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How’s life? Report studies satisfaction (Hint: Having a job helps)

Having a job is integral to the average person’s well-being, but factors such as housing, health, education and environment also play a major role, according to a sprawling new report.

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development looked into 11 aspects of life across 40 countries and found that –- surprise, surprise -– working is a major factor in making people happy.

On top of earning an income, going to the office also helps individuals shape their personal identity and hone social relationships, the study found.

Among the other findings: Long-term unemployment rates hover near zero in Korea, Mexico and Norway but are triple the global average in Estonia, the Slovak Republic and Spain.

Chileans and Poles hold the most temporary contracts; residents of Luxembourg and the United States have the highest average gross annual earnings.

Fear of losing a job strikes hardest among Czechs and Hungarians. South Africans are stuck in some of the longest daily commutes.

And on a graph charting the percentage of people who said they felt more positive emotions than negative ones in a typical day, Denmark seemed happiest, while Turkey was at the bottom. Americans clocked in around the middle.


Americans still prefer male bosses, but not by much

Private sector adds 91,000 jobs, but planned layoffs at 2-year high

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Businessmen with briefcases walk through the financial district in London. Credit: Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg

Unemployed Californians face benefit losses


Nearly 1.8 million jobless Americans could lose their unemployment insurance benefits at year's end unless Congress approves the president's proposal to reauthorize the federal program through 2012, said the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group known as NELP.

California leads the other 49 states with 305,400 unemployed people facing a cutoff.

About 70,600 would see their 26 weeks of regular, state-paid checks run out. Another 122,500 would stop getting federal emergency unemployment compensation, and 112,300 immediately would lose special, extended federal benefits.

Other states with large numbers of people on unemployment insurance include Florida, New York, Texas and New Jersey.

On Tuesday, NELP released a report called "Hanging on by a Thread," warning that a cut in unemployment benefits would damage workers, business owners and the U.S. economy.

"For millions of out-of-work Americans hanging on by a thread, unemployment insurance is the only thing preventing a free-fall into destitution and despair," said Christine Owens, executive director of NELP.

"For struggling businesses and the halting economy, unemployment insurance is what's preserving consumer spending at a moment we need it most. Withdrawing this crucial stimulus would likely tip the nation back into recession."

NELP is urging Congress to act quickly at a time when the national unemployment rate remains stubbornly above 9%. The last time federal lawmakers reduced unemployment benefits during a time of high joblessness was in 1985, when the national unemployment rate was 7.2%, NELP said.


California job centers must devote more money to training 

State Fund plans to lay off 1,800 workers by June 

Obama suggests changing unemployment system

-- Marc Lifsher

Photo: Job seekers scan the Internet at a government-run employment center in Westminster. Credit: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press


Fired Hotel Bel-Air workers ask Occupy L.A. to join their cause


Union workers who were laid off from the Hotel Bel-Air called on protesters from Occupy L.A. to join a protest of the famed five-star hotel.

The hotel laid off about 250 union workers when it closed for a two-year renovation project in 2009. It plans to reopen on Friday, having rehired only about a dozen former union workers.

The union representing the dismissed workers, Unite Here Local 11, claims the hotel used the renovation project to oust the union. It has called for a boycott of the hotel and plans to picket and march around the hotel Friday evening.

"We are asking everyone not to eat, sleep or meet here," Manuel Roman, an organizer for the union.

The union has invited Occupy L.A., the group that is camped out around Los Angeles City Hall to protest corporate greed, to join the demonstration at the hotel.

The union plans to send a bus to City Hall on Friday to take interested Occupy L.A. activists to the pink, Mission-styled hotel frequented by celebrities and presidents.

Occupy L.A. has no formal leader but protesters at City Hall said they recognize the situation at the hotel as another example of rich companies abusing poor workers.

"I'm going to join them," Ryan Rice, a participant at Occupy L.A. said of the protest at the Hotel Bel-Air.

Hotel officials have said they offered laid-off workers a severance package when they closed the hotel but could not promise to rehire them.


Hotel Bel-Air holds a garage sale

Hotel Bel-Air taking reservations for autumn reopening

Hotel Bel-Air to reopen without most of its old union staff

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: Laid-off Hotel Bel-Air workers talk to reporters after a news conference. Credit: Los Angeles Times


Private sector adds 91,000 jobs, but planned layoffs at 2-year high

Jobs U.S. employers announced plans in September to shed more than 115,000 workers -- the highest total in more than two years, according to a new jobs report.

That’s more than double the 51,000 cuts announced in August and more than three times the 37,000 cuts planned a year earlier. The previous record was in April 2009, when employers planned to slash nearly 133,000 jobs, according to employment consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

According to another report, from payrolls processor ADP, private-sector employment rose by 91,000 jobs in September. The “modest” increase was led by 60,000 additional positions in small businesses, which have been averaging 73,000 new jobs a month for the last year.

Medium-sized companies also did well, tacking on 36,000 more employees, while large businesses shed 5,000 workers, according to ADP.

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Consumer Confidential: Blockbuster, man caves, zodiac salaries

Blockbuster-Dish Network Internet video service
Here's your feelin'-groovy Friday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--Heads up, Netflix. Dish Network is announcing an Internet video service that will try to woo away subscribers. The service will be offered through Blockbuster, the video-store chain that Dish Network bought out of bankruptcy court for $321 million five months ago. Netflix's success as a subscription service that mails rented DVDs and streams video over high-speed Internet connections played a pivotal role in Blockbuster's downfall. Now Dish and Blockbuster are apparently hoping for a little payback as Netflix faces a customer backlash triggered by changes to its prices and format. Dish says its Blockbuster service will be "a stream come true." We'll see.

--Good news, guys: A man cave in the basement won't detract from the resale value of your home. "As long as you don't make it too specific, there tends to be a resale market for man caves," said Stephanie Rauterkus, a professor of accounting and finance at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. "No matter how crazy you get, there tends to be at least one or two other people in the world who have that same kind of craziness." Still, she says there are some rules to follow if you want your man cave to be a true real-estate asset: First, stay sane with the cost. Only spend what you can afford. Second, stay sane with the decor -- in case you move or your team preferences change. Finally, stay sane with the decision. Sleep on it as you would for all major purchases.

--Which zodiac signs rake in the biggest bucks? A new survey by CareerBuilder finds that Virgos, Aries and Scorpios tend to score six-figure salaries, while Capricorns and Leos are often vice presidents or higher (although at the highest levels, Capricorns edge them out). Middle management is filled with Aries, while those who fall into the Aquarius category tend to swim at the bottom in entry-level positions. Libras and those born under Taurus are more satisfied on the job than others. Also, first-borns and only children tend to pull in bigger paychecks, and middle children are more likely to hold low-level jobs. Is there anything to this? Post your comments.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: Will Blockbuster get a little payback from Netflix? Credit: Rick Wilking / Reuters

Bass Pro accused of racist hiring practices in lawsuit

BPS wood Nationwide sporting goods retailer Bass Pro Outdoor World made a racist habit of not hiring black and Hispanic applicants, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The complaint alleges that managers regularly used derogatory names and that some in Texas, Louisiana and elsewhere said hiring black candidates “didn’t fit the corporate profile,” according to the suit.

The company also retaliated against employees who complained about the hiring practices, sometimes firing them or forcing them to resign, according to the allegations. Managers also destroyed internal hiring records, according to the suit, which was filed in Texas court.

Bass Pro has discriminated against minority applicants since at least 2005, denying qualified people positions as cashiers, sales associates and managers, according to the complaint. The company has about 60 stores across the U.S. and Canada, including two in California.

The EEOC is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting Bass Pro from future discrimination as well as back pay and other damages.


Nivea's 're-civilize' ad called racist; company apologizes

Federal agency accuses Beverly Hills company of trafficking Thai farmworkers

-- Tiffany Hsu

Consumer Confidential: Rude workers, holiday sales, PETA porn

Stoogepic Here's your which-way-did-they-go Wednesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--What's the top consumer complaint? Well, take your pick. But very high on many people's lists are rude employees. In fact, about one-third of consumers say they get treated rudely an average of once a month and that such episodes of uncivil behavior make them less likely to patronize those businesses, according to researchers from USC and Georgetown University. The researchers surveyed 244 consumers and found that incivility is widespread. Consumers recalled incidents involving an uncivil employee in many industries, and particularly in restaurants and retailing. Furthermore, managers may not be aware of how frequently their customers witness an employee behaving uncivilly because consumers seldom report the behavior to employers. Bottom line: Be nice to your customers. It's just good business.

 --Retailers are still waiting to see whether there's any ho-ho-ho this holiday season. A new forecast indicates that sales growth will likely not be as high as last year and that shoppers won't be hitting the stores as much. Retail sales for the November and December period are expected to rise 3% during what is traditionally the most critical period of the year for retailers, according to the research firm ShopperTrak. That would be below last year's 4.1% sales growth. Shoppers have been cautious about spending through 2011, faced with uncertain economic conditions, rising gas prices and high unemployment. Expect retailers to roll out plenty of sales to attract attention to their stores.

--PETA is mixing its animal-rights message with porn. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says it will launch a pornographic website to promote its stance. The group has already applied for the domain. PETA says the site will feature "tantalizing" videos and photographs, which will lead viewers into animal-rights messages. The idea is to reach a broader audience, by any means possible. The site could be up and running by November, although critics are already saying that by resorting to porn, PETA is alienating itself from a large swath of the population that might otherwise be sympathetic to its cause.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: Consumers hate it when employees are rude. Credit: American Movie Classics


Amazon warehouse employees overheated ahead of holiday season

Amazon With the holiday shopping season gearing up, retail employees are preparing to work hard. But probably not as hard as Amazon warehouse workers.

At one of the online shopping giant’s Pennsylvania shipping facilities, employees say they worked in extreme conditions during a “brutal” summer heat wave, according to the Allentown Morning Call.

The heat inside exceeded 100 degrees, leaving workers –- at least one of them pregnant -- lightheaded and unable to breathe, according to the report. In June, 15 employees collapsed in one day.

But with a tight job market, with a long line of applicants ready to take their place, employees said they felt pressured to endure the heat. Several complained of being reprimanded and threatened with termination if they failed to meet productivity targets.

Amazon, they said, kept paramedics parked in ambulances outside for employees suffering from dehydrating or heat stress -– but expected them to cool down and return to work.

The company is now heading into the busy holiday season. During its peak day last year on Nov. 29, Amazon customers worldwide ordered more than 13.7 million items -– or 158 items per second. 


Retailers' holiday hiring plans remain conservative

Ralphs says it will close stores if workers go on strike. Albertsons may follow.

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

Feds: BofA improperly fired employee who exposed Countrywide fraud

Mozilo-van nuys 
Bank of America Corp. wrongly fired an internal investigator who exposed "widespread and pervasive wire, mail and bank fraud"  at Countrywide Financial Corp., according to the U.S. Labor Department.

Finding that the employee was protected by whistle-blower law, the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration ordered BofA to reinstate and pay the employee $930,000, including back wages, interest, compensatory damages and attorney fees.

Bank of America acquired Calabasas-based Countrywide in July 2008 and fired the whistle-blower shortly thereafter, OSHA said in a news release Wednesday.

In a statement, Bank of America said it would challenge the order. "The bank’s actions to dismiss were solely based on issues with the employee’s management style and in no way related to the employee’s complaints and the allegations made in the complaint," it said.

The federal agency didn't name the employee. It identified the worker only as an L.A.-area person who led internal investigations into Countrywide employees.

"It's clear from our investigation that Bank of America used illegal retaliatory tactics against this employee," OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels said in the news release.

"This employee showed great courage reporting potential fraud and standing up for the rights of other employees to do the same."


Jury awards fired Countrywide executive $3.8 million

U.S. drops criminal probe of former Countrywide chief Angelo Mozilo

Investors wonder whether BofA cost-cutting plan is enough

 --E. Scott Reckard

Photo: Countrywide Financial co-founder Angelo Mozilo, center. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times


Americans still prefer male bosses, but not by much

Boss There’s a reason they still call it “working for the man”: Americans continue to prefer male bosses to female ones.

But the male edge is now the slimmest it's ever been. When pollster Gallup first began asking the question in 1953, 66% of Americans wanted Don Draper compared with the 5% looking for a female boss.

Now, male managers get 32% of the vote while female ones get 22%. Nearly half of people (including the majority of men) surveyed said they don’t care about the gender of their higher-ups.

But women –- especially ones older than 50 –- are much more opinionated. More women (39%) would like to report to a man than those (27%) who would rather have a woman in charge.

The gender of current bosses may have influenced the responses, Gallup said. Currently, 56% of Americans have a man at the helm while 30% are led by a woman. Thirteen percent said they have no boss.


Employees satisfied with co-workers, unhappy with benefits

Is meanness a moneymaker? Nice guys are paid less, study finds

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Female managers are catching up to men in American preferences. Though few would probably want one like Miranda Priestly, the tyrannical (and fictional) editor from the movie "The Devil Wears Prada." Credit: Barry Wetcher / 20th Century Fox

Employees satisfied with co-workers, unhappy with benefits

Officespace Your co-workers probably like you and your boss just fine –- it’s their pay and benefits they’re peeved about, according to a new Gallup survey.

Three in 10 employees are dissatisfied with the health insurance offered by their boss. The same amount also wish they earned more money.

Compensation issues in general leave workers disgruntled -– 26% are unhappy with their promotion chances, 28% want better retirement benefits and 34% say there’s too much stress at work.

Blame the nation’s unemployment problem, Gallup says. Compared with 90% job satisfaction before the recession, just 83% of workers are currently content.

Employees are likely enduring less favorable work conditions in order to avoid the dismal job market, while employers are cutting costs by scaling back salaries, promotions and benefits, Gallup said.

Still, compared with the fallout of the dot-com bubble a decade ago, workers are more satisfied overall. The study, which was conducted in mid-August, found that 72% are completely satisfied with the physical safety conditions at work.

The majority of employees are also pleased with their co-workers, their bosses and their work schedule.


Does fantasy football affect workplace productivity?

No August job growth as unemployment rate holds at 9.1%

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Most U.S. workers are more satisfied with their bosses than Ron Livingston, right, in 20th Century Fox's "Office Space." Credit: Van RedinPhoto


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