Archive for December, 2010

Survey: Metro Atlanta hiring will be at ‘fair pace’ in first quarter

Metro Atlanta employers expect to hire at a “fair pace” in the first quarter of next year, according to a survey released Tuesday.

From January to March, 11 percent of the metro companies interviewed for the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey expect to hire more workers. Eight percent expect to reduce their payrolls, while another 76 percent expect to maintain their current staff levels and 5 percent are not certain of their hiring plans.

This yields a net positive outlook of 3 percent, Manpower said. That is one percentage point higher than for the fourth quarter of this year. A year ago, the situation was bleaker, with 2 percent more employers expecting to cut payrolls than to add to them, Manpower said.

For the coming quarter, job prospects appear to be best in durable goods manufacturing, information, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and government, Manpower said.

Employers in nondurable goods manufacturing, transportation and utilities, and …

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Consumer Reports: AT&T provides worst cell-phone service

AT&T provides the worst cell-phone service, according to a new survey of Consumer Reports readers.

U.S. Cellular, a regional carrier, beat out the long-standing top provider Verizon Wireless, Consumer Reports said in a news release Monday.

In this year’s version of an annual Consumer Reports survey on cell-phone carriers, more than 58,000 ConsumerReports.org subscribers participated, the release said.

AT&T was the only carrier whose scores for overall satisfaction dropped significantly since last year, Consumer Reports said.

Verizon Wireless remains among the better performers, but Sprint has pulled even with the carrier in overall satisfaction, the news release said.

Sprint scored better than Verizon in some aspects of customer service — a turnaround from past years when that was a weak point for the company, the release said. T-Mobile was only slightly behind those two carriers in overall satisfaction.

More than half of the AT&T customers surveyed owned an iPhone, the …

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Should special business tax breaks be eliminated?

Cut the other guy’s tax break, not mine.

That seems to be what many state businesses are saying as they position themselves to defend their existing tax exemptions.

Some businesses are sending letters to the special council charged with finding ways to update and streamline Georgia’s tax code, AJC reporter Margaret Newkirk writes.

The letters exemplify some of the barriers the council faces as it searches for ways to broaden the state’s tax base and make the code more simple and fair, Newkirk reports. Special tax breaks for businesses increase the tax burden on everyone else, critics say. Businesses counter that the breaks help them create jobs and feed state tax revenues in other ways.

There’s a tax break, for example, on sales of sugar fed to honeybees and on crab bait sold to commercial fisherman, Newkirk reports.

No business wants to lose its tax break, and some want new sales tax breaks added to the 13-page list of current ones, Newkirk writes.

Think this is …

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What’s your view of tax cut, jobless benefit compromise?

It looks like a deal is in the works to temporarily extend the Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels, as well as jobless benefits for millions of Americans, Associated Press is reporting.

Some details between the Democrats and Republicans need to be worked out, including how long the tax cuts would be extended for. One report says it will be for two years.

What do you think of this compromise? Should the wealthy be able to keep the lower rate?  Do you think they’ll spend it on creating jobs?

This compromise will obviously raise the federal debt, but it’s meant to reduce some of the pain of prolonged unemployment in this weak economy. Which should take priority right now — helping people or the reducing the debt?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: Businesses want to keep state tax breaks, gas marketing, Blue Cross, Ga. fields, Facebook

State tax exemptions go to a surprising stew of businesses, which do not want to lose them, AJC staffer Margaret Newkirk reports.

Some are sending letters to the special council charged with finding ways to update and streamline Georgia’s tax code, Newkirk writes. The council is expected to make recommendations to state lawmakers next week.

The letters exemplify some of the barriers the council faces as it searches for ways to broaden the state’s tax base and make the code more simple and fair, Newkirk reports.

Eight years ago, for example, farmers from Alabama were big players in Atlanta’s lively sod market, which flourished during the region’s decades-long housing boom. That’s not true today, after the state exempted sod from state sales tax, as Alabama had already done, Newkirk reports.

The number of Alabama farmers shipping grass here dropped and the number of Georgia sod farmers grew, according the president of a sod company near Newnan. “Please do not …

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What’s your take on the job market?

Economists were expecting better numbers this morning than a 9.8 percent unemployment rate for November and just 39,000 additional jobs on nonfarm payrolls.

In fact, it’s the highest U.S. jobless rate since April.

What has been your experience in the job market lately? Still really tough or are you seeing a little improvement, which is what economists had been predicting?

If you are working, is your company talking about hiring again? When?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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What are you willing to give up to reduce the federal debt?

What are you willing to live without?

To reduce the ballooning federal debt, some metro Atlantans say they are willing to make a sacrifice, AJC staffers Craig Schneider and Katie Leslie report.

Others do not support cuts that would directly impact their families.

How about you? Willing to tolerate Social Security or Medicare cuts, or live without a mortgage deduction?

Or do you think you’ve already paid too high a price in this weak economy? If you’re not willing to sacrifice, what is your answer to reducing the debt?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: Coke CEO bullish on economy, heating homes, port, Hooters, T-Mobile, tax cuts

Coke CEO Muhtar Kent said unfavorable tax rates on foreign profits and low national investments in education and entrepreneurship in the United States worry him, AJC staffer Bob Keefe reports.

But Kent, who spoke Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, made it clear he’s very bullish on the U.S. economy, Keefe writes.

“Our darkest days have passed,” he said. “We’re beginning to see the first rays of light through that long, dark tunnel.”

He pointed out that the volume of Coca-Cola’s beverage sales has grown for two straight quarters in North America — the first time that has happened in five years, Keefe reports.

The company’s $12 billion purchase of its biggest bottling company, Coca-Cola Enterprises, and a $115 million expansion of a citrus processing plant in Florida earlier this year, he added, are evidence that the company feels good about the direction of the economy.

“Our bullishness on America is not some form of blind optimism,” Kent said. “There …

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Market timing is an illusion

I was struck yesterday by a key investment principle that sometimes comes under attack by so-called “experts” who think they can time the stock market.

All of a sudden, after nearly two weeks of losses, the Dow Jones industrial average soars 250 points — closing more than 2 percent higher Wednesday.

What’s going to happen today? And what about Friday when the unemployment report comes out?

After nearly 30 years as a business journalist, I can say without equivocation that I don’t have a clue. And I don’t know who does.

Most of the gains in the stock market in any one year are made in 10 or 20 particular days, according to several studies I’ve read over the years. But picking those specific days out of 365 is impossible, in my view.

If you’re in the market, please beware of “timing strategies” and “experts.” There are not a lot of Warren Buffetts running around among market timers.

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on …

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Power Breakfast: Ga. manufacturers bullish, airport runway, foreclosures, Gwinnett budget, auto sales, online privacy

Georgia’s manufacturers have turned bullish on the economy, writes AJC reporter Dan Chapman.

After four months of declines, the Purchasing Managers Index, a barometer of the state’s manufacturing health released by Kennesaw State University, jumped six points in November indicating that factories are revving up production, Chapman writes.

Orders for manufactured goods rose a striking 11.3 percent. Manufacturers also plan to hire more workers, the survey shows.

“The numbers are moving in the right direction for a change,” said Don Sabbarese, director of the university’s Econometric Center. But “it is not clear whether or not November’s improvement will continue.”

Nearly half of the purchasing managers, though, expect higher levels of production over the next three to six months, Chapman reports.

The confidence expressed by Georgia’s manufacturers was echoed, largely, by the Federal Reserve’s so-called Beige Book, Chapman writes. The report shows that …

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