"God Bless the Dream, the Dreamer and the Result." 

Saturday, December 26, 2009

How to Make $96K as a Travel Blogger

Matt Kepnes is a 28-year-old Bostonian who's turned his passion for travel into a blogging gig that earns him up to $8,000 a month. He explains how in a New York Times interview. (Good publicity helps: His site, NomadicMatt.com, is down temporarily because of a traffic surge from the interview.) Some highlights:

Who pays him: "It’s a combination of Google AdSense, affiliate sales (insurance, backpacks, guidebooks), private advertising people coming to me. ('Hey, we want to put ads up on this site.')" The site itself earns about $3,000 a month, and he also now has a book for beginners.
Traffic: "Probably close to 800 to 1,000 visitors a day would get you enough traffic to generate a good-size income."
Getting started: He paid $250 for his domain name and a computer at a hosting company. Friends showed him how to use HTML to create his site. He began about a year and a half ago, with traffic increasing gradually.
Epiphany: "About a year ago, when I had gotten big enough that some advertisers started asking to put ads on my site, and I thought, 'Hey, this isn’t too bad—I just made $1,000!' And then another advertiser came and I made a little bit more money." This has been his full-time job since April.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Temp Hiring Is on the Rise

With the economy on an upswing, employers are feeling a tad more confident—enough to bring on more temporary workers, who can easily be let go if things go south again. Temp hiring has risen for 4 months—longer than the aftermath of previous recessions, when employers started hiring permanent workers after just 2 or 3 months, the New York Times reports.

Though temp workers don’t receive many of the benefits of permanent employment, the government considers them wage-earning workers, helping to bring down the unemployment rate in 36 states last month. “I’ve never seen the job market this horrible,” said one new temp who lost his job 14 months ago. He now makes $25 an hour—“a long way down from the $135,000 a year I once made," he notes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dreamliner's Upgrades Good for Passengers, Too

There’s plenty for airlines to like about Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner (it goes farther, faster, on less fuel), but you might not have heard about the upgrades it holds for passengers. Via the Christian Science Monitor:

Windows aren’t just 65% larger, but passengers can adjust the tint from transparent to opaque rather than pulling a shade.
Larger overhead bins.
Better air-filtration system.
Composite fuselage allows not only for the cabin to be pressurized at a more comfortable level, but also at higher humidity.
The wings on the 787—of which 840 have been ordered, by55 airlines—can respond to turbulence, meaning a smoother flight.
With less noise from the engine, exhaust and ventilation, Boeing says the cabin will be quieter, and less subject to vibration.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Help Wanted: No Madoffs Need Apply

Add his former employees to the list of of Bernard Madoff's victims—and that includes his sons. Wherever it appears, the Madoff name on a résumé is toxic for those trying to continue to work in finance, experts say. Mark Madoff, who worked for his father for 20 years, is reportedly trying to find a job in trading. Fat chance, one employer tells the Wall Street Journal: “He's untouchable in any firm that deals with the public.”

Family members aren’t the only ones touched by the noxious name. “I'll never get a job in finance,” says a former Madoff secretary and budding hairdresser. Still, she has perspective. “I'm one of the lucky ones.” Case in point: Another former employee is trying to recover $200,000 she invested with Madoff, but the hurdles are higher for insiders. And she’s job-hunting. “I need someone who doesn't care about Madoff,” she says. Good luck.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How to Revive American Innovation

Pessimism about America's future role in the world economy is spreading even as the economy stabilizes, but there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful, writes David Brooks in the New York Times. America's economy still has incredible potential, Brooks writes, and the government can revive innovation and stay competitive through a few steps that both parties should be able to agree on:

Push through President Obama's education reforms and improve America's human capital.
Raise federal research spending and boost overall R&D spending back to the 3% of GDP it received in the '60s.
Rebuild the nation's infrastructure, with spending decisions being made by National Infrastructure Bank instead of "pork-seeking politicians."
Rein in the deficit by having a commission create a roadmap back to fiscal responibility and letting Congress vote on it.
Use diplomacy to correct global imbalances such as China's artificially weak currency.
Loosen visa quotas and allow more skilled immigrants in.
Encourage innovation hotspots, rather than at a national level.
Lower corporate tax to international standards
Finally, "don't be stupid," by doing things like picking trade fights with other countries or getting carried away with gimmicks like research taxes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Obama Summit Tackles Jobs

The Obama administration will hold a much-hyped jobs summit today, bringing 130 guests—including labor leaders and a host of big-name CEOs—to brainstorm ideas for tackling unemployment. The event also just happens to coincide with the release of November’s unemployment figures, which aren’t expected to be pretty—ADP estimates that 169,000 jobs were lost last month.

With federal deficits dizzyingly high, Obama’s hoping for ideas that require minimal government outlays—like giving homeowners incentives to retrofit their homes for greater energy efficiency or tax credits for businesses that hire new employees. That hasn’t stopped labor leaders from dreaming big—the AFL-CIO is coming with a wide-ranging $400 billion to $500 billion proposal, the Wall Street Journal reports. Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, is hosting a competing summit that will advocate cutting back on regulations, taxes, and the deficit.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rare Pink Diamond Scores Dazzling $2.2M a Carat

A pricey pink diamond smashed records today in Hong Kong when it sold for a glittery $2.2 million a carat—and $10.8 million overall. The 5-carat “vivid pink” wonder, which is near-perfect but not flawless, trumps the sale 15 years ago of a 19.66 carat specimen that went for a measly $7.4 million. “No stone has ever been sold for $2 million a carat,” a Christie’s exec says. Yet, it’s “probably one of the rarest stones I’ve ever seen.”

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Employers Offer More OT, Fewer New Jobs

Manufacturers skeptical about economic improvement are hedging their bets and forgoing hiring in favor of scheduling overtime work to fill welcome new orders. The tactic may be working for now—employees surely aren’t complaining—but the phenomenon is likely to be short-lived. “Overtime is more costly,” an analyst tells the Wall Street Journal. “There comes a point that it makes sense to take on new workers."

In the last recession, manufacturing firms started taking on new workers 18 months after boosting overtime to meet increased demand. One owner says 10% overtime for 2 months is feasible, but after that it makes more sense to hire. Companies must balance the increased payout against the costs of recruiting and training new hires, but extra hours have their pluses. “Production is attitude,” a business owner says, and “pockets of overtime” can improve performance.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Unemployment to Stay High for Years

Unemployment will remain higher than normal for years to come, Fed officials predicted today. Even at the end of 2012, the rate is forecast to be between 6.8% and 7.5%—a decent turnaround from the current 10.2% but still about 2 points higher than the figure in healthy times. Even though the economy is technically in recovery, it will take "about five or six years" for the labor market to right itself, the officials said.

Today's projections echo details released from the last Fed meeting, in which the central bank signaled it will leave interest rates low for a while, reports the Washington Post. The main reason: concerns that we're in a jobless recovery. "Business contacts reported that they would be cautious in their hiring and would continue to aggressively seek cost savings," the minutes said.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Vulgar Online Comment Costs Man His Job

Commenters, beware. A St. Louis man who posted a vulgarity at a newspaper website soon found himself out of a job. When the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked readers to weigh in with the strangest thing they've ever eaten, one guy responded with what the paper describes as a "vulgar expression for a part of a woman’s anatomy." The single-word post was quickly deleted, but just as quickly reposted. When website editor Kurt Greenbaum noticed in a WordPress email alert that the IP address came from a local school, he forwarded the info to officials there.

"About six hours later, I heard from the school’s headmaster," writes Greenbaum. "The school’s IT director took a shine to the challenge. Long story short: Using the time-frame of the comments, our website location, and the IP addresses in the WordPress e-mail, he tracked it back to a specific computer. The headmaster confronted the employee, who resigned on the spot."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

YouTube Launches Citizen Journo Channel

A new YouTube service aims to make it easier for citizen journalists filming everything from celebrity antics to natural disasters to connect with news outlets. The YouTube Direct service allows news outlets to request, verify, and rebroadcast video from YouTube users. NPR, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Politico were among the news outlets on board as the service was unveiled today, Reuters reports.

"News organizations always want to verify the content they use," said YouTube's head of news. The service, he said, isn't about making money for YouTube or its users. "It's an incentive to upload great video, because of the recognition you'll get from legitimate news organizations," he said.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It's About the Jobs, Stupid

The US has to shake up conventional thinking and create jobs for out-of-work Americans, writes Paul Krugman. Our current misguided thinking—as evidenced by unemployment north of 10%—isn't so much a jobs policy as GDP policy. "If you grow it, they will come," goes the philosophy. Get the economy humming, in other words, and the jobs will follow. While that's normally sound thinking, "these aren't normal times."

At the risk of raising the hackles of the Glenn Beck contingent, the US should consider a jobs program along the lines of the New Deal, Krugman suggests in the New York Times. If that's too unpalatable, at least strengthen worker protections or give businesses more financial incentives to avoid layoffs. Something, anything, before the damage is irreparable. "Long-term unemployment is already at its highest levels since the 1930s, and it’s still on the rise," Krugman warns.

This Year's Thanksgiving Dinner: $42.91

The cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal—enough turkey and trimmings to feed 10—comes in at $42.91 this year. That's down nearly 4%, or about $1.70, from last year and the biggest drop in price since 2000, says the American Farm Bureau survey. The biggest factors are the costs of a gallon of milk, down 92 cents to $2.86, and a 16-pound turkey, down 44 cents to $18.65, notes Bloomberg.

“Consumers are benefiting at the grocery store from significantly lower energy prices,” says an economist at the bureau.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Free Holiday Airport WiFi From Google, Microsoft

There’s a new public option in town: free wireless from Google for the holidays. The search giant has partnered to provide WiFi gratis in 47 airports nationwide from now until the middle of January; the generosity even extends to in-flight access on continental Virgin flights, PC World reports. Google would probably like to spread its beneficence across the entire nation, but its partnership with the likes of Time Warner and Boingo doesn’t allow universal coverage.

That’s all well and good, but careful readers note that some pretty important national hubs—New York, DC, Chicago—fall outside Google’s range. Enter Microsoft. The software giant and Google nemesis is also in the free-holiday-wireless business, teaming with JiWire to cover an estimated 70% of airports, according to the Atlantic. All you have to do is perform one Bing search for the goodies. Give a hand to the rivals for turning even snow delays into an ad war.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Feds' Lone Dog-Mushing Job Opens Up

Love dogs? Pristine Alaska wilderness? Then you’ll be pleased to learn that the lone federal dog-mushing job is open. The position at Denali National Park pays up to $66,542 (plus cost-of-living adjustment), but it’s not all easy sledding. The kennel manager is in charge of 31 dogs, and all the shots, poop and bureaucracy-mandated paperwork that comes with them.

It’s “a great job,” the outgoing musher tells the Anchorage Daily News. “There’s really nothing that quite compares to being out on the trail in the middle of winter. It’s beautiful, it’s completely silent.” Karen Fortier says helping out researchers is cool, too, and there are summertime tours for park visitors. But, she sighs, “you think it’s going to be this glory job, but so much is managing the operation behind the scenes.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Go to Harvard, Study The Wire

The Wire is about to get an Ivy League makeover. Harvard plans to offer a course on the HBO series about life in Baltimore's ghettos, the New York Post reports. The show "has done more to enhance our understanding of the challenges of urban life and the problems of urban inequality, more than any other media event or scholarly publication," said William J. Wilson, the well-known African-American history professor—and huge fan of The Wire—who will teach the class.

But the move isn't quite as ground-breaking as the show, notes the Post: Duke and Middlebury have also offered courses on the series.

Manage Like a Marine

Marine officers Timothy Saint and Nicholas Smith "learned a lot about leadership and management that we wish someone had told us as boot lieutenants" during their service in Iraq, and most of it applies to young managers in the corporate world. They provide some guidance on Business Insider:

Listen and show respect: "If your subordinate's way is 60% as good as your way, and the person who has to execute it is the subordinate, let him have his way." Why? "He will execute his plan twice as well as yours simply because it is his."
"Inspect what you expect": "Our favorite Marine Corps catchphrase." It shows that you care about the work. Plus, "the good ones like being inspected and the bad ones need it. This has to be true everywhere."
"Get over yourself": "Nobody gives a crap about your MBA or anything else you've done." Learn the ropes and show competence before you try to get a reputation "for being a brilliant innovator and bold reformer."
Stick to your guns: "If a new plan or policy is unpopular or a major change to the status quo, people will be testing your will," Saint and Smith write. "Is this going to be like the last fifteen bullshit initiatives that died after a month?"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

US GDP Jump Hollow if Unemployment Keeps Rising

News that the US gross domestic product jumped 3.5% in the third quarter cheered investors and others, but the cheers will ring hollow if unemployment keeps rising, John Authers writes. Consumer spending rose even as disposable income fell—“ not a pattern that can be sustained for long, and it is inconsistent with the need for US families to pay down their debts,” he notes in the Financial Times.

Authers credits Cash for Clunkers and other government programs for sparking higher consumption—programs that won’t continue much longer. And while consumer optimism may be buoyed by the news, other data out today show that though the unemployment rate is rising more slowly, it’s still rising faster than before the recession began.

Wal-Mart Enters Coffin Biz

America's leading big-box store is now also a pine box store. Wal-Mart has started selling a range of discount coffins on its website and plans to expand its death products to include pet urns and memorial jewelry. Prices start at just $895 for a steel coffin. Funeral home owners say they're not too worried about the competition. Wal-Mart will never be able to replace the human touch funeral home directors offer, the head of an industry group tells AP.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Public College Tuition Rises Despite Recession

Hoping for a tuition break in the recession? Fat chance. The price of a college education continues to rise, with costs at public schools rising faster than those at private institutions. Tuition and fees at a public 4-year college now average $7,020, versus $26,273 at a private college. That's a 6.5% jump for public schools and a 4.4% increase for private ones over last year, the Washington Post reports.

Google Moves In on Online Music

Google is getting into the online music business. TechCrunch has learned that the search giant will partner with iLike and LaLa to integrate clips into its search engine. An announcement is planned for October 28. Both companies allow streaming on first access, a 30-second clip thereafter, and the option to buy the song, which will be replicated in Google search. The music industry is backing the mo

Undergrad's Search for Assistant Meets Mockery

How's a busy undergrad supposed to juggle study, a social life, and a part-time job? For one 19-year-old at Georgetown University, the answer is hiring a personal assistant. The sophomore sparked controversy on campus this week by placing an ad on the university's student employment site seeking a personal assistant to tackle chores like doing his laundry and filling up his car, reports the Washington Post.

The student—who plans to major in finance and management—received a few serious responses, along with the wrath of plenty of students who complained he wasn't doing much to dispel the stereotype of Georgetown being full of lazy rich kids. "Everybody probably knows who he is now," one English major said. "People are not happy. They think he's just ridiculous and full of himself."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

How Australia Dodged the Recession

Australia has weathered the financial crisis better than any other developed country. Last week its central bank raised interest rates, indicating its primary concern is now inflation, not growth. What were the keys? Phil Dobbie of BNET explains:

Befriending China: Australia used to export much of what it made to the US and UK, but over the last decade much of that trade has shifted to China. In fact, some economists argue that Australia didn’t need a stimulus package—Beijing’s stimulus was enough.
Cool-headed bankers: Australia’s proper banks have much of the credit market sewn up, largely because the country’s small population means the overall market for loans is modest. So the incentives to create insane, opaque financial products just weren’t there.
Population growth: In the year before March 2009, Australia’s population grew 2.1%, due to both immigration and reproduction. Economists point out that per capita GDP declined over the last year, but with more people, total output still grew.
A sensible housing market: The rising population has kept demand for housing high, which has cushioned home prices—and the family wealth tied to them.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Disney Reinventing Stores as 'Imagination Parks'

Disney has unveiled ambitious plans to bring the theme park to the shopping mall by turning its network of stores into interactive "Imagination Parks." The overhaul—designed using the expertise of Steve Jobs and his Apple Stores team—will cost some $1 million per store and focus on providing entertainment and a sense of community. Computer chips in packaging will trigger interactive features, and kids will be allowed to watch film clips of their choosing and chat with Disney stars via satellite.

"This only works if it’s an experience,” Disney Stores Worldwide president Jim Fielding tells the New York Times. The reboot for Disney Stores was approved after much internal debate, with some execs fearing parents might treat the stores like day-care centers. The new look will be rolled out next May at the company's existing stores and some new ones, including a possible new flagship store in Times Square.

At 'Felony Franks,' Ex-Cons Serve Dogs to Wary Populace

A snarkily named hot dog stand has its up-and-coming Chicago neighborhood sizzling. Felony Franks employs ex-cons to sling hot dogs with names like the “Misdemeanor Wiener” and the “Cellmate” (two dogs). Step up to the bulletproof serving window and an employee will ask you to “plead your case.” But some locals aren't amused. “Felony Franks is a step back,” one resident tells the Wall Street Journal.

The owner, who employs ex-cons at another venture, finds the hubbub perplexing. “I don't understand it,” he says. A local preacher denounced him as a “pimp” for exploiting black workers. But his problems go beyond disapproval and outrage. A local alderman has denied a request to install a sign, and even introduced an ordinance to limit signage on the block. Though he says it “has nothing to do” with Felony Franks, he’s no fan. “I'm all for hiring ex-offenders, but why give more stigma to the fact?”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tax Breaks for New Jobs Gain Bipartisan Support

Support is building in Washington for the idea of giving companies tax breaks when they hire new workers. President Obama’s economic team has been exploring the possibility for weeks, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle like the idea of helping unemployed constituents. “There’s a lot of traction for this kind of idea,” says GOP Rep. Eric Cantor. “I’m fairly positive it would be welcomed in a bipartisan fashion.”

Under one proposal, employers would get a credit worth twice the first-year payroll tax for their new hires. The last time something similar was tried, following the '73-'75 recession, employment shot up. “It’s a pity that this wasn’t done a year ago,” says Nobel laureate Edmund Phelps, one of several big-name economists behind the idea. But naysayers say the proposal’s just corporate welfare. “Some bad ideas never go away,” says one Urban Institute researcher.

America's Most Promising Jobs

Jobs like beer taster and video game tester are nowhere to be seen on CNNMoney's list of the 50 best jobs in America, ranked by pay, job growth, and quality of life. Systems engineer was rated the best overall job, while anesthesiologist—with a median pay of $292,000—topped the high pay list. Telecommunications network engineers can expect the greatest job growth over the next decade, while education/training consultants were judged to have the best quality of life.

Also in the top 5:
Physician assistant—These "MD lites" get the job satisfaction that comes with treating patients, minus the paperwork hassles
College professor—The starting pay is pretty low, but the freedom is almost unrivaled and there are usually positions available, even during recessions.
Nurse practitioner—The growth in clinics and a shortage of doctors means many opportunities for nurse practitioners, who can diagnose and treat many ailments as well as performing nursing tasks.
IT project manager—"Just about all companies need tech-savvy people who are great managers," says one Houston recruiter, and the best often become chief technology officers, where salaries can hit $300,000.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Swine Flu Highlights Debate Over Paid Sick Leave

The second coming of swine flu has reignited the debate over paid sick leave. “You have all of our top officials saying, ‘Do the responsible thing. If you're sick, stay home,’” an advocate tells CNNMoney. “And at the same time, we have a country where almost half the workforce doesn't have a single paid sick day.” Though small business owners feel their employees’ pain, many say they just can’t afford it.

Half the workforce can’t take paid sick leave unless it's scheduled ahead of time. Laws requiring around 5 to 10 days, depending on company size, have passed in some locales and are making headway elsewhere. New York City is engaged in a fierce debate, and even Congress could soon consider a bill mandating paid leave. But the cost is too high, one advocate for business says: “Government is trying to do something that's well-intentioned, but they have no idea what the effect is on a small business.”

Jobless Outnumber Jobs, 6-1

Even as the US pulls out of the recession, the ranks of the out-of-work have swelled to 14.5 million people, leaving six jobless people vying for every available job—the worst ratio since the Labor Department began keeping track in 2000. "There's too much uncertainty out there," says one economist who says with no surefire source of growth in sight, businesses aren't hiring.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

America's Safest Colleges

In the wake of the Yale slaying, the Daily Beast ranks America’s safest colleges. The rankings rest on crime rates from 2006 to 2007, at schools with at least 6,000 students and some on-campus housing. The results:

New York Institute of Technology: Located in a quaint Long Island suburb, NYIT didn’t have a single reported crime.
Farmingdale State University: Primarily a commuter school, this New York institution was virtually crime-free, with three vehicle thefts and one rape.
Grand Valley State University: Nine rapes, but no other reported crimes, make up the Michigan school's crime stats.
Indiana Wesleyan University: This Christian college scored well on every sin other than burglary, reporting several petty thefts.
Idaho State University: It’s in Pocatello, the self-proclaimed “Smile Capital of the World.”

Google Earth, Al Gore Detail Climate Change

– Google—with the help of Al Gore—has introduced new “layers” to its Earth application that detail the possible effects of climate change in the next century. The Nobel laureate narrates an intro to a series of virtual tours that highlight terrifying scenarios and solutions. The upgrade allows users to look at a view of any area on Earth from now through 2100 with changes based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s predictions.

“We show on Google Earth the range of expected temperature and precipitation changes under different global emissions scenarios that could occur throughout the century,” the company says. It also promises to add more detailed features to the app, including rising sea levels and ice sheet melting, the Guardian reports. The search giant also pledges to detail rosier conditions projected to result should the world embrace renewable energy.

Computer Whiz Records Life as 'E-Memory'

Philip K. Dick, eat your heart out. Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell is recording his entire life with video and audio equipment and storing it on a hard drive to keep it safe, CNN reports. The 350 gigabytes of data—which include scans of receipts and PDFs of every Web site he visits—is better than natural memory, he says, because it never forgets. And he never deletes anything—even moments he'd rather forget.

Bell denies that the experiment is hurting his own memory: "To me, I feel a lot freer," he says. "I generally remember" that the computer is "remembering something for me so I can find it." But he believes that films like Total Recall—based on Dick's story about false memory implants—are the wave of the future: "I think it's inevitable because so much content is being created ... I will love that day when the world is just bits."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

10 Dirty Restaurant Tricks

Restaurants are known to cut a few corners for the sake of their bottom lines. Slashfood sheds some light on dirty little industry secrets, including:

Using cabbage instead of seaweed: An ex-maître d’ at an upscale Chinese joint says the chef assumed his celebrity clientele wouldn’t know the difference. He was right.
Topping off beer pitchers with seltzer: “The drunker the guys got, the more seltzer they got,” says one sports bar insider.
Refilling pricey bottled water from the tap: “Where I worked we served Voss,” says one waitress, “because it has the easiest screw top to re-seal.”
Serving rotten meat: Steakhouses routinely hold bad meat until someone orders it well done.
Serving caffeinated coffee as decaf: One Philadelphia waiter reports returning to the kitchen with a cup of caffeinated coffee after a customer complained. “The head waiter took the cup from my hand, handed it right back to me, and said, ‘There—now it’s decaf.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Don't Let the Recession Rule Out Retirement

Retirement savers have been facing grim truths, like the fact that a 50% portfolio loss requires 100% in earnings to recover. But middle-of-the-road investors could recover in as little as 2 years if they make contributions, receive a company match, and see fair long-term portfolio returns, writes Linda Stern in Newsweek. Still, much depends on a person's age and wealth before the recession hit.

Younger investors will fare the best, for they can afford to take bigger risks and take advantage of historically low prices. Meanwhile, older folks—some of whom "may never recover"—should save more and use “catch-up” provisions in tax law to invest more money in their 401(k)s and personal retirement-savings accounts. Above all, experts say, the best advice is to spend less, save and invest more, and hope the math improves.

Cost-Cutting Companies Target No. 2 Execs

Cost-cutting at American's largest corporations is hitting the executive suite, with CEOs rolling up their sleeves to take on more day-to-day responsibilities and laying off their No. 2s. In the 18 months leading up to June 2009, 40 major companies eliminated COOs or presidents, the Wall Street Journal notes, while only 20 added. "The CEO wants to be closer to the action," one headhunter said.

GM, Coca-Cola, Alcoa, and Starbucks have all eliminated their second-in-command posts. At AOL, new chief Tim Armstrong created a COO position in July only to eliminate it last week, splitting duties among several senior leaders. Many execs like to talk about hands-on leadership as the impetus, but one former COO said the recession means "the board looks to the CEO to be more directly involved."

Job Market Splitting Up Couples

With the job market failing to recover along with the larger economy, two-career couples are facing tough choices and increasingly being forced into long-distance relationships. A recent survey has found that 18.2% of Americans who took new jobs in the second quarter also relocated, up from 11.4% a year earlier. Not everyone survives the pressures of a long-distance marriage; according to the Wall Street Journal. More couples are choosing separation over expensive two-home living.

"Someone finding employment in another city creates a bigger challenge for families than it did a generation ago," said one New York University professor. "You can't assume that a spouse that follows another will find employment in this market."

Subway Will Soon Have More Stores Than McDonald's

Subway is nearing a milestone: the sandwich chain will soon have more global locations than McDonald’s, Ad Age reports. The chain is expanding so quickly that it's expected to have 31,800 stores by the end of the week. It's probably just a matter of months before it surpasses the 32,158 locations under the golden arches.

That’s in part because McDonald’s isn’t adding restaurants very quickly: the fast-food titan has been curbing expansion to focus on profitability. And it is that metric Subway will want to pay attention to next: the average US McDonald’s restaurant grosses $2.3 million a year—the average US Subway, $445,000.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Strip Clubs, Lap Dances Part of Corporate Life in UK

The sex industry has become a mainstream part of corporate culture in Britain and is damaging workplace equality, a report from a women's group finds. Researchers found that many firms authorize the use of expense accounts for entertaining clients in lap dancing and strip clubs, and that most strip clubs happily provide "discreet receipts" for corporate customers, the Daily Telegraph reports.

"The sex industry is increasingly targeting the corporate market, with lap dancing clubs marketing themselves as ideal venues to host meetings and client entertaining," one researcher said. "Yet lap dancing clubs are a form of commercial sexual exploitation and fuel sexist attitudes towards women. Their use in a work context discriminates against female employees and undermines women’s status at work."

Young Grow Poorer While Old Get Richer

Young and middle-aged people, particularly men, saw their incomes plummet from 2000 to 2008, leaving many age groups at 30-year nadirs, new Census data show. The recession has exacerbated the problem, widening the gap between young and old at an unprecedented rate, USA Today reports. Worst hit were those in their peak earning years—between ages 45 and 54—whose average household income fell $7,700 to $64,349.

Those born before 1955 have enjoyed historic income growth for 4 decades. Everyone born after that is now shrinking. What caused the gap?
Waiting in line for good jobs: Older people are working longer, keeping young people out of top jobs.
Global competition: Low-income workforces overseas have depressed wages for newly hired young people.
Retirement: Social Security and private pensions have given the elderly record incomes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wages Are Up—for Workers With Jobs

For those with the good fortune to have a job, wage growth has actually increased in recent months, government surveys show. From the fall of Lehman Brothers last September to this June, average weekly pay stayed at $612. But since June, the workweek has gotten longer and hourly pay growth has increased. Average weekly pay hit $618 last month, writes David Leonhardt in the New York Times.

“Even though unemployment has reached its highest level in 26 years, most workers have received a raise over the last year,” Leonhardt notes. In fact, “in the job market, at least, the recession’s pain has been unusually concentrated." There's less churn than usual; those who are unemployed stay that way longer, but few are still being laid off, and most companies "have evidently decided that pay cuts aren’t worth the downside."

40% of Employers to Hike Health Plan Costs Next Year

Many Americans are happy with their employer-sponsored health care plans and eager to keep them, but they won't be keeping them at the current price, the Washington Post reports. In a survey released yesterday, some 40% of employers said they expect to increase the amount their employees paid for health care next year—raising premiums, deductibles, and the cost of prescription drugs. Some 9% said they expect to tighten eligibility for benefits. Another 8% intend to drop coverage entirely.

The report, which comes from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, concludes that federal action is necessary to bring costs under control. The Business Roundtable piled on, declaring yesterday that given current trends, employer health costs will rise 166% over the next decade, to $28,530 per employee. “Maintaining the status quo is simply not an option,” said Roundtable leader and Kodak CEO Antonio Perez.

Swearing at Your Boss Can't Get You Fired in Spain

A Barcelona court says calling your boss a "son of a bitch" is not grounds for dismissal, insisting the slight is common in arguments in Spain and not that big a deal. The plaintiff in the case was fired in January 2008 for hurling that insult at his boss during a money dispute, then calling him "crazy" as he stormed out of the office. "Without a doubt, both expressions are insulting," the judge said, but not grounds for dismissal.

The man lost a first court challenge, but won on appeal with the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia in February. The ruling states that the worker should either be reinstated, or receive $9,472 in compensation. It's unknown which option the employer picked.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Colleges Ditch Trays; Students Learn to Juggle

College students may feel they’ve added juggling to their courseloads as the trayless cafeteria trend picks up steam, the Los Angeles Times reports. The increasingly popular measure, meant to save water and electricity, often meets with a sort of grudging acquiescence. “It's definitely difficult and a little bit inconvenient,” says one student in a precarious situation. “But I like the intentions. The intentions are good.”

Food services company Aramark says 60% of the 600 campuses it services have gone trayless, and rival Sodexo estimates 40% of its clients have switched. Though colleges say the move results in less waste, and that savings pays for better food and amenities, some students aren’t buying it. One Michigan school torpedoed the plan because, well, the students like to use the trays as sleds. In sunny California, a student has a different problem: “The more time I spend on lunch, the less time I spend studying."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dropout Rates Turning US Colleges Into 'Failure Factories'

The failure of America's colleges to turn more freshmen into graduates is doing huge amounts of damage to the economy, David Leonhardt writes in the New York Times. Only half of those enrolled in college emerge with a degree, the worst rate of any developed country except Italy. This dismal performance of public universities—dubbed "failure factories" by one economist—is largely responsible for rising inequality and falling productivity, Leonhardt writes.

"Under-matching"—when lower-income students don't choose to attend the best college they can get into—is a major cause of high dropout rates, say the authors of Crossing the Finish Line, a new book looking at the trend. Almost as big a problem, they say, is that a culture of failure that has become acceptable, and many students just don't see the need to graduate within four years. Doing so is "like leaving the party at 10:30 pm," one student told them.

Top-Paying College Degrees

As the school year begins, students seek out fulfilling and enlightening majors—that will hopefully bring in the big bucks down the road. PayScale lists the highest-paying undergrad degrees and their mid-career median salaries:

Aerospace engineering, $109,000
Chemical engineering, $107,000
Computer engineering, $105,000
Electrical engineering, $102,000
Economics, $101,000
Physics, $98,800
Mechanical engineering, $98,300
Computer science, $97,400
Industrial engineering, $95,000
Environmental engineering, $94,50

Monday, September 7, 2009

Emoticons Invade Academia

College professors have lamented the state of student writing for centuries. But today’s Internet-obsessed culture brings new, infuriating errors to Writing 101 as students brazenly use colloquialisms like “:-)” and “LOL” in essays. “Occasionally, I've seen someone using the number 4 for the word 'for,'” a Cal State San Marcos professor tells the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Besides inappropriate lingo, professors say, students’ writing suffers because of a decline in quality reading: “I ask my creative writing students about what they've read over the summer, and I'm shocked when they say they've read no novels, no poems,” says a University of San Diego professor. “They're watching TV or movies or playing video games.”

Top Signs You're an Internet Addict

Do you just like reading Newser, or are you addicted to the Internet? Seattle-based Internet addiction center ReSTART lists the signs of a bad online habit:

Heightened euphoria. Trolling through sites gives you your greatest thrill.
Whiling away more hours. You look up and it's suddenly 2 am, when last night it was only midnight.
Less self-control. Inability to shut down your computer is not a good sign.
Ignoring friends and family. Don't get caught doing this in China. One 12-year-old boy received electric shock therapy in Beijing for spending 4 days at an Internet cafe.
Lying about your surfing: If you have to hide it, it's a problem.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Oldsters Refusing to Step Aside to Free Up Jobs

Their retirement savings devastated by the financial crisis, older workers are increasingly postponing retirement, the New York Times reports, creating even more competition for scarce jobs. A recent survey found that four in 10 workers over 62 have remained at their jobs longer than they planned thanks to the recession. Our dependence on fluctuating 401(k)s for retirement is turning out to have a perverse effect on the economy, the Times notes. "It’s a sort of reverse automatic stabilizer,” says one economics prof.

When the economy is booming and needs workers to stick around, retirees with fat 401(k)s are cashing out. In recession, when they're not needed, their accounts are depleted, so they're declining to retire. By comparison, many European countries have recession-proof pensions; in Denmark, a worker gets 91% of her pre-retirement salary. Policymakers are examining the possibility of creating stronger retirement safety nets, but that may prove a challenge. “I don’t want to depend on anybody else in my retirement,” one would-be retiree says. “Not family members, not our children, and certainly not the government.”

Women Gain as Recession Batters Male-Dominated Fields

The US job market is closer than ever to gender equality because the recession has most heavily affected male-dominated industries, USA Today reports. Women held 49.83% of the nation’s jobs as of June. Since the recession began in December 2007, 74% of the 6.4 million jobs lost have been positions held by men. In local government, the inequality is particularly striking: regional authorities have fired 86,000 men while hiring 167,000 women.

The recession’s gender effect stems from the fact that manufacturing and construction—traditionally male professions—have been hit hardest. Meanwhile, more women then men work in the most resilient sectors: health care, education, and government. Gender inequality persists; women still earn 77% of what men make for the same work, hold more part-time jobs, and are disproportionately restrained by “glass ceilings” from executive leadership positions.

Recession Woes Penalize NFL Franchises

Tight credit and the recession-driven scarcity of buyers and investors slashed the value of eight NFL teams this year, Forbes reports. It’s the first time in a decade that even one team has seen a decline. Though the average team value held steady at $1 billion, Oakland led the losers, shedding 7% of its value. The recession has been kinder to some—the top-valued Cowboys tacked on 2%—but things are likely to get worse.

The NFL recently extended many lucrative television contracts through 2013, but the tough economic situation has eroded the league’s bargaining position, and the deals allow for annual fee increases of just 2%, the slimmest ever. Add to that an expected contract dispute in 2010 that could see a lockout, and the plight of some teams could worsen. Still, owners can revel in the now: the third-best year in NFL history saw revenue increase 7% while player costs went up only 4%.