Archive for October, 2012

Consumer debt shrinking, boosting economy

Heavy consumer debt, a big negative in the struggling U.S. economy, is easing, economists say, offering hope for future expansion.

A Bloomberg report says that according to data from the Federal Reserve, household debt as a share of disposable income shrank from 134 percent just before the recession struck in 2007 to 113 percent in the second quarter of this year.

Further, the delinquency rate on credit cards is at its lowest point since the end of 2008.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said, “Credit use should soon go from being a significant headwind to the economy to a tailwind.” He added that, “The household deleveraging process is largely over.”

Consumers have benefited from a rising stock market and from increases in home prices in some markets. Household net worth rose to 527 percent of income in the second quarter from 477 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

Households have also reduced the length of their debt, thanks to owners refinancing to …

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Skills gap in manufacturing not as bad as thought

The skills gap facing American manufacturing has been viewed as a crisis by some observers, but a new study says the issue is not that severe and is not likely to thwart the sector’s revival.

Action needs to be taken now to stem problems that could threaten a renaissance, however, The Boston Consulting Group said.

The firm said the U.S. is short 80,000 to 100,000 highly skilled manufacturing workers. That’s less than 1 percent of the 11.5 million manufacturing workers in the U.S., and less than 8 percent of its 1.4 million highly skilled manufacturing workers.

Only seven states  show significant or severe skills gaps, the study found.  The shortages are caused by location and job classes.

“Shortages of highly skilled manufacturing workers exist and must be addressed, but the numbers aren’t as bad as many believe,” said Harold L. Sirkin, senior partner and coauthor of the research. “The problem is very localized. It’s much less of an issue in larger communities, where supply …

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Ted Turner: ‘Taking risks depends on how good your judgment is’

Before there was a 24 / 7, all-news cable network and before giving away money became more common among top business execs, there was Ted Turner with a vision for both. On Tuesday, Turner’s commitment 15 years ago to give $1 billion to the United Nations will be commemorated at a special fundraising event in New York. He’s getting close, having donated $917 million so far.

Ted Turner

Ted Turner

The founder of Atlanta-based CNN and Turner Broadcasting, and former owner of the Atlanta Braves and Hawks, is the second largest landowner in the United States. Worth an estimated $2 billion, Turner, 73, is actively pursuing his environmental goals. He’s teamed with Atlanta-based Southern Co. on three solar projects in New Mexico and Nevada. And he’s partnered with a restaurant industry veteran to help save the American bison by creating a commercial demand through Ted’s Montana Grill.

Turner’s business career hasn’t been without mistakes — including a major one. He lost an …

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New iPad ‘mini’ expected Oct. 23

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

Apple is expected to unveil its new iPad mini on Oct. 23.

That’s the word from AllThingsD.com, which is reporting that the new tablet will feature a 7.85-inch liquid-crystal display, compared with the existing 9.7-inch iPad display. The smaller version is also expected to be thinner.

The new tablet, which will be unveiled at Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters, will be introduced days before Microsoft takes the wraps off its new Windows 8 software and Surface tablet on Oct. 26.

The iPad mini will compete with the Kindle Fire from Amazon and Google’s Nexus 7. There is also speculation that the new iPad device will be Wi-Fi-only.

The question is, will the “mini” be a major or mini hit? An August TechBargains.com survey of more than 1,330 people found that just 18 percent of respondents anticipated buying the smaller iPad, compared with 48 percent who had planned to purchase the new iPad before its release.

Are you ready to downsize your tablet?

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Sabans’ Lake Burton home up for sale

Looking for a weekend getaway retreat? There’s one available. But it will help to have won a college football national title or three to be able to afford it.

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and his wife Terry are trying to unload their manse in Lake Burton, The Wall Street Journal reports.

And what a spread it  is. With 10,000 square feet, six bedrooms and nine bathrooms, it features a wine cellar with antique gates from Barcelona,a grand room with a 24-foot vaulted ceiling, a European-style custom-built pub, a billiards room, a home office, formal and professional kitchens, staff quarters and four-car garage.

The price: $10.95 million.

They planned to use the spec house for family, but changed their minds when another lot became available, the paper reported.

The Sabans aren’t the only coaching couple with a pricey home on the market. The article mentions others who’ve left town and their swank properties, either to take a better job elsewhere, or to …

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Georgia No. 6 in foreclosure filings

Georgia ranked sixth in the nation in foreclosure rate in September, according to RealtyTrac’s U.S. Foreclosure Market Report, with one in 532 housing units in the state affected.

That’s about the norm, lately, and it’s been a lot worse: In May, Georgia had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation.

But foreclosure activity here declined nearly 20 percent from August to September, one of the bigger drops in the country for the period. Filings in the state have decreased more than 33 percent from September 2011.

The decreases in Georgia matched the pattern countrywide, although there were significant differences in foreclosure activity among individual states.

Across the U.S., foreclosure filings including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions decreased 7 percent in from August to September, and 16 percent from September 2011. The total number of housing units affected nationwide was the lowest since July 2007.

Florida led the nation in foreclosure …

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Women boomers, more than men, fret their financial futures

Female baby boomers are more anxious about their financial futures than their male counterparts, and with good reason, a new report from the AARP Public Policy Institute says.

Women boomers are less likely than men to receive income from assets and pensions, and the amount they will get from them also is less. Their Social Security benefits typically are lower. And they’re more likely to live in poverty or rely on public assistance.

As a result, 60 percent of women boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, are not confident they can afford a comfortable retirement. That compares to 51 percent of men born in that time frame who say they’re not confident they’ll be comfortable.

About 4,000 boomers were interviewed.

Overall, it’s been a rough ride for boomers of both genders since the recession.

The report notes, “The recession and its aftermath have left many without jobs, having exhausted their savings, and with homes they can neither afford nor sell. The surveys indicate that boomers …

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Some Georgia unemployed may get additional benefits

Thousands of long-term unemployed workers in Georgia who have exhausted their jobless benefits may be  eligible for additional emergency unemployment.

The Georgia Department of Labor said that it is notifying by mail about 13,000 workers in the state to tell them they may be able to claim  benefits under the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Tier 4 program.

The program provides extended benefits for individuals who have exhausted the first three tiers of emergency unemployment and are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance. Each tier of emergency unemployment provides additional weeks of unemployment benefits. Tier 4 provides up to 10 more weeks.

Emergency Unemployment Compensation is a federally funded program that was created in 2008 and has been modified several times. This year, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 extended the expiration date of the program to January 2, 2013.

Georgia workers are once again eligible for benefits under the …

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PETA has bone to pick with Pokemon

(Nintendo)

(Nintendo)

PETA has a bone to pick with Pokemon, and it’s over how the popular Nintendo video game treats its big-eyed virtual characters.

The animal rights group, which normally focuses on the abuse of dogs, cats and other animals in the real world, has crossed over into the virtual world to launch a protest against Nintendo’s newest Pokemon game,  “Black and White 2.”

PETA, which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, complains the characters in “Black and White 2,” all of whom are collectively called Pokemon, are abused by their “trainers.”

“The difference between real life and this fictional world full of organized animal fighting is that Pokémon games paint rosy pictures of things that are actually horrible,” PETA says on a website that promotes a parody video game, “Pokemon Black & Blue – Gotta Free ‘em All.”

PETA says Pokemon have suffered at the hands of their “cruel” trainers for generations. In its parody game, one of …

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Would you settle for a temp position?

So you can’t find a permanent job. Would you settle for a temp position?

In recent weeks, employers have issued back-to-back callouts for applicants to fill thousands of temporary, or contract, positions. The latest in metro Atlanta came this week from Alorica, which wants to fill 600 customer service jobs at its Kennesaw call center by the end of November.

With the U.S. unemployment rate at 7.8 percent as reported Friday, and the the most recent metro Atlanta rate at 8.9 percent, finding full-time employment remains a big challenge for many.

Beth Herman, regional vice president for Manpower Group in Atlanta, however, said the outlook for contract work is “very, very strong.”

In its annual “talent shortage” survey, the placement agency said 49 percent of U.S. employers are having difficulty filling critical positions, which include skilled trades, engineering, information technology, sales, accounting and finance, drivers, mechanics, nurses, machinists and …

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