Archive for November, 2010

Power Breakfast: Employee health costs rising, Ga. jobless, PSC, Ted’s, Delta, GM, Ford

Atlanta employers were facing a 10 percent bump in employee health benefits costs for next year, but most softened the blow by making changes in their health programs, AJC staffer Carrie Teegardin reports.

The global consulting firm Mercer said Wednesday that metro Atlanta employers now expect a 6.3 percent bump in per-employee health benefit costs in 2011, after modifying benefits to lower the costs of coverage, Teegardin writes.

Atlanta’s projected increase, based on Mercer’s survey of 37 large and medium-size employers, was on par with the national average. Nationally, Mercer surveyed more than 2,800 employers.

Next year’s increase will push the average per-employee cost of health benefits to about $9,600 for Atlanta employers in the survey, Teegardin writes.

Also in the AJC:

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Georgia unemployment remains at 9.9 percent

Georgia’s unemployment rate stood unchanged at 9.9 percent in October, marking the 37th consecutive month that the state’s rate exceeded the nation’s, the state labor department said Thursday.

The good news: The number of payroll jobs increased six-tenths of a percentage point to 3,837,700 in October, the labor department said. The increase was three-tenths of a percentage point in metro Atlanta. Most of the increases came in retail trade, temporary employment agencies, public and private schools, and health care.

But the persistent problem of long-term unemployment — those out of work for at least 27 weeks — got worse in October. There were 240,600 long-term jobless — an increase of 1.7 percent from September and 63 percent from a year ago.

The long-term unemployed account for more than half — 52.4 percent — of the 459,098 jobless workers in Georgia, the labor department said. That’s up from 30.7 percent a year ago.

A total of 57,494 laid-off workers filed initial claims for …

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Power Breakfast: UPS holiday hiring, indicted commissioner, Perdue, Home Depot, Fulton budget, GM

Holiday hiring is ramping up.

UPS will hire about 50,000 temporary workers to handle the crush of holiday shipments this year, AP reports.

United Parcel Service said it expects to deliver 430 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The busiest day should be Wednesday, Dec. 22, when UPS expects to deliver 24 million packages worldwide, up nearly 60 percent from a normal day, AP writes.

Rival FedEx says it expects to move nearly 16 million packages on its peak day, Dec. 13.

In the AJC:

In other media:

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

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New study: Financial distress rises in third quarter

Financial distress increased for consumers in the third quarter in Georgia and nationally, according to a study released Wednesday.

Weaker household budgets, renewed strains from housing costs and continued high levels of unemployment drove down the Consumer Distress Index published by CredAbility, a nonprofit credit counseling service based in Atlanta.

For the quarter ended September 30, American households scored an average of 64.4 on the index. On a 100-point scale, that’s down from 65.2 in the second quarter. A score below 70 indicates financial distress.

Index scores fell in 41 states, including Georgia, CredAbility said. The Peach State posted a score of 61.24 — the ninth worst in the nation and below the national average.

Michigan posted the worst score on the index, with a 58.11, replacing Nevada as the state with the highest level of financial distress.

North Dakota again had the best performance, improving its score to 79.45, CredAbility said.

States with the …

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Are you a victim of technology or outsourcing?

The middle class — especially the lower middle — has been shrinking. Tens of thousands of jobs have been eliminated by technology or moved overseas, thanks to the low cost of communication.

Meanwhile, the gap between highly-paid workers and the rest has been growing — partly because those jobs in the middle are vanishing.

AJC economics writer Michael Kanell is working on a story about this. He is looking for people who used to work at some occupation that has been greatly reduced by technology or outsourcing. That includes travel agents, bank tellers, secretaries and administrative assistants.

He’s interested in other white-collar jobs as well, along with blue-collar ones like gas station attendant and grocery bagger.

Also, if you are still working in a job like that, he’d like to talk to you, too.

You can contact Kanell at mkanell@ajc.com or by calling (404) 526-7044.

Thank you.

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What are your holiday spending plans?

More than 97 percent of Georgians will resist the urge to splurge this holiday season, AJC staffer Scott Trubey reports.

They say they’ll hold the line on gift spending or actually spend less than they did in 2009, according to a survey of 6,000 credit union members, Trubey writes.

More than half of respondents — 52.8 percent — to the survey said they would spend roughly the same amount as last year, while 44.3 percent said they would spend less than last year, Trubey reports. Only 2.9 percent said they’d spend more.

What’s your game plan this holiday season? Why?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

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Visiting Nurse prescribes doctor house calls

These are interesting times for health care. One organization is experimenting with sending primary-care doctors into homes of seniors while asking visiting nurses to make fewer house calls.

Mark Oshnock

Mark Oshnock

And the moves appear to make financial sense over the long haul. Seriously.

Mark Oshnock, CEO of Visiting Nurse Health System of Atlanta, is no stranger to numbers-crunching. The former head of Arthur Andersen’s health care consulting business took over the non-profit organization six years ago, when it was deep in debt. A month ago, the final installment of the $20 million credit line was paid, freeing it to spend more of its resources on patients.

Oshnock, 55, has been able to grow the non-profit to a projected $55 million in revenue this year, from $32 million in 2004, by employing strategies used by for-profits. For example, he retreated from non-core operations, such as renting medical equipment. Instead, he focused on two key businesses — providing nurses and physical …

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Power Breakfast: State ag workers get raises, TSA screening, Apple, Gulfstream, Buffett, GM, Walmart

It’s certainly not fiscally prudent.

State Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin, retiring after more than 40 years in office, granted raises to more than 30 employees in October as the state continued through a prolonged period of budget cuts, AJC reporter Aaron Gould Sheinin writes.

An investigation by Channel 2 Action News and the AJC found that the employees all received 5 percent raises, while seven others who work for a subsidiary of the Department of Agriculture received raises between 9 percent and 19 percent. In all, 41 employees received pay increases at a cost to the state of more than $130,000 a year, Sheinin writes.

State employees have not have raises in three years of recessionary cutbacks, a period that has resulted in furlough days, departmental cutbacks and an overall statewide unemployment rate surpassing the national average.

Gary Black, the Republican successor to the top agriculture spot, said he will ask the employees to give back the money, …

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Power Breakfast: Will U.S. economy follow Japanese path, record foreclosures, failed banks, CEO pay, GM

More people are starting to worry if we’re going to follow the Japanese economic path of long-term malaise.

There are some troubling similarities, AJC reporter Michael Kanell writes.

As the Japanese economy staggered in the early 1990s, the Bank of Japan had to prevent collapse of the banking system. So officials poured money into the financial sector, Kanell writes.

In the U.S. crisis, the Federal Reserve and government bailed out the big banks.

The Bank of Japan dropped short-term interest rates to zero. Ditto the Fed here.

If you track Japanese home prices from 1977 to 1995, they match up nicely with U.S. prices from 1992 to the present, Kanell reports.

There are differences.

We don’t have deflation like Japan. But we are getting closer to it, and that is what really worries economists. Because deflation is a dangerous malady, a lot harder to deal with than its opposite, Kanell writes.

Also in the AJC:

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Metro Atlanta foreclosures set monthly and annual records

Foreclosure notices in metro Atlanta soared to new heights in November, setting monthly and annual records, according to data released Monday by Equity Depot.

A total of 13,834 foreclosure notices were published in the 13-county metro area in November, Equity Depot said. The previous record of 13,130 was set in August.

Also, with one month of the year left to go, the annual record already has been shattered. A total of 117,437 notices were published during the first 11 months of the year, topping last year’s 12-month record of 117,107, Equity Depot said.

Foreclosure notices published this month are for auctions on the courthouses steps set for next month.

Nine of the 13 metro counties posted individual monthly records — Bartow, Clayton, Cobb, Dekalb, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale, Equity Depot said.

November notices were 24 percent higher than in October and 47 percent greater than a year ago, according to Equity Depot.

Barry Bramlett, president of Equity …

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