Article 43


Saturday, January 28, 2012



Government Inc. Public Officials for Profit

By Mary Elizabeth Bullock
Bullock V EEOC
December 11, 2011

The real problem with government and corporate corruption is that each of these entities are increasingly acting in the interests of no one but themselves. Once the government figured out that it was a “business,” corruption became epidemic and the assumption became “to hell with morals.” Our government now functions under capitalistic ethics. Government handbooks (their policy - the dusty book on the shelf) as well as their politics (what actually goes on) does everything but condone outright lying. Although government cover ups and lying has become a sport in Washington.

Almost everyday, I read more and more about judicial corruption. I personally want to believe that this is one area outside the influence of politics. This however does not work for me, or most of the public. I know this because . . . I was a judge for the EEOC which is probably one of the most corrupt judiciaries in the nation. Ordered by the Chairwoman Cari Dominguez to change my decision in a finding of discrimination in favor of two women attorneys and against the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Chairwoman, stated “[she] did not want a sister agency to suffer.” When I absolutely refused to change the decision, I was grossly harassed and retaliated against for years - even to the point of a supervisor telling me that I would be dead - by their hands or my own. It’s on the record. This is old news for politicians who have personally sought out and corrupted our judicial system. Yet, most American’s truly want to believe they can still get a fair shake once they get their day in court, that is if they even get that far. The abuse of power under the color of authority is when a public figure, regardless of elected or appointed, attempts to interfere with the one last citadel citizens believed was without and above corruption, our judicial system. I have seen some of the very worst corruption in the EEOC’s judiciary yet the public, albeit aware of corruption, is clueless as to the depth and breadth of the problem. Like the murder of Kennedy do we have to place the truth in a container and bury it in the ground for fifty years or can we face up to it now, and rid ourselves of the problem. I for one cannot tolerate a justice system that is no longer capable of responsibly dispensing justice. I am sick of influence peddling when it comes to judges deciding on a matter where cases become precedent. The players know what is going on while the rest of us missed the memo. Had I personally known what the EEOC judiciary was capable of inflicting on one of their own judge’s, especially on a disable person with two terminal illnesses, I would have avoided the system at all costs. I was definitely way too naive to see my very own personal destruction coming at me like a freight train. Truth is really stranger than fiction. The bogey-man is real, not some made up story for prime time but alive and well in government institutions.

What to do - what to do? Perhaps one of you will have an answer. Hope springs eternal.

Legal ethics have been dumbed down, completely eliminating “right” from “wrong.” Moral considerations are now optional. Public officials and those appointed individuals to positions of power have lost their consciences. No longer is a position of public trust a noble calling to serve others.

The call of the question is what to do when the government is in dire need of a moral makeover, and who will impose it? The problem is far beyond the greatest spin doctors. A good dose of honesty, integrity and sensitivity to human decency would be a great start. Public officials must be held to a higher standard of conduct. Any external steps to eliminate corruption or combat the effects thereof are poor substitutes for personal moral character. No external inducements can take the place of higher spiritual aspirations, with strong and unshakable convictions that corruption is dishonorable, and that ultimately dishonor is truly worse than death itself.

Does anyone here know of someone worthy of the cause? Someone, and I mean someone soon, needs to step up to the plate, and be the change agent we so desperately need.

Respectfully submitted,

Honorable Mary Elizabeth Bullock (Retired)



Posted by Elvis on 01/28/12 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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Why Bully IT Bosses Lose The Game

A good manager looks out for his people.
A bad manager looks out for himself.

Why Bully IT Bosses Lose The Game
Short-term thinkers will pressure you to dismiss anything but scorched-earth personnel management tactics as soft, or a waste of money. But IT is a service business where nice guys win.

By Johnathan Feldman
January 26. 2012

I love it when academic research confirms what you kind of already knew. When dealing with IT human resource management--something that I’ve focused on in the last decade--it’s important to have that academic, impartial, third-party backup. That’s because frequently, you will run into pressure from short-term bottom-line thinkers to dismiss anything but scorched-earth personnel management tactics as soft, weak, or a waste of money. Nothing could be further from the truth. IT is a service business, and being a “nice” boss is the only way to create excellent IT services in the long term.

For example, as I was reading blogs recently, I ran into an entry by Tony Schwartz at Harvard Business Review that recommends using appreciation--good old fashioned positive feedback for a job well done--to build higher performing teams. “Sure, if you have the time, but we have real work to do,” might be what a scorched earth manager might say. But Schwartz pulls out the academic research to back it, saying that higher performing teams have a significantly higher ratio of positive-to-negative feedback than lower performing teams. Of course they do, but again, with research to back it up, this assertion becomes more powerful in your business context.

I recently spoke to Mary Lynn Manns, a university professor, researcher, and author of Fearless Change, a prescriptive handbook on organizational change, about our recent research into the state of project management at organizations. After significant academic research, she and her colleagues have also concluded that the ways that individuals are treated go so far as to determine the success or failure of projects at organizations.

She says that most organizations talk about what is good for the organization without also saying wha’ts good for the individual. And that’s where they fail.

There may be no “I” in team, but if you look hard, there is a “me”. Over and over again, leaders make organizational behavior mistakes by treating groups of people as if there is a group. There’s no group. There’s just individual people who come together to make a group. The distinction is important. Groups don’t have complaints about their WORK LIFE BALANCE, people who make the group up do.

Drill down a little bit into what “nice” treatment of your employees is. We generally consider someone “nice” when he takes our feelings into account when taking actions. We still think a boss is “nice” when someone else gets the promotion, as long as we understand that there was a rational basis for the selection, and as long as we are not humiliated. So that’s what “nice” is: the ability to include others, be mindful of others’ feelings, be considerate. But, guess what? This is also, in Manns’ model, good change management.

Manns’ research shows that participation--even a little bit of participation--in decision making processes instead of Draconian heavy-handed decrees, is one key way that organization leaders can avoid project failure.

Is it such a stretch to say that similar day-to-day leadership can avoid failures in your day-to-day technology work? She says that leaders who use the hammer to get people to comply will be subject to ambushes, passive-aggressive behavior, and so on. This all translates to a low-performing team.

Over and over again, I keep reading research and case studies about how the so-called “weak” sides of humanity--kindness, consideration, warmth, empathy, optimism, actually create competitive advantage, particularly at service organizations. So why do we still have pockets of our IT service organizations that don’t believe this? Could it be that we’re hiring the wrong people?

Micah Solomon, author of the forthcoming book, High Tech, High Touch Anticipatory Customer Service, thinks so. Solomon’s pedigree as an entrepreneur and marketer makes me listen when he talks, and he says, “Attitude, rather than technical skill, is what’s most important in a prospective employee.” The book offers great case studies from Zappos, British Airways, and Umpqua Bank that show that you can have all the technical skills in the world, but unless employees are human-focused, you’re never going to get the level of customer engagement that makes an organization truly successful. The book, which also offers tips on how to hire those human-focused staffers, deserves a place on your shelf.

The bottom line is that those scorched-earth thinkers may think that you’re being weak, but it’s really the other way around. As they chase people away with horrible management and leadership tactics, they are wasting one of the most precious resources that your organization has: talented, capable people. And that’s not an academic question.

Jonathan Feldman is a contributing editor for InformationWeek and director of IT services for a rapidly growing city in North Carolina. Writeto him at or at @_jfeldman.


Posted by Elvis on 01/28/12 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

SOPA Day of Solidarity

Article 43 will be closed tomorrow to PROTEST the SOPA and PIPA internet censorship bills.

On January 18th members of the House Committee WILL BE DISCUSSING PIPA/SOPA IN WASHINGTON DC, and, like  our friends at REDDIT, WIKIPEDIA and OTHERS, we’re joining the fight.

Posted by Elvis on 01/17/12 •
Section American Solidarity • Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy
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Monday, January 16, 2012

Democracy Hollowed Out Part 22


10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free

By Jonathan Turley,
Washington Post
January 16, 2012

Every year, the State Department issues reports on individual rights in other countries, monitoring the passage of restrictive laws and regulations around the world. Iran, for example, has been criticized for denying fair public trials and limiting privacy, while Russia has been taken to task for undermining due process. Other countries have been condemned for the use of secret evidence and torture.

Even as we pass judgment on countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own the land of free. Yet, the laws and practices of the land should shake that confidence. In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most RECENT EXAMPLE of this was the NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT, signed Dec. 31, which allows for the indefinite detention of citizens. At what point does the reduction of individual rights in our country change how we define ourselves?

While each new national security power Washington has embraced was controversial when enacted, they are often discussed in isolation. But they don’t operate in isolation. They form a mosaic of powers under which our country could be considered, at least in part, authoritarian. Americans often proclaim our nation as a symbol of freedom to the world while dismissing nations such as Cuba and China as categorically unfree. Yet, objectively, we may be only half right. Those countries do lack basic individual rights such as due process, placing them outside any reasonable definition of free, but the United States now has much more in common with such regimes than anyone may like to admit.

These countries also have constitutions that purport to guarantee freedoms and rights. But their governments have broad discretion in denying those rights and few real avenues for challenges by citizens precisely the problem with the new laws in this country.

The list of powers acquired by the U.S. government since 9/11 puts us in rather troubling company.

Assassination of U.S. citizens

President Obama has claimed, as President George W. Bush did before him, the right to order the killing of any citizen considered a terrorist or an abettor of terrorism. Last year, he approved the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaqi and another citizen under this claimed inherent authority. Last month, administration officials affirmed that power, stating that the president can order the assassination of any citizen whom he considers allied with terrorists. (Nations such as Nigeria, Iran and Syria have been routinely criticized for extrajudicial killings of enemies of the state.)

Indefinite detention

Under the law signed last month, terrorism suspects are to be held by the military; the president also has the authority to indefinitely detain citizens accused of terrorism. While the administration claims that this provision only codified existing law, experts widely contest this view, and the administration has opposed efforts to challenge such authority in federal courts. The government continues to claim the right to strip citizens of legal protections based on its sole discretion. (China recently codified a more limited detention law for its citizens, while countries such as Cambodia have been singled out by the United States for דprolonged detention.)

Arbitrary justice

The president now decides whether a person will receive a trial in the federal courts or in a military tribunal, a system that has been ridiculed around the world for lacking basic due process protections. Bush claimed this authority in 2001, and Obama has continued the practice. (Egypt and China have been denounced for maintaining separate military justice systems for selected defendants, including civilians.)

Warrantless searches

The president may now order warrantless surveillance, including a new capability to force companies and organizations to turn over information on citizensԒ finances, communications and associations. Bush acquired this sweeping power under the Patriot Act in 2001, and in 2011, Obama extended the power, including searches of everything from business documents to library records. The government can use national security lettersӔ to demand, without probable cause, that organizations turn over information on citizens and order them not to reveal the disclosure to the affected party. (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan operate under laws that allow the government to engage in widespread discretionary surveillance.)

Secret evidence

The government now routinely uses secret evidence to detain individuals and employs secret evidence in federal and military courts. It also forces the dismissal of cases against the United States by simply filing declarations that the cases would make the government reveal classified information that would harm national security ח a claim made in a variety of privacy lawsuits and largely accepted by federal judges without question. Even legal opinions, cited as the basis for the governments actions under the Bush and Obama administrations, have been classified. This allows the government to claim secret legal arguments to support secret proceedings using secret evidence. In addition, some cases never make it to court at all. The federal courts routinely deny constitutional challenges to policies and programs under a narrow definition of standing to bring a case.

War crimes

The world clamored for prosecutions of those responsible for waterboarding terrorism suspects during the Bush administration, but the Obama administration said in 2009 that it would not allow CIA employees to be investigated or prosecuted for such actions. This gutted not just treaty obligations but the Nuremberg principles of international law. When courts in countries such as Spain moved to investigate Bush officials for war crimes, the Obama administration reportedly urged foreign officials not to allow such cases to proceed, despite the fact that the United States has long claimed the same authority with regard to alleged war criminals in other countries. (Various nations have resisted investigations of officials accused of war crimes and torture. Some, such as Serbia and Chile, eventually relented to comply with international law; countries that have denied independent investigations include Iran, Syria and China.)

Secret court

The government has increased its use of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has expanded its secret warrants to include individuals deemed to be aiding or abetting hostile foreign governments or organizations. In 2011, Obama renewed these powers, including allowing secret searches of individuals who are not part of an identifiable terrorist group. The administration has asserted the right to ignore congressional limits on such surveillance. (Pakistan places national security surveillance under the unchecked powers of the military or intelligence services.)

Immunity from judicial review

Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has successfully pushed for immunity for companies that assist in warrantless surveillance of citizens, blocking the ability of citizens to challenge the violation of privacy. (Similarly, China has maintained sweeping immunity claims both inside and outside the country and routinely blocks lawsuits against private companies.)

Continual monitoring of citizens

The Obama administration has successfully defended its claim that it can use GPS devices to monitor every move of targeted citizens without securing any court order or review. (Saudi Arabia has installed massive public surveillance systems, while Cuba is notorious for active monitoring of selected citizens.)

Extraordinary renditions

The government now has the ability to transfer both citizens and noncitizens to another country under a system known as extraordinary rendition, which has been denounced as using other countries, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan, to torture suspects. The Obama administration says it is not continuing the abuses of this practice under Bush, but it insists on the unfettered right to order such transfers җ including the possible transfer of U.S. citizens.

These new laws have come with an infusion of money into an expanded security system on the state and federal levels, including more public surveillance cameras, tens of thousands of security personnel and a massive expansion of a terrorist-chasing bureaucracy.

Some politicians shrug and say these increased powers are merely a response to the times we live in. Thus, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) could declare in an interview last spring without objection that free speech is a great idea, “but we’re in a war. Of course, terrorism will never surrender and end this particular war.”

Other politicians rationalize that, while such powers may exist, it really comes down to how they are used. This is a common response by liberals who cannot bring themselves to denounce Obama as they did Bush. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), for instance, has insisted that Congress is not making any decision on indefinite detention: “That is a decision which we leave where it belongs in the executive branch.”

And in a signing statement with the defense authorization bill, Obama said he does not intend to use the latest power to indefinitely imprison citizens. Yet, he still accepted the power as a sort of regretful autocrat.

An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.

The framers lived under autocratic rule and understood this danger better than we do. James Madison famously warned that we needed a system that did not depend on the good intentions or motivations of our rulers: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

Benjamin Franklin was more direct. In 1787, a Mrs. Powel confronted Franklin after the signing of the Constitution and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got - a republic or a monarchy?” His response was a bit chilling: “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”

Since 9/11, we have created the very government the framers feared: a government with sweeping and largely unchecked powers resting on the hope that they will be used wisely.

The indefinite-detention provision in the defense authorization bill seemed to many civil libertarians like a betrayal by Obama. While the president had promised to veto the law over that provision, Levin, a sponsor of the bill, disclosed on the Senate floor that it was in fact the White House that approved the removal of any exception for citizens from indefinite detention.

Dishonesty from politicians is nothing new for Americans. The real question is whether we are lying to ourselves when we call this country the land of the free.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University.


Posted by Elvis on 01/16/12 •
Section Privacy And Rights
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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Job Growth A Long Time Away


If we add 200,000 jobs a month, will recovery take 7 years or 12 years?

By Ezra Klein
Washington Post
January 11, 2012

On Friday, we got the December jobs number: +200,000. Thats good, but NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I POSTED a graph from the HAMILTON PROJECT showing that, at that rate, the labor market wouldn’t recover till 2024.

But perhaps thats too pessimistic. The Economic Policy Institute took a look at the same numbers and concluded that a growth rate of 200,000 jobs per month would lead to a full recovery in seven years or so. That’s nothing to celebrate, but its better than the Hamilton Project’s estimate of 12 years. Its also a bit odd: Isn’t this a simple matter of taking job losses and dividing by monthly job gains? Well, no. The date of our eventual recovery depends on some crucial unknowables about the future of the American labor force.

I asked Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at EPI, to explain how she got to seven years. “My method is really straightforward,” she e-mailed. “Assume an annual job growth rate of 1.8% (which is the annualized growth rate of the 200,000 we got last month) and given that growth rate, see how long it takes to get back to the December 2007 ratio of payroll to working-age population, (assuming the working-age population continues to grow as it has been growing recently).”

Note the assuming the working-age population continues to grow as it has been growing recently in Shierholz’s explanation. That’s about to become important.

Next, I asked Michael Greenstone, director of the Hamilton Project, how that equation could shave five years off the expected time it will take the labor market to recover. Their calculation assumes a lower growth rate in the labor force and hence fewer jobs needed to get back to normal.

Heres the issue: Before the recession, the economy needed to produce 120,000 jobs a month just to keep up with new entrants into the labor market. Lately, that number has been closer to 90,000. Part of this is that immigration has fallen and many immigrants are leaving. Part of it is that some workers are leaving the labor force җ either they cant find a job and have given up, or they have decided to stay home with the kids or focus on other pursuits rather than take the sort of jobs they can get right now.

The question is whether the growth of the labor force bounces back or holds steady. And it turns out, this question matters a lot. The table that Greenstone sent along shows how long it will take to reverse the jobs losses at different rates of payroll and employment growth. As you can see, if we’re adding 200,000 jobs a month, it will take almost twice as long to recover if were adding 125,000 workers a month rather than 90,000.

That said, this is a case where a longer recovery could mean a better recovery. If we continue growing at 90,000 jobs a month, it likely means that many of the long-term unemployed never made it back into the labor force, and that the economy is producing less than it otherwise could. It means, in other words, that the recovery is proving unable to reverse some of the deepest wounds inflicted by the recession. If we get catch-up growth in the labor market, that may push back the return of full employment, and it may even temporarily increase the unemployment rate, but it will mean we’re seeing a fuller recovery.



2012 job market brightens, but unemployment won’t fall fast

By Paul Davidson and Barbara Hansen
USA Today
January 11, 2012

After nearly three years of unemployment, David Mote will be back at work next week, overseeing construction of a medical school building in Dothan, Ala.

Mote, whose $2,000 weekly salary was cut to $360 in unemployment benefits before he lost even that 10 months ago, can again contemplate going out for dinner and taking in a weekend football game. “It feels great,” says Mote, 52. “I’ve got a job. I got my (health) insurance back.”

His employer, Batson-Cook of Atlanta, called Mote back to work amid a surge in health care and apartment construction as young adults who had doubled up with relatives find jobs and move into their own homes.

After losing 2.2 million jobs in the economic downturn, the construction industry is projected to add 113,000 this year, more than doubling last year’s pace and placing it among the fastest-growing sectors, according to a 2012 job market forecast by Moody’s Analytics. Even a moderate rejuvenation of the troubled sector thanks largely to a multifamily building boom ח helps the economy because of its ripple effects across industries such as furniture, steel and concrete.

The job outlook has brightened the past two months as higher consumer spending, improved business confidence and a stock market rally have somewhat eased concerns about further shocks from Europe’s financial turmoil.

Strong job gains this year are crucial for President Obama’s re-election campaign. But many economists expect the unemployment rate 8.5% ח to remain above 8% this year possibly to his opponent’s advantage.

Economists recently surveyed by the Associated Press expect employers to add 2.1 million jobs in 2012, an average of 175,000 a month. That would top the monthly pace of 136,000 last year and 78,000 in 2010, though still fall short of the 250,000 to 300,000 needed to cut unemployment quickly. The USA has recovered just 2.6 million of the 8.8 million jobs lost in the recession.

“It’s not going to be a breakout year,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. Moody’s projects job gains of about 130,000 a month ח about 1.6 million for the year in line with 2011.

Moody’s also predicts:

- Three categories - professional and business services, education and health care, and leisure and hospitality will lead job gains, collectively producing more than 1 million. The booming energy sector will also continue to hire.

- Sun Belt states hammered by the recession ח Florida, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada will rebound some as an easing of the foreclosure crisis lets homeowners move more easily. All four are projected to be among the 10 fastest-growing job markets.

- Rust Belt manufacturing bastions such as Illinois, Ohio and Indiana will generate jobs more slowly as the European financial crisis hampers exports.

Driving the improvement in overall job growth is a pickup in hiring and confidence among small businesses as banks modestly ease credit standards. Small firms, particularly start-ups, typically account for two-thirds of the new jobs created in a recovery. Also, productivity gains that have allowed companies to do more with fewer workers are slowing, government reports show.

“Small businesses are being more aggressive” than large ones, says consultant Harry Griendling of DoubleStar.

A wild card: The retirement of BABY BOOMERS could help TRIM the jobless rate even without blockbuster job growth, says Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist for Barclays Capital.

The optimism is heavily tinged by caution. Many experts expect payroll growth to slow the first half of the year amid an expected drop in exports and a pullback in consumer spending. With real income growth running at a tepid 1% annual rate, Americans had to dip into savings to fuel their holiday buying binge ח a trend that many analysts say can’t be sustained.

And many businesses are hesitant to ramp up hiring significantly amid lingering concerns about Europe’s debt crisis and a presidential election year that will leave battles over taxes and regulation unresolved.

A survey of 18,000 employers released last month by staffing giant Manpower underscores both buoyancy and prudence. Employers’ hiring outlook for the first quarter was at its highest since 2008. At the same time, the level of employers unsure of their hiring plans was the most since 2005.

Big companies cautious

Many large companies, in turn, are holding off on permanent hiring and relying heavily on CONTRACTORS and temporary workers to complete projects, says Janette Marx, senior vice president of staffing company Adecco. The good news: That’s fattening payrolls for third-party providers, such as engineering and accounting firms.

While big corporations are hiring cautiously, they’re sitting on record cash reserves and driving job growth more than consumers, who make up 70% of the economy but remain burdened by debt. Companies, for instance, are boosting travel budgets and shifting their computer software systems to remote, cloud-based networks.

The expenditures are forcing professional and business services to beef up staffing. Cleveland-based accounting firm Cohen & Co. is enlarging its 250-employee staff by about 10% this year as highly profitable corporations seek to reduce taxes, weigh mergers and navigate increasingly complex banking rules stemming from financial reform, says CEO Randall Myeroff.

Engineering firm Black & Veatch, of Kansas City, with about 6,000 U.S. employees, plans to add several hundred this year as utilities retrofit power plants to meet stricter pollution limits and smartphone carriers expand networks, says CEO Len Rodman. Yet that’s far less than the 1,000 U.S. employees the firm added last year. Rodman worries that electricity providers could rein in spending if the European crisis hurts their customers’ exports. “We have taken a conservative approach,” he says.

Health care providers are scrambling to meet the needs of an aging population. Philadelphia-based Genesis HealthCare, whose 40,000 employees provide rehab services in nursing homes in the Eastern U.S., is expanding to Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma, hiring 10,000 workers. “The Baby Boomers are getting older,” says Vice President Mike Guglielmo.

Hotels, meanwhile, are looking for bellhops, front desk clerks and maids as companies replenish travel budgets slashed in the recession and tourism picks up moderately. That’s a boon for Texas, where a population boom and business growth are feeding off each other. Joseph DePalma, president of DePalma Hotel Corp., says occupancy at his eight franchise hotels in Texas has risen to about 65% from 55% the past year. “Companies are back to traveling again,” he says. DePalma plans to increase his Texas staff of 1,200 by more than 100 this year.

Texas is again projected to top the nation in total job gains, with more than 200,000.

Meanwhile, North Dakota, home to one of the nation’s biggest untapped oil reserves, is expected to lead in the pace of job growth, at 2.8%. Continental Resources is adding 50 to 75 workers to its existing base of about 160 in the Bakken oil field as it drills about 240 new wells, says Chief Financial Officer John Hart. Much of the activity has been fueled by benchmark crude oil prices that have hovered around $100 a barrel. “I have a better return that enables me to take a risk,” Hart says.

The frenzy has turned North Dakota, with a population of 684,000, into a job hunter’s magnet that added 17,000 workers last year, a 4.5% gain. Continental’s recent advertisement for a computer specialist drew 518 applicants from as far away as South Africa.

Uneven job growth

Not every sector is expected to grow robustly. Retailers likely will pull back hiring as consumer spending moderates, according to the Moody’s study. State and local governments will continue to shed jobs amid budget constraints, though likely at a slower pace than last year. And factory payrolls could flatten or even contract slightly amid a slowdown in exports.

That could hurt Obama in four Rust Belt states that Moody’s says will grow jobs more slowly than the nation as a whole and that USA TODAY has identified as swing states that could vote Democratic or Republican in the election: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Yet other swing states Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado ח are projected to be among states generating jobs most rapidly.

Some manufacturers plan to add workers because they can’t wring more output from existing ones. Paulson Manufacturing in Temecula, Calif., laid off more than half its 220 employees in the recession, though revenue fell just 25%. The company, which makes face shields for industrial and public safety use, installed automated technology to boost efficiency and got more out of each worker, helping it increase profits, says CEO Roy Paulson.

But with sales expected to rise about 15% this year, Paulson plans to hire 12 to 15 employees.

“We might have worn out some of these people a little bit,” he says. If he forced his workers to shoulder a still bigger burden, “Worker compensation costs go up and your sick rate goes up.”

Even more encouraging: Small businesses which create an outsize share of jobs ח appear to be launching and expanding again. The number of establishments opening hit a record low of 1.1 million in 2011’s first quarter, the most recent data available, according to the Labor Department. But anecdotal evidence suggests the pace of business start-ups has increased lately, says Dane Stangler, research director for the Kauffman Foundation, which studies entrepreneurship. The International Franchise Association expects the number of U.S. franchise locations to rise 2% this year after dipping three years in a row.

Franchise company Driven Brands, which owns Meineke and Maaco, sold more franchise licenses in November than in the past five years combined, says CEO Ken Walker. “We are beginning to get businesses financed,” he says.

Franchisee Stephen Keel, who owns a Maaco auto body outlet in Catonsville, Md., sought for a year to move it to nearby Randallstown and add a Meineke auto repair shop at the new site. But he couldn’t get a $1.7 million loan from seven banks despite a $2.2 million appraisal of his planned new land and building. Recently, he snared a loan from Susquehanna Bank and plans to add four to seven workers to his 12-employee staff after he opens the new location in April.

“I was tickled to death,” Keel says. “It was a very long, dreadful, painful process.”



Forecast 2012 Small gains ahead, but no leaps and bounds for region’s economy

By Jim Stratton
Orlando Sentinel
January 8, 2012

At the very least, no one will ever accuse Central Florida’s economic recovery of being too flashy.

It has flown largely below the radar, at times imperceptible to most everyone except the data crunchers and forecasters paid to track changes in the region’s financial performance.

Its progress has been excruciatingly slow and spotty, with improving indicators in one area often muddied by declines in another. But there has, in fact, been forward movement - and in 2012 that’s expected to continue.

Just not at a pace that’s going to get anyone too excited.

“We think the overall economy will grow a little bit more rapidly in 2012,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist with Wells Fargo. “But it’s not going to be typical of what we were accustomed to in Florida.”

First, a few numbers to recap Metro Orlando’s decidedly modest gains of 2011:

The average annual unemployment rate declined to 10.3 percent, down more than 1 percentage point from 2010, according to the University of Central Florida’s annual economic forecast. The year-end jobless rate was 10 percent.

Total personal income grew by 4.7 percent, and total employment increased by 1.3 percent.

Housing starts - while still puny by Central Florida standards rose 28 percent to about 6,400.

Analysts and business owners expect more of the same for the year ahead, especially when it comes to unemployment. The single-most salient measure of most people’s economic well-being faces a healing process measured in years, not months.

UCF predicts it will take until the fourth quarter of 2014 before the statewide jobless rate falls below 9 percent. For Metro Orlando, unemployment is forecast to average 9.7 percent this year.

“There’s been a lot of damage,” said UCF economist Sean Snaith. “It’s going to take time to repair that.”

In part, that’s simply a function of math.

Since 2007 - the region’s peak employment period almost 90,000 jobs have been eliminated in metro area. Even if employers began adding jobs at boom-time rates, it would take until 2014 or 2015 to replace those lost during the bust.

Statewide, the numbers are just as ugly.

Job growth in 2012 is forecast to come in at 1.8 percent, according to UCF forecasters. And no one should be surprised if the monthly jobless rate rises a bit as workers who had given up looking for jobs - and consequently aren’t counted as “unemployed” plunge back into the labor pool.

“The size of the labor force is a huge wild card,” Snaith wrote in the UCF forecast.

Job growth will drive virtually every political campaign in the state as Florida rumbles toward the 2012 elections. It will also affect the popularity of Gov. Rick Scott, who won’t be up for re-election until 2014.

Scott has touted recent numbers, pointing to almost 135,000 private-sector jobs created since he took office. When government job losses are factored in, Florida is up a total of 120,000 new jobs.

Scott recently said the state was moving “in the right direction” by reducing the size of government and eliminating regulations.

“I am hopeful,” he said, “that we will see Florida’s unemployment rate continue to decline as jobs grow and more Floridians find work.”

That’s likely to happen only when the state’s real-estate market finally finds its footing. Jobs and real estate are inextricably linked, and the state’s housing collapse is largely to blame for the severity of its recession and its sluggish recovery.

Heading into 2012, analysts forecast a slow increase in existing home prices here and across the state. Housing starts are expected to pick up, but only marginally. That means there won’t be waves of new hiring in the construction sector ח a field that during the fat times provided solid middle-class incomes to tens of thousands of blue-collar workers.

The job losses in construction have been stunning. In 2006, more than 91,000 people in Metro Orlando made a living in the field. Today, the number is roughly half that.

Brian Butler, board chairman of Central Florida’s Associated Builders and Contractors, said he’s begun to see more projects, mostly commercial, go out to bid in recent months. But progress is incremental and Butler, owner of JCB Construction, still has to furlough workers until the next job comes along.

“We’ll know things have gotten better,” he said, “when we lose a person or two because they’ve gotten on somewhere else.”

Analysts say the sector will eventually rebound, but, for now, that prospect seems like a fuzzy image in the distance.

“The long-suffering construction sector still has another five quarters of job losses before it too joins in the labor market’s recovery,” the UCF forecast predicts. “Job growth will not return to the construction sector until the second quarter of 2013.”

The retail sector expects another tough year too. Despite a solid holiday season, analysts think middle-class Floridians will remain cautious in 2012 even as well-to-do consumers spend more freely. In part, that reflects continued skittishness over job security and concern about wealth lost to the real estate bust.

Rollins College economist Bill Seyfried expects consumers to pull back a bit in the first part of 2012. The recent uptick in spending outpaced income growth, he said, so he thinks Floridians will try to put more into savings.

With construction and retail still lagging, Central Florida’s tourism industry will be forced to carry the economic load. Fortunately, it’s expected to post respectable numbers.

Visit Orlando expects tourism will grow by 1.8 percent with more than 54 million people coming to the area. International tourism will rise by more than 4 percent.

All bets are off, though, if the European debt crisis can’t be contained. A collapse of the euro would rattle markets here undermining much of the progress such as it is - of the last year. A default by a major European bank or much worse - a country, could bring on another financial crisis, freezing global credit.

“That would set off shock waves,” Snaith said. “It could knock us back into a recession.”


Posted by Elvis on 01/15/12 •
Section Dying America • Section Next Recession, Next Depression
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