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Consumer Confidential: Hiring up, car parts scarce, scotch whisky sales surging

March 30, 2011 | 10:33 am

Whiskypic Here's your wishin'-and-hopin' Wednesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- The recovery continues. Private employers added more than 200,000 jobs in March, while planned layoffs fell, according to ADP Employer Services. The ADP report, which is jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers, sets the table for the main course: the federal government's more comprehensive labor market report due out Friday. A Reuters poll of analysts shows a forecast for nonfarm payrolls to rise by a median of about 190,000 jobs in March, with private payrolls forecast to rise by 200,000. The data suggest that while the economy is showing signs of life, the recovery is still moving slowly and it will be difficult to make a serious dent in the unemployment rate. Still, even modest good news is good news.

-- People in the U.S. may not be facing the horrors that quake/tsunami/meltdown survivors are coping with in Japan, but there is some effect of the troubles abroad on these shores. Toyota is warning dealers that some parts suppliers are still not back to normal production, and there could be delays in getting certain parts, including body panels and shock absorbers. Toyota says it will not fill routine orders to replenish dealer stock but will accommodate emergency requests when possible. Meanwhile, Honda is cutting daily output by as much as 50%, and orders for Japanese-built models have been suspended. Mazda has suspended orders for vehicles made in Japan until further notice. And Volvo says it gets 10% of its components from Japan and can't predict what happens beyond the end of this week.

-- So, yes, times are tough. What can we do about it? Well, there's always a stiff drink. As such, I can report that scotch whisky exports rose 10% last year. The Scottish Whisky Assn. says that exports -- which account for just over 90% of production -- increased for the sixth consecutive year in value terms, but volumes dipped 2% to the equivalent of 1.06 billion standard bottles of scotch in 2010. Eight of the top 10 export scotch markets grew in value terms, with the top two markets remaining the United States and France. Maybe it's a good thing you can't get your car fixed. Probably better to stay off the road.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: When the going gets tough, the tough reach for a stiff drink. Credit: Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times