Archive for December, 2010

Power Breakfast: Some bright spots in job market, metro foreclosures, HOPE, social media scams, tax deal

There is hope in the job market, although not nearly enough.

Between December 2007 and the weak job expansion that began in early 2010, a stunning 8.36 million jobs in the U.S. were washed away, including 347,800 in Georgia, AJC staffer Michael Kanell reports.

Yet the numbers do show places where there was job growth despite the recession — or even partly because of it, Kanell writes.

Rick Nelson of Cumming is standing on one of those dry spots. Following a three-decade career in corporate America, Nelson lost his job when his company was acquired, Kanell reports. After pondering his future, he came across a help-wanted ad for the Chattahoochee Technical College.

It’s not that the technical school sector has defied the recession — it has been swept along by it. Enrollment has climbed and so has demand for instructors, which Nelson became.

Among the other lonely exceptions: federal government and health care jobs, Kanell reports.

Also in the AJC:

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Metro Atlanta foreclosure notices fall in December, but annual record set

Foreclosure notices in metro Atlanta fell 30 percent in December from a record level in November, according to data released Monday by Equity Depot.

Barry Bramlett

Barry Bramlett

For all of 2010, a new record of 127,140 notices was set, eclipsing last year’s record by 8.6 percent, Equity Depot said. Foreclosure notices this year were 60 percent greater than they were in 2008.

“With decreased property values and continued high unemployment in Georgia, it’s hard to forecast any decline for 2011,” Barry Bramlett, president of Alpharetta-based Equity Depot, said in an email to the AJC.

Foreclosure notices of sale published this month are for auctions set for next month.

For December, there were 9,703 notices in the metro area. That’s down from November’s record of 13,834, but still very high.

It may be instructive to look at the entire fourth quarter of the year for a more accurate picture of what’s been happening lately. That’s because one month’s numbers may be artificially distorted since …

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Power Breakfast: Retailers optimistic on holiday sales, Delta, Cobb taxes, AT&T, Ford, Coke, financial bailout

At malls across metro Atlanta, retailers are saying the same thing: This has been the best shopping season in years, AJC reporter Arielle Kass writes.

“We’re seeing a significant increase in traffic compared to last year,” Liz Barth, Lenox Square’s assistant director of marketing, told Kass. “Some are indicating it’s been the best Black Friday ever. And they’re retailers who have been here for years.”

The National Retail Federation reported that 212 million people spent $45 billion over the Thanksgiving Black Friday weekend. While many retailers said it is still too soon in the shopping season to make bets on how the holidays will turn out, they are optimistic considering what they’ve seen so far, Kass writes.

Malls are seeing a rise in foot traffic and gift card sales, Kass reports.

Also in the AJC:

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Survey: Atlanta ranks No. 4 in charitable giving

Atlanta is the fourth most charitable city, according to a new survey by The Daily Beast news website.

Seattle placed first, followed by San Francisco and Kansas City, the Daily Beast said.

To rank the 25 most charitable cities, the Daily Beast said it took a three-pronged approach. It used data on foundations, saying that’s the preferred way for the wealthy to give. It also used tax data to find out where households donate the most per year. Finally, it looked at which cities have the most yearly volunteers per capita.

For Atlanta, the Daily Beast released the following figures:

Percentage of earnings donated: 4.5 percent

Average household income: $86,367

Giving per foundation: $706,796

Annual volunteers: 1.1 million

Population that volunteers: 20.1 percent

Top 10 Most Charitable Cities

1. Seattle

2. San Francisco

3. Kansas City

4. Atlanta

5. Dallas

6. Minneapolis-St. Paul

7. Portland

8. Washington, D.C.

9. Houston

10. Denver

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, …

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Noticing an economic improvement?

Up until now, the economic numbers have been dismal.

AJC staffer Dan Chapman reports that Georgia unemployment has gone from 4.6 percent when the Great Recession started in December 2007 to 9.9 percent now.

Metro Atlanta foreclosures have skyrocketed and home prices have plummeted.

But, economists say, things are beginning to turn around, although very slowly.

Two questions for you:

Are you noticing a change overall?

Is your specific situation changing?

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Power Breakfast: Taking stock of recession, women businesses, Hapeville, DOT, tax plan, tycoons, Korea trade

Taking a snapshot at the end of the year is always a good way to gauge where you’ve been and how much further you have to go.

AJC reporter Dan Chapman has done that with a sampling of economic data for Georgia. It’s not a pretty picture, as you might imagine.

In December 2007, when the Great Recession officially started, Georgia’s jobless rate stood at an enviable 4.6 percent, Chapman writes.

Three years later, after the economic tsunami has wiped out jobs, households and futures for tens of thousands of Georgians, the rate is 9.9 percent.

Meanwhile, metro Atlanta foreclosure notices went from 4,711 to 13,834.

There are a lot of other good comparisons in Chapman’s piece, so please take a look.

Also in the AJC:

In other media:

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Power Breakfast: Drought cost Lanier economy, UPS, Delta, AGL, SunTrust, transit, tax deal

Once again, the lesson is driven home: Water is critical to the economy.

Georgia’s drought in 2007-09 severely damaged the economy around Lake Lanier, costing the region millions more than earlier anticipated, AJC staffer Patrick Fox reports.

A 98-page study that took two years to compile and cost $180,000 came out Tuesday, Fox writes. It was commissioned by the non-profit 1071 Coalition and covered Hall, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Dawson and Lumpkin counties, which border the lake and contain the majority of the businesses and properties most dependent upon it.

“When you aggregate all the numbers, the total negative effect, it’s in the $300 million range for one year,” said Alex Laidlaw, 1071 Coalition president. “If the drought was prolonged in any significant way at those levels, we’d probably see that number climb exponentially.”

The report, prepared by Bleakley Advisory Group, PBS&J and Georgia State University economist Dr. Bruce Seaman, said when lake elevations fell …

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Cutting up your credit cards?

Have you been shunning credit cards and paying with cash or debit cards these days? Why?

About 8 million Americans stopped using credit cards during the past year, AJC reporter Katie Leslie writes.

Experts say the decline has two sources — consumers whose cards were revoked due to unpaid debts and those who cut up their cards themselves during the recession, Leslie reports.

Which one are you?

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Power Breakfast: Drivers pinched by rising gas prices, Atlanta hiring, credit cards, AGL, NCR, tax deal

Drivers are feeling the pinch of rising gas prices.

A weak dollar has pushed the average price of regular unleaded in Georgia 31 cents higher than a year ago and 14 cents higher than a month ago, AJC staffers Katie Leslie and Larry Hartstein report.

The average price of regular unleaded has hit $2.83 in Georgia, up 11 cents from last week, the reporters write.

Experts predict prices will continue rising. Last week’s news that U.S. employers added far fewer jobs than forecast for November weakened the dollar and increased the appeal of crude oil as a commodity to foreign investors, according to AAA Auto Club.

Crude prices edged up Monday to $89.38 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a more than two-year high, the reporters write.

AAA spokeswoman Jessica Brady said the value of the dollar is likely to remain low, while oil prices should rise above $90 a barrel.

Also in the AJC:

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Wealthy remain cautious in spending and risk-taking

There’s been a lot of talk these days about whether tax cuts for the wealthy should be preserved to help stimulate the economy.

Ron Kurtz

Ron Kurtz

Turns out, it may not make much of a difference — especially in the short run — because the wealthy are not in a spending or risk-taking mood.

I sat down with Ron Kurtz, president of the American Affluence Research Center, based in Alpharetta. Kurtz has been conducting detailed economic surveys of the top 10 percent of American households twice a year since 2002. And right now — tax cuts or no tax cuts — the wealthy are cautious.

“This is a group that will say ‘show me’ before they start spending,” Kurtz said. “It’s got to get better before they’re really going to spend … and that goes for creating jobs, as well.”

Kurtz’s fall survey of the top 10 percent showed that they regard current business conditions as poor. The average on a 0-200 point scale was only 41. That was up from a dismal 11 in the spring of last …

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