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« Dr. Steven Hotze's New Lawsuit Against Obamacare. | WILLisms.com | Voting With Their Feet: Texas Cities Lead Nation In Population Growth. »

Scranton Versus Austin.

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 971 -- Jobs, GDP, Housing-

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen the final episode of The Office yet but plan on watching it at some point down the road, consider yourself warned. This post contains spoilers.

NBC's last remaining hit show, The Office, aired its final episode last night. SPOILER ALERT

The premise of the episode is that one year has passed, and the gang is all getting back together in Scranton for a retrospective panel about the PBS documentary they've been living for the past several years. Jim's start-up sports agency company, Athlead, renamed Athleap, has moved to Austin. Darryl, who once worked in the Dunder-Mifflin warehouse, followed Jim to Athlead, but Jim decided to quit the start-up and stay in Scranton with his wife Pam. Darryl stayed with Athlead (again, now Athleap). That may or may not make sense, depending on whether you've seen the show.

At any rate, the gang comes back to Scranton, and Darryl, fresh off the plane from Austin and wearing a suit, jumps in a limo. He's clearly doing well. Banter ensues when the gang reunites.

“The city is amazing,” Darryl says of Austin. “It’s hot, the music is awesome and the tacos are for real.”

“Wow, that sounds incredible,” Jim says wistfully.

There's more talk of Austin throughout the episode, and it even becomes a plot line, as Pam secretly allows a real estate agent to show their home so they can both quit Dunder-Mifflin and move to Texas.

“I never want you to give up anything,” Pam says after he learns she’s sold their house so they can fully uproot and move to Austin so Jim can run the company again with Darryl.

So, how does Dwight, who, as we learn throughout the episode has grown quite fond of Jim, react when the couple announces their exit and suggests he visit them in Austin?

“For what?” he sniffs. “The art? The music? The incredible nightlife? No, thank you.”

So, yeah. The writers apparently really, really like Austin.

One quibble I'd have with the Austin-centric theme is that Darryl would not have on the big, wool suit he was wearing when he gets off the plane from Austin. Austin is way too laid back for that, once you leave the two or three blocks that surround the Capitol. And, I actually sat next to a real sports agent during the first (technically, second) round of March Madness in Austin, and he said he would love to live in Austin, and the UT-Austin talent pipeline for pro sports is great, but ultimately, agents and big agencies almost have to be located either in cities in the top 5 in population or with the top-10 largest airports. Austin is now bigger than San Francisco, yes, but it's still only the 13th or 14th largest metro in the country. And Austin's airport may be pleasant and easy to navigate, with decent food and live music, but you typically have to connect through Houston, Dallas, or elsewhere, depending on where you want to go. Austin's airport is definitely nowhere near the top 10.

Not to throw cold water on the Austin meme. It's where I live. I love the city and welcome the growth. I'm just saying, I had some quibbles.

That being said, I wanted to compare Scranton versus Austin. Why did the writers choose Austin for the promised land?

How about the economy as a whole?

First, let's look at GDP growth from 2001 to 2011 (the most recent year for which standardized metro data is available):

scrantonvsaustingdp.jpg
click image for larger version

Austin added two entire 2011 Scrantons worth of GDP to its economy over the decade (or, nearly three 2001 Scrantons).

Austin started bigger, of course. But its economy also grew more than twice as fast, 75% to 34%. Pretty incredible disparity.

And what about jobs?

The Office debuted in March of 2005, so let's use that date as a starting point.

As of March 2013 (the most recent data we have), Scranton has 2,296 fewer jobs than it had in March of 2005. That's a decline of 0.89%. [Data here.]

Austin, meanwhile, added 175,670 jobs from March 2005 to March 2013. 23.24% more than when it started. [Data here.]

NOTE: The two graphs in the graphic directly below have different scales. Putting both on the same graph yields two mostly-flat lines across because the numbers are so far apart.

scrantonvsaustinjobs.jpg
click image for larger version

No, really. I had to triple-check the disparity, because it was eye-popping to me.

Here's another version:

scrantonversusaustinjobsbar.jpg
click image for larger version

Scranton barely registers, and unfortunately, it registers negatively. Austin, meanwhile, has boomed.

And housing?
From December 2007 to December 2012, Austin's housing prices went up 4.7%. In Scranton, they went down 4.0%. Bummer for Jim and Pam, selling their home in that market. Incidentally, when a couple looking at the home says they want to buy their house, Pam almost seems surprised. I can tell you that right now, not a soul in Austin would be surprised to get an offer on his home. The market is hot. Houses sell quickly, sometimes before they even officially go on the market. Pam's sort of disbelieving reaction to someone wanting to buy their house is one part of the finale that I felt like was rooted in actual data.

So on GDP, jobs, and housing, you can see why Austin was the mecca for folks looking to flee stagnant jobs in the paper industry in Scranton. And editorially, let me just say that The Office got pretty bad in the past couple of seasons, and it felt like a chore watching it ("We have to finish what we started!") since roughly 2010 or so, but the series finale was excellent. I wish all TV shows could wrap things up so nicely.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Air Traffic Control Sham.

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Posted by Will Franklin · 17 May 2013 05:34 PM

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