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Outpacing Europe

Business | Manufacturers across the European Union have cut payrolls for 39 consecutive months

Issue: "Education: Sick schools," Sept. 18, 2004

An estimated 1.7 million jobs have been created in the United States in the past year, lowering the jobless rate to 5.6 percent, but Europe continues to struggle with high unemployment and a jobless economic recovery.

In the European Union, for example, the jobless rate for the 12 countries using the euro for currency is nearly double that of the U.S. rate. Eurostat, the E.U.'s statistics agency, said overall unemployment in the region stood steady at 9 percent in July with unemployment in Spain running at 11 percent. Manufacturers across the European Union have cut payrolls for 39 consecutive months.

U.S. manufacturers, meanwhile, have reported job growth in six of the past seven months.

Cleared for a pay cut

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In an effort to improve profitability, airlines are increasingly looking to pilots for concessions.

At Denver-based Frontier Airlines, the pilots union is pleased with a deal that moves the company's 500-plus pilots from a fixed monthly salary to an hourly pay system. Frontier officials expect costs to rise during the first six months of the new salary system, but believe costs will decline as scheduling efficiencies occur. The new plan also reduced the need for new pilots as the airline adds routes.

Labor negotiation isn't going as smoothly elsewhere. Delta management has warned of bankruptcy if it doesn't get deep wage cuts from its pilots. The company is seeking $1 billion in concessions; the union has offered $705 million.

At US Airways, management and pilots are discussing a new contract the airline says it needs to avoid a second trip into bankruptcy. Officials want about $800 million in labor cuts.

And at Continental Airlines, the pilots union and management agreed not to publicly denigrate one another as they begin new contract negotiations.

Balance Sheet

  • New personal bankruptcy filings declined to 1.6 million in the past 12 months, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Economists say the decline is likely to continue because of tighter credit-granting standards and an improving economy. Banks, credit card companies, and retailers are pushing for federal legislation to curb abuse of the bankruptcy system by people who can afford to repay their debts; opponents blame the credit card industry for making credit too easily available.
  • As retailers reported a third straight month of poor sales, even Wal-Mart Stores Inc. took a hit. The world's largest retailer suffered its weakest performance in more than 3 1/2 years in August. Analysts said higher gasoline prices and ongoing worries about jobs contributed to the poor showing for retailers nationwide in the important back-to-school shopping season.
  • Ford Motor Co.'s car sales are down 22 percent from last year while truck sales have grown just 1 percent, causing the company to announce a cutback on production in the fourth quarter of this year. Some analysts have speculated that General Motors Corp., the world's top automaker, also will be forced to trim production later this year because of inflated inventories.
  • A bankruptcy judge has approved the $786 million sale of Horizon Natural Resources-once the nation's fourth-largest coal company-to a group led by New York billionaire Wilbur Ross Jr. The new owners will divide the company into two entities, with International Coal Group owning most of Horizon's active mines and Old Ben Coal Co. made up largely of worked-out properties in need of reclamation.
  • A recent Associated Press poll found that most workers in the United States are satisfied with their jobs. About five in 10 workers found their jobs very satisfying, while four rated it somewhat satisfying. Those most likely to be very satisfied were over 30, white, married, college-educated, homeowners, and Republicans.

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