Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index(TM) Improves Moderately, But Present Situation Weakens Further

/PRNewswire/ -- The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index(TM), which had declined to an all-time low in October, improved moderately in November. The Index now stands at 44.9 (1985=100), up from 38.8 in October. The Present Situation Index decreased to 42.2 from 43.5 last month. The Expectations Index increased to 46.7 from 35.7 in October.

The Consumer Confidence Survey(TM) is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households. The monthly survey is conducted for The Conference Board by TNS. TNS is the world's largest custom research company. The cutoff date for November's preliminary results was November 18th.

Says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center: "The persistent declines in the Present Situation Index suggest that the economy has weakened further in the final months of this year. Inflation expectations, which have been at historically high levels in recent months, subsided considerably as a result of falling gas prices. But, despite the improvement in the Expectations Index this month, consumers remain extremely pessimistic and the possibility that economic growth will improve in the first half of 2009 remains highly unlikely."

Consumers' assessment of current conditions deteriorated further in November. Those claiming business conditions are "bad" increased to 40.3 percent from 37.1 percent, while those claiming business conditions are "good" edged up to 9.9 percent from 9.4 percent last month. Consumers' assessment of the labor market was more negative than a month ago. Those saying jobs are "hard to get" rose to 37.2 percent from 36.6 percent in October, while those claiming jobs are "plentiful" decreased to 8.8 percent from 9.0 percent.

Consumers' short-term outlook was less pessimistic. Those anticipating business conditions to worsen over the next six months declined to 28.1 percent from 36.5 percent, while those expecting conditions to improve rose to 11.4 percent from 9.6 percent.

The outlook for the labor market was also less negative. The percent of consumers anticipating fewer jobs in the months ahead declined to 33.3 percent from 41.5 percent, while those expecting more jobs increased to 9.2 percent from 7.3 percent. The proportion of consumers anticipating an increase in their incomes increased to 13.3 percent from 11.1 percent.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

U.S. Conference of Mayors 153 City Survey Shows 'Ready-To-Go' Local Infrastructure Projects Would Create Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The nation's mayors today reiterated their call for a Main Street Stimulus package in the lame-duck Congress by releasing the first in a series of reports that inventories each city's "ready-to-go" infrastructure projects -- projects that could be started and completed in calendar year 2009 -- if emergency federal funding were made available. Information on these projects has been submitted to the U.S. Conference of Mayors from 153 cities of all sizes in all regions of the country. In this first release, cities have identified a total of 4,591 infrastructure projects costing a total of $24.4 billion that would create more than a quarter of a million jobs.

"In today's world, metropolitan economies, which comprise 90% of our gross domestic product, drive the national economy. Investing in Main Street metro economies is the most direct path to creating the jobs and stimulating the business that can begin to reverse the current economic downturn. Washington has bailed out Wall Street to the tune of $700 billion and hopes its investment will eventually be returned to the taxpayer. It is now time for an investment in local economies that will produce a guaranteed return of jobs," said U.S. Conference of Mayors President Miami Mayor Manny Diaz.

Diaz continued, "If ever there was a time for bi-partisan leadership, it is now. Our survey shows that cities are 'ready-to-go' with infrastructure projects that will immediately employ people, support small businesses, and stimulate Main Street economies."

This initial report of city infrastructure projects validates the Conference's recommendations to Congress for direct emergency stimulus funds that cities can invest immediately in job creation, small business activity and lasting infrastructure improvements for Main Street America.

"Mayors tell us that the job situation is dire and only getting worse. The unemployment numbers indicate a rapid deterioration in the job outlook for Americans, and thousands more jobs will be lost as each month passes with no action from the lame-duck Congress. Main Street is hurting. Metro economies of America need jobs now and our economy desperately needs help at the Main Street level. Our Main Street Stimulus is the answer," said Tom Cochran, Conference CEO and Executive Director.

The Conference's Main Street Stimulus plan was officially unveiled on Capitol Hill on October 29th. Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, Past President to the Conference of Mayors, testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; and Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer, Immediate Past President of the Conference, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee to urge lawmakers to support the mayors' plan of an initial investment of $89.8 billion that includes funding in ten sectors including Community Development Block Grants, transit, highway infrastructure, green jobs, school modernization, public safety and public housing.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Despite Slight Dip in October, IT Employment Continues to Outperform General Employment Market

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- While the news in the general employment market in October was horrific, IT employment dipped only slightly, according to the National Association of Computer Consultant Businesses (NACCB), which tracks monthly IT employment.

With a slight dip of 3,000 jobs (.08%) in October, the association reported IT employment stood at 3,916,200. Even with the modest decline in October, IT employment has displayed surprising resilience during the year. From October 2007 through the current month, IT employment was still up 4.5 percent -- far outpacing the general employment market. The broader job market continues to shed jobs at an alarming rate, losing 284,000 jobs in September (a significant upward revision) and an additional 240,000 jobs in October.

"The contraction of IT employment in October was not surprising. Given all the turmoil in the economy and the devastating job losses in the general employment market in recent months, we are relieved that the decline in October was a modest one," commented Mark Roberts, CEO of NACCB. "While the long-term growth prospects of IT employment remains very strong, I anticipate there will be significant challenges in the short-term and mid-term in light of the deteriorating macroeconomic picture," said Roberts.

The IT employment index is published by the National Association of Computer Consultant Businesses (NACCB), the national trade association representing IT staffing and solutions firms. For complete IT Index please visit: www.naccb.org/employment-index/index.cfm.

Technical note: NACCB's IT Employment Index is the first specific measurement of IT employment. This unique measurement of total IT employment is created monthly by studying the ongoing staffing patterns of a dozen IT and computer related occupations in 16 industries and industry sectors employing significant numbers of IT workers including the manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, financial, information services, business and professional services, and education and health industries. The monthly IT Employment Index is based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, which is subject to monthly revisions, with concomitant revisions to the Index. The IT Employment Index is also subject to annual revisions of BLS data. The IT Index was rebenchmarked in February 2008 with the publication of the BLS January 2008 employment report, reflecting significant revisions of employment data from the past several years.

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Can Telecommuting and a Four-Day Workweek Build a Better Workforce?

(BUSINESS WIRE)--With the uncertainty of the economic climate, many companies are considering several options to help employees lower their costs and help their paycheck stretch further. Gevity (NASDAQ: GVHR), a leading professional employer organization (PEO) that provides HR services to businesses nationwide, today released guidelines and tips for companies considering alternative workforce arrangements including telecommuting and flexible schedules such as a four-day workweek.

“Some U.S. businesses are turning to telecommuting and a four-day workweek for two key reasons: to save costs and keep their best employees,” said Meredith Johnson, Gevity’s Chief People Officer. “With a shorter workweek, employees immediately save 20% of their commute costs so it’s a great way to help them retain more of their take-home pay when budgets are tight. Effectively, it’s a pay raise at no cost to the employer. Businesses also may actually realize productivity gains and increased employee satisfaction due to fewer distractions, lower stress, and more control over time.”

The Planning Process

“Employers that are ready to consider alternative work arrangements should make sure to complete their due diligence,” said Johnson. “First, evaluate which job functions are appropriate for telecommuting or a four-day workweek. Jobs that are high on daily customer contact or require access to in-office reference materials won’t travel well, but those that are heavy on computer work, require great concentration, and have clear objectives can be ideal.”

“Also consider which employees are viable candidates for flexible schedules,” Johnson said. “Those who demonstrate good performance and self-accountability will generally do best. The new demands on supervisors also should be considered. They may need training in ‘management by results’ in addition to the traditional ‘management by observation.’”

Other guidelines to consider include:

1. Make a list, check it twice. Create a checklist to analyze each job function for telecommuting compatibility. Look specifically at the type of work performed, the employees’ personalities, and the performance measurements you’ll put in place to optimize the initiative’s success.

2. Location, location, location. Think about where the program will be implemented: who will be off-site and when, who will not, and what the company will look like. Most employees will want to telecommute or participate in a four-day workweek, but many won’t be able to. Be prepared to deal with this fairly and sensibly.

3. Think technical. Consider the related IT costs of telecommuting. Ensure that your organization is equipped for virtual work arrangements, including appropriate software, computers, connectivity, security and technical support. Virtual work arrangements can increase demands on IT staff if they are not well implemented.

4. Spell it out. Use a formal telecommuting agreement that clearly articulates the terms of the arrangement. It should cover company expectations, who is responsible for equipment and appropriate workspaces, schedules, etc. Most importantly, it should establish telecommuting as an accommodation, not an entitlement, that can be modified at-will by the employer, should company requirements change.

5. Start small. Consider launching with a pilot program. This will help work out the kinks in a relatively controlled environment.

6. Some face time is good. Some time in the office will almost certainly be required for telecommuters. This can help address the decreased teamwork and sense of belonging that may occur in those who are not in the office on a regular basis.

Like any major change, telecommuting and other flexible work arrangements will take some getting used to. Once the system is fully operational, however, the move should pay ongoing dividends for the company, the workers and the environment.

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