Archive for May, 2012

Georgia jobless rate drops to lowest level in more than 3 years

Georgia’s unemployment rate fell for the ninth consecutive month in April to 8.9 percent — the lowest level in more than three years, the state labor department said Thursday.

The jobless rate dropped from 9 percent in March and 9.8 percent from April 2011, the labor department said.

“We now have the lowest unemployment rate, the fewest unemployed workers, and the most jobs in Georgia in more than three years,” state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement. “Our job market continues to improve at a modest and steady rate.”

The last time Georgia’s jobless rate was below 9 percent was in February 2009, when it was also 8.9 percent.

There were 423,495 unemployed workers in Georgia in April, the fewest since January 2009.

The rate declined as the number of new jobs grew by 31,900, to 3,926,000, the labor department said. It was the highest number of jobs in Georgia since January 2009. Job growth is up 0.8 percent from March.

The industries showing growth were: trade and …

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Are you a victim of ’smartphone face?’

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

Have you looked in the mirror lately and noticed a gradual, but growing sag around the jaw and chin?

You might be seeing the signs of dreaded “smartphone face,” according to a report out of London.

Yes, just as sitting all day has been blamed for that spread down under, constantly holding your head down to look at a laptop or smartphone screen may cause facial skin and muscle to lose elasticity, according to a report on Mail Online.com, citing aesthetics experts, including those with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

The report says the condition might explain the rise in skin-tightening treatments and chin implants, which reportedly are now more popular than breast augmentation, Botox and liposuction combined.

The report cites one British physician, Dr. Mervyn Patterson of the Woodford Medical in Essex, as explaining:

‘If you sit for hours with your head bent slightly forward, staring at your iPhone or laptop screen, you may shorten the …

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Atlanta 4th in financial stress

Metro Atlantans are the fourth-most financially distressed big market residents in the U.S., largely because of the weak employment situation and ongoing housing problems here, CredAbility, the Atlanta-based non-profit credit counseling agency, reported.

The area had an overall score of 62.5 out of 100 on CredAbility’s quarterly Consumer Distress Index for the first three months of 2012, well behind the U.S. average of 69.9, and the 70 mark that indicates financial stability. Only Tampa-St. Petersburg, Detroit and Miami-Fort Lauderdale fared worse among 25 metro markets measured.

Atlanta scored poorly in the employment category, where it rated 49.5 compared to the national average of 59.4, and in housing, where it scored 51.7 compared to the national average of 68.

“Those are two big things, and in Atlanta they’re inextricably tied to each other,” said Mark Cole, CredAbility chief operating officer.

Metro Atlanta is now at about the same place in terms of financial distress …

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U.S. consumers anxious, Chinese optimistic

At least we’re not alone.

A new global survey shows that most European consumers, like us, are insecure, anxious and feeling strapped for cash.

In its 11th annual Consumer Sentiment Survey, done last month and covering 16 countries and 15,000 consumers, The Boston Consulting Group found that:

– Feelings of financial insecurity are high, and getting higher.

– Pessimism about the speed of the economic recovery is widespread.

– One in four Americans and Europeans are worried about losing their job.

– Only in China are children expected to have a better life than their parents.

Another interesting point on China: Consumers there are more optimistic about the future than Westerners.

“If you take the world from the perspective of the middle-class citizen in the U.S. and Western Europe, we are still lurching from crisis to crisis,” said Michael Silverson, a partner with BCG.  “Americans, in particular, are anxious about their future, their jobs and their lack of savings.”

Europeans …

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More U.S. families drowning in debt

Some troubling if unsurprising news from a new study done by researchers at the University of Michigan.

More American families are drowning in debt.

One in five U.S. households owes more on credit cards, medical bills, student loans and other non-collateralized debts than they possess in savings and  other liquid assets, say economists at the  U-M Institute for Social Research.

The study also finds that the home mortgage issue doesn’t appear to be going away.

Some 1.7 percent of families surveyed last year say that it is either very likely or somewhat likely that they will fall behind on their mortgages in the near future. That’s actually down from 2009 when 1.9 percent of families said they were  very or somewhat likely to fall behind. But it’s hardly out of the woods.

“Our data suggest that the mortgage crisis will continue for the next few  years, although a somewhat smaller share of families will experience mortgage distress,” said Frank Stafford, one of the report’s …

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Aflac CEO: ‘Everything you do should not work’

AMOS1For 22 years, Dan Amos has run Aflac, a Columbus-based supplemental insurer that his father and two uncles founded in 1955. Amos, 60, spent 10 years in sales at the company before becoming president, chief operating officer and then CEO in 1990.

Since then, annual sales have climbed from $2.7 billion to $22 billion, partly because Amos broadened the company’s insurance offerings and started an ad campaign featuring a duck in the U.S. and Japan, its most important market. He talks about taking risks, a key decision he made following the Japanese nuclear disaster last year and how he dealt with a controversy surrounding the duck.

Q: How did your sales background help you run the company?

A: We’re a marketing company. We don’t sell a tangible product. It’s not like you’re drinking a Coca-Cola. In our case, it’s just a promise on a piece of paper that in a time of need, we’ll be there.

So you have to understand how to sell to understand why people buy. I realized when I became CEO …

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Facebook co-founder Saverin renounces U.S. citizenship

Facebook IPO

(Associated Press)

A Facebook co-founder has renounced his U.S. citizenship, and some observers say the reason may have to do with the tax bite he’ll face after the social networking site goes public next week.

Eduardo Saverin, 30, stands to reap billions from Facebook’s May 18 stock offering, according to Bloomberg News. Although his original 34 percent stake in the company is now estimated at below 10 percent after a falling out with Facebook, he still owns a sizable chunk of the company.

Saverin, credited with helping Mark Zuckerberg start Facebook while the two were at Harvard University, ranks at No. 634 on Forbes’ list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $2 billion. Those billions will multiply after the company’s initial public offering, which prices Facebook’s new stock at between $28 and $35 each.

The IPO, however, will also leave Saverin and many instant millionaires among Facebook staffers owing millions to Uncle Sam and state …

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TSA, JetBlue detain 18-month-old traveler

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

(updated 1:05 p.m.)

This much is true: An 18-month-old was pulled from a JetBlue flight and her family was questioned by Transportation Security Administration agents because the airline said the child appeared on a “no-fly” list,  her parents said.

The parents said they were sitting on the plane Tuesday night at the Fort Lauderdale airport when a JetBlue staffer asked them to get off, according to a report by WPBF 25 News. The staffer told the parents that TSA agents wanted to speak with them – about Riyanna, their toddler.

“Excuse me?” the mother said she responded. “It made no sense,” the husband told the TV station. “Why would an 18-month-old child be on a no-fly list?” Neither she nor her husband wanted to be identified for safety reasons.

The TSA, however, denies the child was ever on a no-fly list. In a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the agency said:

“TSA did not flag this child as being on the No Fly list. TSA was called to …

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South rates poor for upward mobility, but not Georgia!

Thank goodness for Mississippi.

And Louisiana.

And South Carolina.

And Oklahoma.

And most of the rest of the Southern states.

Thanks to them, Georgia doesn’t come off looking all that bad in a new report from the Pew Center on the States.

In its Economic Mobility Project, Pew says our Southern neighbors are the worst places in the country for upward mobility — that is, where it’s hardest to climb the old economic ladder. They’re pretty good for downward mobility, though.

To the point: Georgia actually scores OK in this one. The study rates us “not statistically different,” from the rest of the country, which means we’re around the national average in terms of upward and downward economic mobility.

The study took into account three metrics: absolute income gains, relative upward mobility and relative downward mobility. States were found either to outperform or underperform the nation as a whole  in each category.

Only Tennessee and Georgia among Southern states were …

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Facebook staffers soon to be millionaires

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

Many instant millionaires are expected to be working for Facebook when the social networking behemoth distributes millions of shares to employees after its initial public offering next week.

The downside, according to a CNN Money report, is that Uncle Sam will be salivating nearby for its share of the windfall because of how Facebook decided to award stock to the employees when they were hired.

Many companies issue stock options to lure and keep valued employees, and those shares vest, or are realized, over time. Facebook, however, chose to issue “restricted stock units” that vest when there is a “liquidity event,” such as when it offers shares to the public May 18, CNN Money explains.

Facebook employees will get their shares five to six months after the IPO. Federal and state taxes, however, will be due at the same time because the Internal Revenue Service looks at RSUs as ordinary income. Employees will have to pay taxes even if they don’t sell …

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