much of the research assessing the workforce impact of these new technologies — robotics, AI and machine learning — lumps them all together under the bucket of automation.
But when looking specifically at AI — which has the ability to interpret voice commands, recognize images, and make predictions and decisions — professionals in careers such as radiology, law and marketing could find themselves with drastically diminished roles.
Between the lines: States like Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska may be hit from both ends of the spectrum. Blue-collar workers there could be displaced by robots while white-collar workers are hit by AI and machine learning.
Photo illustration: Jacob Boomsma; Aïda Amer/Axios
Axios' Erica Pandey spent last week in Detroit, a city that went from the fourth-largest U.S. metro in the 1950s to declaring bankruptcy in 2013.
Why it matters: This story is repeated across a slew of Rust Belt cities in the U.S.
"I'm optimistic that people won't just settle for, 'Downtown's looking good, so our work's done,'" says Ned Staebler, vice president of economic development at Wayne State University, in the heart of Detroit.
But, but, but: The revitalization of any place starts with downtown, and Detroit is working to re-create what's happened within those 7 square miles across the city.
Sign up here for the Axios Future newsletter for more reporting on Detroit in this afternoon's edition.
Starry "beam" used to transmit fixed wireless broadband service to buildings. Photo: Starry
Upstart internet provider Starry is trying to help small- and medium-sized cities accelerate investment in high-speed internet.
Why it matters: When it comes to fast, reliable broadband, installing fiber in the ground is the gold standard.
Driving the news: At the National League of Cities' City Summit this week, Starry is releasing a "toolkit" designed to be a guide for cities looking to partner with competitive broadband providers to expand access.
How it works: Fixed wireless bases beam internet signals to receivers located in homes and offices, where the majority of traffic is consumed.
A lot of mid-sized cities have hoped that a provider will fund the build-out of broadband throughout a market.
The bottom line: Expanding broadband with wireless technology is only one piece of the puzzle, as all wireless networks including 5G need to connect to fiber infrastructure.
The high cost of housing is a problem for older Americans in supply-constrained and wealth-divided cities, and for developers of senior housing facing a preference among the senior populations for “aging in place," Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.
The big picture: While developers once saw the looming wave of retiring baby boomers as a gold mine, many are instead finding themselves with empty buildings thanks to the growing trend of seniors remaining in their homes, according to the Wall Street Journal.
By the numbers: Next year, the average Social Security monthly payment will be $1,503.
What to watch: The number of older renters earning 50% or less of their area’s median income is projected to grow to 7.6 million, according to a 2016 report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.
The U.S. cities that are thriving under the radar☝️(Axios)
17% of San Francisco millennials say they'll never buy a home (Curbed)
114,000 NYC students are homeless (NYT)
New Arizona development bans residents from bringing cars (WSJ)
These are America's new top tech hubs (Bloomberg)
Restaurants remove dining rooms to speed off-site food frenzy (Reuters)
The Tribune Tower sits along Michigan Avenue at the Chicago River. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images.
Two iconic towers — The Woolworth Building in New York and the Tribune Tower in Chicago — are being reinvented as luxury residences, per the Financial Times.
They aren't the only landmark office buildings to be turned into condos for the rich — a sign of the times, perhaps.
"It is not quite gentrification — the poor are not being displaced. It is more like luxurification, the commodification of the tracery and architectural motifs applied so liberally to these commercial landmarks into a screed of branding, like the logos on a designer handbag."— FT architecture critic Edwin Heathcote
As always, thanks for reading! See you next week.