Archive for March, 2011

Power Breakfast: Jobless benefits running out for thousands of Georgians, state taxes, Grady resignation, SunTrust repays

Do we really want to kick people when they’re down?

More than 22,000 Georgians receiving extended unemployment checks may lose them in May and June because Georgia legislators have not tweaked state law to match federal eligibility guidelines, AJC reporter Christopher Quinn writes.

Tens of thousands more residents could lose the benefits by the end of  the year, and time is running out in the General Assembly, which has only four working days left, Quinn reports.

“If we don’t take advantage of the extended benefits, which is 100 percent federal money, then those who are still unemployed will be dropped off and go down to zero income,” said Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, who has been unable to get the issue attached to another piece of legislation.

“Those families will go down from a small unemployment check to no money at all.”

And the local economy will no longer have the estimated $175 million in unemployment money flowing through them, Quinn reports.

The federal …

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Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate falls to 10.2 percent

Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent in February from 10.4 percent in January, the state labor department said Thursday.

A year ago, the jobless rate was 10.7 percent, the labor department said.

February’s decline was attributed to the 16,400 new jobs created. Most of those jobs were in service-related industries, construction and manufacturing, the labor department said.

The number of unemployed in metro Atlanta declined to 270,895 in February from 274,619 in January.

Of the five core metro counties, Clayton posted February’s highest jobless rate at 12.4 percent. It was followed by DeKalb and Fulton, which both had 10.5 percent rates. Cobb’s jobless rate was 9.4 percent and Gwinnett’s was 9.1 percent.

Earlier this month, the labor department reported that Georgia’s unemployment rate for February was 10.2 percent, down from 10.3 percent in January.

February marked the 41st consecutive month that Georgia has exceeded the national unemployment rate, which is …

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Announced job cuts in first quarter lowest since 1995

U.S. employers announced fewer job cuts in the first quarter than in any first quarter since 1995, according to a report released Wednesday by the Challenger, Gray & Christmas outplacement firm.

Employers announced 130,749 job cuts in the first three months of the year — 28 percent fewer than in the same period of 2010, Challenger said. The three-month tally is the lowest first-quarter total since 1995, when employers announced 97,716 job cuts.

In March, employers announced plans to reduce payrolls by 41,528 jobs — down 18 percent from February and 39 percent from a year ago, Challenger said.

In Georgia, Challenger tracked only 168 planned layoffs in March.

Once again, the public sector dominated monthly job cuts across the country, accounting for 46 percent of March layoff announcements, Challenger said. The 19,099 planned job cuts announced by government and non-profit organizations increased 17 percent from February.

If there is any silver lining in the government layoff …

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Clark Howard TV special on economy tonight

Here’s a reminder that consumer expert Clark Howard has a half-hour TV special Wednesday on how to make it through this tough economy.

Howard will highlight how individuals overcame housing and unemployment problems on Channel 2 WSB-TV at 8 p.m. tonight.

Continue reading Clark Howard TV special on economy tonight »

Power Breakfast: Atlanta home prices at 11-year low, Aaron’s adding jobs, state taxes, Home Depot, transit

An index measuring metro Atlanta home prices slid to its lowest point in 11 years in January, AJC reporter Michelle Shaw writes.

According to the latest Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Index, existing single-family home sale prices declined by nearly 7 percent in January compared with the same month in 2010, Shaw reports.

Atlanta’s index sagged to 99.59, just below the 100 benchmark score representing prices at the start of 2000. It was the first time metro Atlanta’s score was below 100 since December 1999, Shaw writes.

Nationally, the 20-City index fell 3.1 percent in January from a year earlier, Shaw reports.

“Looking across some of the markets, we see that . . . Atlanta has joined Cleveland, Detroit and Las Vegas as markets where average home prices are now below their January 2000 levels,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s.

Also in the AJC:

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Public pensions: Just reward or too much?

Which side of the pension divide are you on? Why?

Many younger teachers and other public workers will not enjoy as secure a retirement as their predecessors, AJC reporter Russell Grantham writes. Many can expect pay cuts, furloughs and growing pressure to trim public employees’ pension benefits.

On the other hand, many in the private sector believe state and local employees’ pensions and pay are out of control and need to be cut — even if state and local governments have to file bankruptcy to do it, Grantham writes.

What do you think? Should federal law be changed to allow bankruptcy as an option to shed pension obligations?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

Continue reading Public pensions: Just reward or too much? »

Power Breakfast: Atlanta mayor and council at odds over transportation, MARTA, pensions, Home Depot, AirTran

This is not a good sign. The city of Atlanta’s big push to obtain transportation funding might have hit a roadblock, AJC reporter Ernie Suggs writes.

On Monday, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed presented 20 transportation projects and city council members balked, claiming the list does not address key issues for the city and they had no input, Suggs reports.

Creating more friction, Reed was expected to whittle the 20 projects, which would cost an estimated $6.9 billion obtained from 2012 referendum tax money set aside for transportation, to a workable number himself by Wednesday to submit to the state, Suggs writes.

“Whoever had the bright idea to circumvent the council may have doomed the council’s support for this,” council president Ceasar C. Mitchell said.

Meanwhile, MARTA is starting to think big after a brutal year of getting smaller, AJC reporter Ariel Hart writes.

New rail lines, bus lanes on highways, and new train and bus stations are among the things MARTA’s board …

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Turner Sports cashing in on NCAA tournament

With the Final Four games starting Saturday, I decided to talk with the Turner Sports exec who engineered the biggest programming deal in the company’s history.

David Levy

David Levy

I’m talking about the $10.8 billion, 14-year agreement to team up with CBS for the rights to telecast and webcast every NCAA men’s tournament game — live across the nation.

Turner Sports President David Levy had just finished giving a progress report to his bosses last week — Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and Turner Broadcasting CEO Phil Kent — when I got the chance to talk with him. We were joined by Turner Sports COO Lenny Daniels.

Is the first year of the mega-deal working so far? Or are Levy and Daniels toast?

“This is a great property,” Levy, 48, said. “It had to fit a smart business model.” If not, he said, he would have gotten “bullets in the back.”

The numbers have been strong so far. On TV, the games have averaged 9.4 million total viewers — up 11 percent from a comparable period during last year’s …

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Athens is No. 23 in ’smartest college towns’ ranking

Athens is not as smart a college town as Auburn or Gainesville.

That’s according to a new ranking of the 25 smartest college towns in the U.S. by the online news website, The Daily Beast.

Athens came in No. 23, behind Auburn at No. 17 and Gainesville at No. 19.

With Harvard and MIT, Cambridge was first.

The Daily Beast said it used the following criteria to come up with its rankings:

– Bachelor’s degrees per capita for the over-25 population.

– Graduate degrees per capita for the over-25 population.

– Median math and reading SAT scores for the student population of the town’s major college or colleges.

– And libraries per capita.

Here’s the Top 25

1. Cambridge, Mass.

2. Chapel Hill, NC

3. Berkeley, CA

4. Ann Arbor, Mich.

5. Ithaca, NY

6. East Lansing, Mich.

7. Boulder, Colo.

8. Amherst, Mass.

9. State College, PA

10. College Park, Mrylnd.

11. Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

12. Davis, CA

13. Madison, Wisc.

14. Charlottesville, VA

15. Ames, Iowa

16. Columbia, Missouri

17. Auburn

18. …

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Wanted: Wise solutions to Georgia’s pension gap

Got a common sense solution to these big pension deficits?

Most of us are not actuaries. But we can understand when major liabilities are bearing down on us.

AJC reporter Russell Grantham writes that the state’s two largest pension plans — the Teachers Retirement System and the Employees’ Retirement System — were under water by at least $10 billion in 2009.

Remember, these are legal commitments made by Georgia to employees who expect them to be honored in good faith.

The state has tried to do something. Grantham reports that the Employees’ Retirement System radically changed the game for new hires as of 2009: They will receive a much smaller pension — half of what their older co-workers will get — and be enrolled in a 401(k)-style retirement plan.

The teachers plan, meanwhile, changed its rules so the state can cut its contribution to the fund when times are bad, as long as it catches up when the market recovers, Grantham reports.

Still, the shortfalls are …

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