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.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.