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Some good news

Old 09-02-2006, 01:14 AM
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Default Some good news

Despite the bad news from the Big Three, the job status looks good overall. Let's try not to look at the bad only

Economy Adds 128,000 Jobs in August, Unemployment Dips to 4.7% as Economy Shows Lingering Strength

Fox News

Friday , September 01, 2006

WASHINGTON — Hiring perked up in August as employers added 128,000 jobs, pulling down the unemployment rate to 4.7 percent, sending a Labor Day message that the economic expansion still has staying power.

The latest snapshot, released by the Labor Department Friday, was a bit brighter than expected and should ease any fears that the expansion that began in late 2001 is not in danger of fizzling out.

The tally of new jobs last month was slightly stronger than the 125,000 that economists were forecasting. The nation's unemployment rate dropped down a notch from a five-month high of 4.8 percent in July. Job gains for June and July also turned out to be better than previously estimated. In June, employers boosted payrolls by 134,000 positions and in July they added another 121,000.

The report comes as the nation's work force gets ready to the Labor Day holiday and as the election season looms.

Economic conditions — especially those where people live and work — are likely to be on voters' minds when they go to the polls in November.

Workers' average hourly earnings edged up to $16.79 in August, a 0.1 percent increase from July. Economists were forecasting a bigger, 0.3 percent advance. While workers welcome strong wage growth, economists worry that a rapid and prolonged pickup in wages can ignite inflation fears.

Over the 12 months ending August, wages grew by a strong 3.9 percent. The last time this figure was higher was in June 2001.

The Federal Reserve on Aug. 8 decided to halt a more than two-year long rate raising campaign given the slowing economy and the cooldown in the housing market. The Fed's rate increases were aimed at keeping inflation in check. Fed policymakers expressed hoped that the slowing economy eventually would help lessen inflationary pressures.

Economists have mixed opinions about the Fed's next move on Sept. 20. Some believe the central bank will leave rates alone again, while others predict another rate increase wil be ordered to fend off inflation.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,211668,00.html

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Old 09-02-2006, 01:26 AM
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Default RE: Some good news

This also looks good. It's not all bad out there.

Bankruptcy Filings Fall 9 Percent Over Last Year

Fox News

Monday , August 28, 2006

WASHINGTON — Bankruptcy filings fell about 67 percent in the third quarter and more than 9 percent in the last year, according to data released Monday by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

There were 155,833 total bankruptcy filings in the third quarter, compared with 467,333 in the year-ago period. During the 12-month period that ended June 30, there were about 1.5 million bankruptcy cases filed in federal courts compared with more than 1.6 million in the year-ago period.

It was the smallest number of filings since the 12-month period ended September 2001, according to the federal court data.

Industry insiders said the drop was tied to the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, which went into effect in mid-October and made filings more difficult and expensive.

There were 667,431 filings in the first quarter ended Dec. 31, but the number plummeted to 116,771 in the second quarter.

"I can definitely say that right before the act went into effect the amount of cases spiked, and immediately following the law, it dropped dramatically and hasn't picked up since," said Suren Adams, owner of Adams Law Office LLC in Bowie, Md.

Adams said she saw a more than 50 percent increase in bankruptcy cases in the month before the act became law, but now handles about 15 percent of the pre-act workload.

Lundquist Consulting, a Burlingame, Calif., company that tracks personal bankruptcy statistics, said the federal statistics mirrored their own and also attributed the drop to the new law.

There were 31,562 businesses that filed for bankruptcy in the 12-month period ended June 30, a 2.6 percent decrease from 32,406 in the year-ago period, according to the federal court data.

Filings under Chapters 7, 11, and 13 all fell, while only Chapter 12 filings rose, with 360 compared with 290 in the year-ago period. Chapter 12 is an extension of Chapter 11, which protects companies from creditors' lawsuits while reorganizing, and applies to family farms.

Larry Ball, a shareholder and attorney who specializes in bankruptcy cases at Hall Estill in Oklahoma City, said the firm saw a large increase in Chapter 7 filings last year before the law went into effect, but "barely any cases are getting filed now."

"I'd say the law had its intended effect: to keep people from filing for bankruptcy," Ball said.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,210842,00.html
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Old 09-02-2006, 01:31 AM
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Default RE: Some good news

Bernanke: Productivity Likely to Keep Growing

Fox News

Thursday , August 31, 2006

WASHINGTON — America's productivity probably will keep growing solidly for some time to come, an important force in bolstering living standards, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Thursday.

Although future productivity gains can be difficult for economists to forecast, Bernanke offered a largely optimistic case that the country will continue to log good efficiency gains over the long term. He said recent figures showing a short-term slowing in productivity didn't change his view.

"A case can be made that the strong productivity growth of the post-1995 era is likely to continue for some time," he said in remarks prepared for an economic and development conference in Greenville, S.C. A copy of his remarks was made available in Washington.

Since 1995 productivity has been growing at a significantly faster rate than it had in the previous two decades, when efficiency gains had been sluggish.

Between 1995 and 2000, productivity growth was about 2 1/2 percent a year, Bernanke noted. In contrast, from the early 1970s until about 1995, productivity growth averaged about 1 1/2 percent a year, he said.

Big investments in computers and other productivity-enhancing equipment has played a role in the productivity improvements. And companies have yet to reap all the benefits of their previous investments in such productivity-enhancing techology, Bernanke said, part of the reason why he is mostly bullish about future gains.

Competition, the flexibility of U.S. companies to easily add and shed workers, and other factors also have contributed to the efficiency improvements.

And U.S. workers — from auto mechanics and factory workers to scientists and engineers — have done their part by, among other things, learning how to use new technologies that sharpen their productivity.

"Few jobs or occupations have not been affected in some way by the technological changes of recent years, a trend that will certainly continue," Bernanke said.

To make sure that good productivity gains are logged in the future, it is crucial that "we have a work force that is comfortable with and adaptable to new technologies," he said. That's why workers need to be mindful of freshening their skills and education, Bernanke added.

Productivity — the amount an employee producers for every hour on the job — is a key ingredient to the economy's long-term vitality. Efficiency gains can be a blunting force against inflation. Companies can pay workers more without boosting prices, which would eat into those wage gains.

In the April-to-June quarter, though, productivity growth slowed sharply. And, companies' compensation to workers shot up.

Productivity grew at an annual rate of just 1.1 percent in the second quarter, down from a 4.3 percent pace in the first quarter.

As a result, unit labor costs, a measure of how much companies pay workers for every unit of output they produce, advanced at a rate of 4.2 percent in the second quarter — much faster than the 2.5 percent pace logged in the first quarter. Economists keep close tabs on unit labor costs for clues about inflation.

In his speech, Bernanke did not discuss the future course of interest rates.

With the economy slowing, the Federal Reserve on Aug. 8 halted a more than two-year long string of rate increases. The pause gives policymakers time to assess the toll their previous rates hikes have taken on economic activity.

Economists have mixed opinions about what the Fed will do next. Some believe the Fed will leave rates alone again at its next meeting, Sept. 20. Others, however, predict a rate increase is in store to fend off inflation.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,211574,00.html
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Old 09-06-2006, 04:07 PM
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Default RE: Some good news

Productivity Revised Higher for 2Q; Wage Costs Rise

Wednesday, September 06, 2006 (Fox News)

WASHINGTON — U.S. business productivity grew at a 1.6 percent annual rate in the second quarter, higher than first estimated, the government said Wednesday in a report that also showed worker compensation up much more this year than initially thought.

The increase in nonfarm business productivity was a touch stronger than the 1.5 percent gain expected on Wall Street and a quicker advance than the 1.1 percent the Labor Department reported a month ago.

However, the report also contained revisions to first quarter data that showed hourly worker compensation shot up at a 13.7 percent rate, well ahead of the previously reported 6.9 percent gain. In the second quarter, compensation rose at a more subdued, but still strong, 6.6 percent pace.

Those gains helped push unit labor costs — a gauge of inflation and profit pressures — up 5 percent over the past year, the largest gain since a matching rise in the period ended in the third quarter of 2000.

In the first quarter, unit labor costs rose at a 9 percent pace and they were up at a 4.9 percent rate in the April-June period, well ahead of the 3.8 percent gain economists had expected.

Prices for U.S. government bonds fell and the dollar rose as the data sparked some concern that the Federal Reserve, which held interest rates steady at its last meeting on Aug. 8, may not yet been finished tightening credit. The U.S. stock market open lower, partly on the news about higher labor costs.

"You have a very pronounced acceleration in (unit labor costs) and the people at the Fed who are concerned about entrenched inflation will regard this as a very grave development," said Pierre Ellis, senior economist at Decision Economics in New York.

Still, some economists view the compensation figures that accompany the government's productivity data with some caution, and believe the exercise of stock options — rather than more fundamental pressures stemming from a tight labor market — could be a factor behind the first quarter's out-sized gains.

"We're guessing the Q1 leap reflects better estimates of bonuses and stock options, in which case it does not represent the trend," Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, Valhalla, New York.

The report showed U.S. productivity, a measure of worker output per hour and the key building block to rising living standards, has risen 2.5 percent over the past year, a solid increase in line with the gains seen since the mid-1990s.

While some economists have worried U.S. productivity growth might slow, imparting further upward pressure on inflation, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week the trend seen since the mid-1990s looks likely to stay in place.

Two separate reports showed U.S. chain store sales holding up well, with sales last week 3.9 percent higher than a year ago. The International Council of Shopping Centers and UBS said in a joint report that the gain was the strongest since June.

Separately, the Mortgage Bankers Association said applications for U.S. home mortgages edged higher last week as lower loan rates helped encourage more home purchases for the first time since early August.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,212471,00.html
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