Consumer Confidential: More job openings, more subprime loans, more Mattel toys
--Looking for work? Your odds just got a little better. Employers posted a sharp increase in job openings in October, signaling that more people could be added to payrolls in coming months. Businesses and public agencies posted nearly 3.4 million jobs at the end of October, up about 12% from the previous month, according to the Labor Department. That reverses two months of declines and is the highest total since August 2008. Overall, the number of advertised jobs has increased by about 1 million, or 44%, since the low point of July 2009. But openings are still far below the 4.4 million advertised in December in 2007, when the recession began.
--Here we go again: Banks are loosening their credit policies, and new figures show that many car loans are going to people with questionable credit. The percentage of loans going to subprime buyers rose 8% in the third quarter, the first year-over-year increase since 2007, according to the credit reporting agency Experian. For new cars, the percentage of loans going to subprime buyers rose 13% over the July-September period in 2009. The majority of loans — 63% — is still going to buyers with prime credit scores. But if banks are rolling out the welcome mat to more subprime borrowers, you get a feeling that it's deja vu all over again.
--Which toy company is kicking the most retail booty this year? Looks like Mattel is the big dog. Margaret Whitfield, an analyst at Sterne, Agee & Leach, says Mattel seems to be selling out faster than rival toymakers at major retailers such as Toys R Us, Target and Wal-Mart. Mattel's Monster High dolls Cleo DeNile & Deuce Gorgon are out of stock at some stores, as are Mattel's Sing-a-ma-jig singing dolls. Some Hasbro toys also are out of stock, including its Baby Alive All Gone Doll. But more Mattel toys are. "[This] speaks, in our view, to Mattel's compelling toy lineup this year," Whitfield says. To which I can only add: Baby Alive All Gone?
-- David Lazarus
Photo: There are more job openings as the economy slowly recovers. Credit: Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images