Archive for April, 2010

Power Breakfast: DeKalb needs to slim down, Clayton schools, oil leak, Wal-Mart, Aaron’s, Fed, Goldman

DeKalb County’s government needs to slim down, AJC staffer Megan Matteucci reports.

A study by Georgia State University found that the county’s government is bloated with managers, twice as big as comparable local governments, and should lay off at least 909 employees, Matteucci writes.

The DeKalb County Commission contracted for the study of its staffing levels in December as it faced a budget shortfall that has now swelled to $100 million.

Results released to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday show DeKalb’s extra layers of management not only add costs, but add ambiguity about who’s in charge and impede decision-making, the researchers said.

Those results surprised many, including Commissioner Lee May, who suggested the study.

“I do think there is room to downsize our staffing size, but it’s up to the people of DeKalb to say what they are willing to pay for,” May told Matteucci.

Also in the AJC:

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New outlook: More teen jobs this summer

Teenage job seekers are likely to find a more welcoming market this summer, a new employment outlook predicts.

The Challenger, Gray & Christmas consulting firm estimated Monday that summer hiring will improve over last year, when employment among 16- to 19-year-olds grew by less than 1.2 million jobs from May through July.

“It is unlikely that summer employment gains among teens will reach pre-recession levels, but we should definitely see increased hiring compared to 2008 and 2009, which experienced the weakest summer teen job growth since the 1950s,” John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, said in a statement.

Last year, U.S. Labor Deparment data show that summer employment among teens grew by 1,163,000. That was slightly better than 2008, when employers added 1,154,000 teen workers between May and July — the fewest since 1954, the Challenger news release said.

While conditions should improve this summer, teens looking for traditional summer …

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Georgia Works: Good idea or not?

With many states running out of unemployment funds and desperate for ideas, the Georgia Works program is gaining national attention, reports AJC writer Tammy Joyner.

The idea is simple: Pair people collecting unemployment benefits with a company at no cost to the employer. The worker continues to get an unemployment check plus a small stipend, as well as job training. It’s hoped that will lead to full-time employment at the company or elsewhere.

Since it began seven years ago, nearly 8,000 people have completed the program, with about half finding full-time work afterward.

The program pays up to $330 in unemployment a week for six weeks of training, plus a weekly stipend of about $100 to help with gas, transportation and other incidentals.

But, Joyner reports, some criticism has emerged.

Some unemployed workers view the training program as little more than “slave labor”: It has them working for slightly more than their unemployment pay. They’re …

Continue reading Georgia Works: Good idea or not? »

Power Breakfast: Office market stabilizing, jobs return from China, CCE, Mohawk, wind energy

It’s supposed to be a horrible year for commercial real estate. So it’s nice to read a story by AJC reporter Gertha Coffee saying the situation might be stabilizing for metro Atlanta’s office market.

“We’re seeing a lot more leasing activity, a lot more deals being worked on,”  Scott Amoson, director of research for Colliers International in Atlanta, told Coffee.  “We’re cautious about saying it will happen throughout the year. The thinking is we will see a bigger recovery next year.”

The market shows signs of stabilizing, according to first quarter reports released by Colliers and other major commercial real estate firms, Coffee writes.

Move-ins exceeded move-outs, with total occupancy increasing by 38,638 square feet, according to Colliers.

“It was very modest,” Amoson said, “about a floor and a half in a typical office building.”

Modest improvement is better than going in the other direction.

Also in the AJC:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Office market stabilizing, jobs return from China, CCE, Mohawk, wind energy »

Other examples of ‘New Coke’ fiasco?

One of the biggest corportate blunders in American history also is a story of a quick reversal.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the introduction of “New Coke,” writes AJC reporter Jeremiah McWilliams.

It’s a story of how one of the best run companies in the world lost its way with its customers, and then quickly turned the fiasco around.

“We’ve learned to listen more closely to our consumers since then,” Coke historian Phil Mooney told McWilliams.

Can you think of a similar corporate blunder where a company lost its way with key customers?

How about quick reversals to turn things around?

By the way, did you like the taste of New Coke?

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Power Breakfast: Metro home prices fall, school cuts, Pepsi, Coke, Kia, Goldman

Metro Atlanta’s housing market still has a long way to go.

Declining prices of existing single-family homes across metro Atlanta have set a disturbing three-month trend, AJC reporter Michelle Shaw writes.

The median sale price for existing single-family homes fell 2 percent in March, to $113,600, when compared to the year before, according to a National Association of Realtors report released Thursday.

The decline is an improvement on the 10 percent year-over-year drop in prices seen in January and the 4 percent loss in February.

Though the median price for March did not fall as far as in the previous two months, the metro area could not afford to lose any ground while sales have been surging nationwide, Steve Palm, president of  SmartNumbers, told Shaw.

“We’ve got to make some major improvements and do it fast,” he said. “We need the April numbers to be really good so we can get a good start on the second quarter.”

Also in the AJC:

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How does company’s environmental record affect your decisions?

I have two questions for you, but first two facts.

Today is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

And AJC reporter Rachel Tobin Ramos writes that both UPS and FedEx are battling over bragging rights as to who’s the greenest player in the delivery business.

So:

– Does a company’s environmental record affect your buying decisions?

– Does a company’s environmental record affect your decision about where to work?

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Power Breakfast: Transportation bill passes, school cuts, GE jobs, AirTran, SunTrust, Coke

It’s been a long time coming. But the General Assembly finally passed a transportation bill that could ease traffic congestion over the long haul.

Breaking a legislative traffic jam that has endured for more than three years, AJC reporter Ariel Hart writes that the General Assembly on Wednesday voted to allow referendums throughout the state on transportation funding.

Speaker David Ralston led the Georgia House to pass the bill, HB 277, by a vote of 141-29. The Senate passed it 43-8 shortly afterward.

Hart explains that the bill would divide the state into 12 regions. A “roundtable” of local elected officials in each region, working with an appointee of the governor, would draw up a list of projects for the region. The region could then submit the list to its voters for their approval in a referendum, along with a 1 percent sales tax to fund them. No county could opt out of a region’s tax, but a roundtable could decline to hold a referendum in the region.

If …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Transportation bill passes, school cuts, GE jobs, AirTran, SunTrust, Coke »

Metro Atlanta unemployment drops to 10.4 percent

Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate fell to 10.4 percent in March — a significant drop from a revised 10.7 percent in February, the state Labor Department reported Thursday.

The number of unemployed workers in the metro area decreased to 277,953 — down 7,423 from February, according to the Labor Department.

In March, 9,900 jobs were added in metro Atlanta. That was an increase of four-tenths of a percentage point, bringing total employment to 2,247,000, the Labor Department said.

In March, 32,647 laid-off workers in Atlanta filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits. That was an increase of eight-tenths of a percentage point from February. But it was a decrease of 13.5 percent from March 2009.

Previously, the Labor Department had reported that the state’s unemployment rate rose to a record 10.6 percent in March — up from 10.5 percent from February. That marked the 30th consecutive month that Georgia has exceeded the national rate, which was 9.7 percent.

For …

Continue reading Metro Atlanta unemployment drops to 10.4 percent »

Who makes better cars: U.S. or Asia?

Agree or disagree: The quality of U.S. cars has improved significantly?

Slightly more Americans now say the United States makes better-quality vehicles than Asia does, the Associated Press is reporting.

Thirty-eight percent said U.S. cars are best, while 33 percent preferred autos made by Asian companies, according to an Associated Press-GfK Poll.

The survey suggests those numbers are largely fueled by a plunge in Toyota’s reputation and an upsurge in Ford’s, AP writes. The poll was conducted in March, as Toyota was being roiled by bad publicity over its recall of more than 8 million vehicles around the globe.

Still, the numbers have changed substantially. When the same question was asked in a December 2006 AP-AOL poll, 46 percent said Asian countries made superior cars, AP reports. Jjust 29 percent preferred American vehicles.

So, what do you make of this? Have American automakers turned the corner for the long haul?

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