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Category: Economy

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Less than a quarter of companies to hire in 2012: CareerBuilder

The employment picture won’t change much next year, with less than a quarter of hiring managers planning to take on more employees.

In a survey of more than 3,000 human resource and hiring professionals, 23% said they’ll add full-time, permanent staff in 2012, down a bit from the 24% who said the same this year, according to job search site CareerBuilder. The percentage of companies that plan to cut staff -– 7% -- hasn’t budged year over year.

Seven in 10 firms either intend to keep their staff at the same size or are unsure of their hiring and layoff plans, according to CareerBuilder. Slightly more employers in the western part of the country will recruit new workers than in other U.S. regions –- but more companies there also plan to downsize their staff. 

And employees jumped ship at 34% of companies this year, with many complaining of low salaries and work overload. Next year, 43% of hiring managers are worried that top talent will resign.

That may be why more than half say current workers will get pay raises in 2012 (mostly in the 1% to 5% range), with new employees at 32% of companies getting higher starting salaries.

There’s still hope that hiring will pick up in the latter half of 2012, according to CareerBuilder Chief Executive Matt Ferguson. Some companies are starting to focus on diversity, with 20% targeting Latino, black and female applicants and 44% intending to pick up new bilingual employees.

“Many companies have been operating lean and have already pushed productivity limits,” Ferguson said in a statement.

Small businesses are more optimistic than most –- a promising sign, since they are responsible for the bulk of job creation in the country. More companies with fewer than 250 employees plan to add workers in 2012 than did this year. Fewer said they’ll reduce head count.


Third of small-business owners worried about failing, poll finds

California unemployment falls for 4th straight month in November

LGBT employees welcome at big banks and law firms, report says

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Greg Lindstrom / The Muskegon (Mich.) Chronicle

Assets of major public pension funds slid 8.5% in third quarter

Third quarter pension fund holdingsThe stock market's summer slide took a toll on public pension funds, with the assets of the 100 largest ones down 8.5% in the third quarter of 2011, the Census Bureau reported Wednesday.

The quarterly decline was the first since early 2010, and the steepest since the fourth quarter of 2008, when the asset total plummeted 13.5% at the height of the global financial crisis.

The latest drop brought the value of investments and cash held by the biggest pension funds -- including the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the California State Teachers' Retirement System and the Los Angeles City Employees' Retirement System -- to $2.5 trillion on Sept. 30, down $236.6 billion from June 30. 

Driving the third-quarter decline was a 14.9% slide in the funds' corporate stock holdings, which at last count represented 30.4% of the funds' total assets.

The pension-fund numbers reflect the performance of financial markets in the third quarter, when stock prices worldwide tumbled as the European debt crisis intensified. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 12% in the three-month period. But stocks have rebounded since the end of September, and it's very likely that pension fund holdings have bounced back as well.


S&P 500 enters positive territory for the year

CalPERS rolling out new computer system late and at higher cost

Consumer confidence up in December, nearing post-recession high

-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington



Consumer confidence up in December, nearing post-recession high


Consumer confidence jumped in December and is pushing toward a post-recession high, though Americans still don’t seem to think the economy is healthy.

A monthly index from the Conference Board shows consumer confidence at 64.5, up nearly 10 points from a revised 55.2 in November, itself a 15-point boost from October.

That’s the highest level since April, when the index hit the 66 mark, though still below the 90 level that economists consider the threshold for a stable economy. The index hit 72 in February, its highest point since the recession.

More people believe that business conditions are good -- 16.6% compared with 13.9% the previous month. And fewer consumers -- 41.8% compared with 43% in November -- think that jobs are hard to find. A higher percentage of respondents also said that conditions for business and jobs will keep looking up during the next six months.

The December improvement could signal better times to come because consumer spending makes up about 70% of U.S. economic activity. Another key measure last week from Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan also found consumers feeling more positive, with 29% expecting good economic times ahead compared with 19% in November.

But Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s research center, warned that the boost could have also come from temporary holiday cheer.

“While consumers are ending the year in a somewhat more upbeat mood, it is too soon to tell if this is a rebound from earlier declines or a sustainable shift in attitudes," Franco said in a statement.


Americans feel more confident, but should they?

Consumer confidence dips to recession level in October

Consumer confidence remains poor in September, Conference Board says

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Shoppers scout for post-Christmas bargains Monday at a Target store in Abilene, Texas. Credit: Joy Lewis / Abilene Reporter-News

American dissatisfaction with nation's outlook near record highs

Americans in 2011 were more dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country than they’ve been in the past 30 years — with one exception.

That was 2008, during the recession, when just 15% of people polled by Gallup said they were happy with national conditions. This year, 17% of respondents on average were pleased with what they saw on the national landscape.

Most blamed high unemployment, the federal budget deficit, rising poverty or some other economic issue as the root of their malaise. Others pointed to evidence of moral decline, health-care woes and a government that they claim is not up to snuff.  

Throughout the year, satisfaction ranged from a high of 26% in May after the U.S. military killed Osama bin Laden to lows of 11% in August and September after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. debt rating.

The single lowest percentage ever of happy Americans came in October 2008, when the pressures of the financial downturn kept all but 7% of people polled from feeling satisfied. Since Gallup first started asking about the issue in 1979, satisfaction levels have been as high as 60%.

Though a key measure of consumer confidence from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan saw an uptick in December for the fourth straight month, data also continued to show historically low numbers of people expecting good economic times ahead.


Key consumer confidence index up for fourth straight month

Economic growth revised down but jobless claims hit 44-month low

— Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Key consumer confidence index up for fourth straight month

New York holiday shoppers
This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.

A leading consumer confidence index rose in December, the fourth straight monthly increase, but the stalemate in Washington over extending the payroll tax cut could cut into those gains.

Consumers were much more positive about the overall economic prospects this month compared to November, according to the latest Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers released Thursday. The percentage of respondents expecting good economic times ahead increased to 29% from 19% in November, though the figure was still historically low.

The boost in consumer confidence, combined with a continued drop in weekly jobless claims Thursday, helped investors overcome disappointment in a downward revision to third-quarter economic growth data. The Dow Jones industrial average was up about 34 points in early trading.

The survey's broader consumer confidence index was at 69.9 in December, up from 64.1 in November and a sharp increase from the 55.7 level in August. The index was at 74.5 last December.

Still, most consumers said 2011 was a bad year. A majority reported that their personal financial condition was worse this year, and only about a quarter anticipated things would improve in 2012. 

"Given the continued weakness in consumers’ assessments of their personal finances, the congressional stalemate on extending the payroll tax holiday could easily reverse the recent gains," Richard Curtin, the survey's chief economist, said of the tax break that will expire on Dec. 31 unless lawmakers pass an extension. "If the payroll tax holiday is not extended, it would be a significant drag on economic growth, and would increase the likelihood that weakness in consumer spending would again put the economy at risk of a renewed downturn."

"Even a month-long delay would heighten uncertainty and cause consumers to begin to take precautionary actions," Curtin warned.

[For the record, 10:06 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the consumer confidence survey and the jobless-claim data were released Friday.]


U.S. leaders say they are hard at work on payroll tax

Dollar stores thrive as holiday shopping destinations

Economic growth revised down but jobless claims hit 44-month low

-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington

Photo: Holiday shoppers in New York City on Wednesday. Credit: Bloomberg

Economic growth revised down but jobless claims hit 44-month low

  Unemployment benefits protestor

The U.S. economy grew at a sluggish annual rate of 1.8% from July through September, down from earlier estimates, the government said Thursday.

The new data threw some cold water on hopes that the economic recovery had picked up significant steam in the second half of the year. The initial estimate of third-quarter growth, released in October, was 2.5%, but the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis has revised it down twice since then.

Thursday's figure was the final one, and came in somewhat below the 2% level that most economists had expected. Fourth-quarter data will be released early next year.

The third quarter still showed faster growth than the 1.3% rate for the second quarter, and has allayed fears that the nation was headed toward another recession. Increased consumer spending helped fuel the improvement in the third quarter, but budget cutting by state and local governments remained a drag on growth, the Commerce Department said.

The new data was offset somewhat Thursday by continued improvement in the employment picture. New jobless claims declined again last week, falling to 364,000, the lowest level since April 2008, the Labor Department said.

The number of initial unemployment claims was down from the previous week's revised figure of 368,000, and the four-week average of 380,250 is below the 400,000 figure that economists say is key to cutting into the unemployment rate.


Initial jobless claims fall to 366,000

Fed puts off any new policy action until 2012

Home sales were worse than it thought, Realtors group says

-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington

Photo: Gwen Williams of Norton Shores, Mich., outside Rep. Bill Huizenga's Muskegon office during a rally this month calling on Congress to extend unemployment insurance benefits, which will expire Dec. 31. Credit: Muskegon Chronicle / Associated Press

1.1 million Californians could lose unemployment benefits soon


About 1.1 million out-of-work Californians will lose their state or federal unemployment insurance beginning in early January if the two houses of Congress can't cut a deal.

The state Employment Development Department reported Wednesday, the day after GOP House Speaker John Boehner sent his members home, that the first people to stop drawing biweekly benefits will be about 100,000 people on the so-called Fed-Ed program. Fed-Ed provides up to 99 weeks of support of up to $450 a week for the long-term unemployed in the Golden State.

Other people will be cut off more gradually. Those receiving state-financed support will stop getting insurance payments as soon as their initial 26 weeks of benefits ends.

The jobless who receive benefits under one of three federal extensions will lose support at the end of their current tier, the EDD said.

EDD Director Pam Harris said her agency is doing all it can to provide information to its clients about the congressional negotiations.

"We know unemployment is a stressful experience at any time, and we understand that the uncertainty surrounding the benefit extensions adds to that stress, especially during the holiday season," Harris said.

In all, about 585,000 unemployed workers in California exhausted all available benefits from either the state or federal government as of Dec. 19, the EDD said.

Last week, Democratic and Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate agreed to a compromise to extend a federal payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits during the first two months of 2012 to buy time to forge a yearlong deal. Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, rejected that agreement, setting the stage for the expiration of both the tax cut and the unemployment benefits Dec. 31.


House GOP hearing it from all sides over payroll tax cut

With payroll tax cut unresolved, Congress packs up

Feinstein plan would preserve unemployment benefits for the hardest hit states

-- Marc Lifsher

Photo: Unemployed people check listings at a Westminister job center. Credit: Jaec Hong / Associated Press

Five-month supply of distressed homes casts shadow on market

A bank-owned home for sale in Las Vegas

A “shadow” supply of 1.6 million homes facing foreclosure or already owned by banks is estimated to hang over the U.S real estate market -- these are properties that typically go uncounted by most real estate listing services.

The estimate represents about five months of supply as of October 2011, and was published Wednesday by the Santa Ana real estate data firm CoreLogic. This compares with a shadow supply of about 1.9 million units in October 2010, representing about seven months' supply then.

Florida, California and Illinois account for more than one-third of these properties, which can stand in the way of a housing recovery as most will end up as either foreclosures or so-called short sales, where a bank allows a home to be sold for less than the debt on the property.


Banks' foreclosure activity picks up

Many Americans expect to work until they're 80

Victims of improper foreclosure practices can submit claims

Photo: A bank-owned home for sale in Las Vegas. Credit: Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images



Realtors group says it overestimated home sales from 2007 to 2010


A national real estate group sharply revised downward the number of homes it calculated were sold from 2007 to 2010, revealing a much weaker housing market than had been previously estimated.

In 2010, for instance, the National Assn. of Realtors revised its estimate of home sales 14.6% lower than what it had previously reported -- to about 4.2 million homes sold that year.

From 2007 to 2010, sales and inventory as reported by the group were downwardly revised by 14.3%, the group said on Wednesday. The group overstated sales during that period by about 3.5 million units, according to the Associated Press.

The drop was due to changes in the way the U.S. Census Bureau collects data and some sales being counted twice. Roughly half the revisions resulted from a decrease in people selling their own homes and instead turning to real estate agents as the housing market turned bleak in 2007, the group said.

Homes sold by owners are typically not counted by the local listing services tracked by the national real estate group. So when a greater share of home sellers than usual began using agents who use those listing services, that artificially increased the final home sale numbers, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the group, said in a statement.

The revisions underscore a lack of data on the housing market. There is no government tally of home sales nationally, instead officials rely on private real estate groups to provide sales numbers. The government does publish an estimate of new home sales and starts.

The revised figures were checked by government agencies and by the Santa Ana firm CoreLogic, which first discovered the discrepancies in the real estate group’s figures earlier this year.


Banks' foreclosure activity picks up

Many Americans expect to work until they're 80

Victims of improper foreclosure practices can submit claims

-- Alejandro Lazo

Photo: For-sale signs in Palo Alto. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

KB Home earnings fall, but orders increase


Los Angeles home builder KB Home posted lower earnings in the fiscal fourth quarter compared with a year earlier as the company sold fewer homes in higher cost areas. But another development signaled some cause for optimism: New orders for homes from the company grew.

The company reported net income of $13.9 million, or 18 cents a share, for the three months ending Nov. 30. That compared with $17.4 million, or 23 cents, during the same period a year earlier.

"We believe these results demonstrate our success in adapting to current market realities and positioning our business for the future,” Chief Executive Jeffrey Mezger said in a statement.

Revenues in the fourth quarter grew 6% over the previous year to $479.9 million, and net orders increased 38% to 1,494. For all of 2011, the company widened its net loss to $178.8 million. That compared with a 2010 loss of $69.4 million.


Banks' foreclosure activity picks up

Many Americans expect to work until they're 80

Victims of improper foreclosure practices can submit claims

-- Alejandro Lazo

Photo: Associated Press

California sues Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris in L.A.

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris has filed suit against mortgage titans Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for refusing to answer subpoenas issued to the companies this year.

The suits, filed Tuesday in San Francisco County Superior Court, comes after investigators with the state attorney general's office presented the two firms with questions regarding their foreclosure, lending and mortgage-related practices in the state.


California Sues Fannie Mae

California Sues Freddie Mac

The subpoenas ask the government-controlled finance companies to answer questions about their activities in California, including their roles as landlords that own thousands of foreclosed properties, The Times previously reported. The attorney general's office is also seeking details of Fannie and Freddie's mortgage-servicing and home-repossession practices.

In addition, investigators want to learn more about the companies' purchases and sponsorship of mortgage-backed securities in the Golden State. According to separate suits filed by Harris against Fannie and Freddie, the two companies refused to answer the questions. The filing of the suits was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.


Banks' foreclosure activity picks up

Many Americans say they will have to work until they're 80

Victims of improper foreclosure practices can submit claims

— Alejandro Lazo

Photo: Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times


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