Archive for May, 2010

Cutting back on your summer vacation?

As we enter Memorial Day weekend — the traditional start of summer vacations — are you restricting your travel plans because of crimped finances?

More people are expected to hit the road this summer than did last year, but their budgets will be tighter because of high unemployment and a still-fragile economy, Associated Press is reporting.

AAA estimates families will spend an average of $809 on summer travel. That compared with $876 in 2009, AP writes.

They’re knocking down the cost, travel agents say, by staying closer to home, choosing less-expensive modes of transportation or by picking destinations based on the best fares and lodging they can find.

Is that what you’re doing? Have any other helpful money-saving strategies?

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Power Breakfast: More MARTA cuts, Delta, Coke-CCE, Popeyes, Gulf oil, vacation spending

Red ink is forcing MARTA to make substantially more service cuts, AJC staffer Ariel Hart is reporting.

Rail passengers could wait as much as five minutes longer — and for trains with fewer cars, Hart writes.

All station bathrooms might close, except for Five Points.

And cuts in bus service, including the Braves shuttle, might affect scores of roads.

It’s not just commuters who would feel the pain under the recommendations of a MARTA committee, which tentatively approved the belt-tightening measures Thursday, Hart writes. Under the plan, about 400 of MARTA’s 5,000 employees would lose their jobs.

If the full MARTA board passes the plan at the end of June, the transit agency will drop 41 of its 131 bus routes and cover 482 fewer miles.

Also in the AJC:

In other …

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Power Breakfast: Job market improving, DeKalb schools indictment, Thrashers, UPS, light rail, Gulf, Apple vs. Microsoft

Three years of deep job losses should end in 2011 with the creation of 42,500 new jobs in Atlanta, according to a new economic forecast, AJC reporter Dan Chapman writes.

But the region’s recovery contains too many hard-to-gauge variables — the European debt crisis, the Gulf oil spill, consumer confidence, China’s continued purchase of U.S. treasuries — for Georgia State University economist Rajeev Dhawan to promise that the recession’s end will translate into robust employment.

“I’m optimistic, but I’ve downgraded my predictions because there are too many fragile things going on around the world,” Dhawan, director of the school’s Economic Forecasting Center, told a couple of hundred businessmen, government employees and students Wednesday.

Meanwhile, word comes today that metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate fell dramatically in April — to 9.8 percent from 10.4 percent in March, the state labor department reported.

Metro Atlanta’s rate is now lower …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Job market improving, DeKalb schools indictment, Thrashers, UPS, light rail, Gulf, Apple vs. Microsoft »

Metro Atlanta unemployment tumbles to 9.8 percent

Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate fell dramatically in April — to 9.8 percent from 10.4 percent in March, the state labor department reported today.

Metro Atlanta’s rate is now lower than the state’s — 10.4 percent — and the nation’s — 9.9 percent, the labor department said. Until now, Atlanta’s jobless rate during this recession has generally been higher than the nation’s.

But unemployment in the metro area remains very high and well above April 2009, when it stood at 8.6 percent.

Still, the job market now appears to making progress.

The number of unemployed workers in April in the metro area decreased to 261,748 — down nearly 15,000 from March.

Also in April, 29,361 laid-off workers in metro Atlanta filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits. That was a decrease of 14.4 percent from April 2009.

What’s more, the number of payroll jobs in metro Atlanta increased by 18,100 or 0.8 percent in April vs. March. A total of 2,264,800 are now working.

For instant …

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Will the Facebook changes satisfy you?

Will the changes Facebook is making ease your concerns about privacy?

Facebook said today it is simplifying its privacy controls, Associated Press reports.

One complaint has been over the fact that while Facebook allows users to hide their list of interests on their personal profile pages, the user would still show up elsewhere as “liking” that band, company or hobby, AP writes. The new privacy settings will be extended to those other places as well.

The company is also making it easier for users to decline the instant personalization feature, which tailors other Web sites to users’ Facebook profiles.

Facebook said the changes will be rolled out in the coming weeks, AP reports.

Will the latest changes satisfy you? Or will you consider dropping Facebook?

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How much financial distress are you in?

Bob Dylan once wrote that you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Still, a new index has just come out to measure how much distress consumers are in. The answer — lots.

The new quarterly survey released today by CredAbility measures a consumer’s job status, ability to pay rent or mortgage, credit worthiness, spending habits and net worth, AJC reporter Dan Chapman writes.

While consumers are saving more money, the one-two punch of unemployment and foreclosure continues to batter the average American household, Chapman reports.

Americans, during the first quarter of 2010, registered a 64.2 score (out of 100). Georgians scored 60.1.

“If you have a 70 or below, you are in trouble, in distress, your situation isn’t stable anymore and you need to take immediate action,” said Mark Cole, CredAbility’s chief operating officer.

How does this new measure square with your situation?

Are you getting deeper into debt or starting to turn things around?

Have …

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Power Breakfast: Ga. consumers in distress, old Sears complex, Google, Fulton waste, BP, Apple, Bernanke

The economy may be improving, but Americans — Georgians, in particular — remain in financial “distress,” according to a new survey, AJC reporter Dan Chapman writes.

The quarterly survey by CredAbility measures a consumer’s job status, ability to pay rent or mortgage, credit worthiness, spending habits and net worth. In all, CredAbility crunches data from 38 government and private sources to determine what it calls the most comprehensive measure of financial stability, Chapman writes.

While consumers are  saving more money, the unemployment-and-foreclosure morass continues to batter the average American household’s economic health.

Americans, during the first quarter of 2010, registered a 64.2 score (out of 100). Georgians scored 60.1.

“If you have a 70 or below, you are in trouble, in distress, your situation isn’t stable anymore and you need to take immediate action,” said Mark Cole, the credit counseling agency’s chief operating officer. “You …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Ga. consumers in distress, old Sears complex, Google, Fulton waste, BP, Apple, Bernanke »

Will you pounce on discounted iPhone or wait for update?

Update or cut-rate — which way do you lean?

Wal-Mart says it’s cutting the price of the most up-to-date iPhone in half, Associated Press reports. That’s another sign Apple is getting ready to unveil a new model.

Wal-Mart says that starting Tuesday the iPhone 3GS with 16 gigabytes of storage space will cost $97 with a two-year contract with AT&T. It currently costs $197, AP says.

Leaked prototypes for an updated iPhone surfaced on blogs recently. The price cut could signal retailers are clearing the shelves to make room for a new Apple smart phone, AP writes.

So, will you pounce on the discounted iPhone?

Or will you wait for the new version — and higher price — to see what bells and whistles are added?

Also, let’s hear from those not moved by the iPhone at all. Why not?

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Grady CEO has simple game plan

I never thought it would happen — certainly not this fast.

But Grady Health System CEO Mike Young has been able to turn a profit at the perennial money loser in a little more than a year. I would have bet — and lost — a good bit of money that this would not have happened for many years to come.

Mike Young

Mike Young

What’s more, Young said the first quarter results indicate that the hospital is on pace to beat last year’s financial performance, when it earned $10 million more than it spent, excluding one-time cash infusions.

How did this happen? And what can other execs learn?

To my surprise, Young said his game plan for the nonprofit Grady would not be different if he was running a for-profit company in another industry.

“The approach is exactly the same,” Young, 54, said in a recent interview. “You have to do it a little faster because there’s no winter fat for a turnaround to live off of.”

To turn around Grady, which had not seen black ink in a decade, Young said …

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Power Breakfast: Real estate markets improving, sprouts recalled, Southern Co., Duluth taxes, Hooters, Gulf, Toyota

Both the residential and commercial real estate markets appear to be improving.

On the commercial front, AJC reporter Gertha Coffee writes that heavily discounted prices and more available financing have created a flurry of activity for metro Atlanta commercial real estate brokers.

Industry experts said they expect gradual improvement to continue this year because sellers are becoming more reasonable about prices and lenders are back in the market, Coffee reports.

Still, commercial property sales in metro Atlanta fell 66 percent in the 12 months ended March 31 vs. the same period a year earlier, according to LoopNet, an online real estate listing service.

On the residential side, AJC reporter Michelle Shaw reports that increased home sales led to higher prices.

The median sales price for existing single-family homes around metro Atlanta rose 7 percent in April from the same month a year earlier, according to a National Association of Realtors report released …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Real estate markets improving, sprouts recalled, Southern Co., Duluth taxes, Hooters, Gulf, Toyota »