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Jobs machine

Business | Most economists believe that total employment will continue its upward ascent

Issue: "UN: Kofi's crisis," Dec. 18, 2004

Despite lower-than-expected job growth in November, the fact that employers continued to add jobs leads most economists to believe that total employment will continue its upward ascent in the coming months.

That's good news for President Bush, who was hammered over a "jobless recovery" during the recent presidential campaign. Democrats stated that Mr. Bush was the first president since Herbert Hoover to oversee a net loss in jobs. But that oft-repeated claim might just turn out to be false. The U.S. economy has added more than 400,000 jobs in the last two months, and analysts say stronger job growth could occur as companies exhaust their ability to squeeze more work out of existing employees.

Since hitting rock bottom with a loss of 2.6 million jobs in August 2003, about 152,000 jobs have been added each month to the U.S. job market. That means with the 112,000 new jobs added in November, a total of 2.3 million jobs have been created in the past 15 months. With just two more months of "average" growth, the Bush administration would complete its first term in the black.

Retro retail

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While many experts expected the internet to render retail catalogs obsolete, it appears that the catalog is fighting back.

The Direct Marketing Association says that while internet sales will climb 27 percent to $52 billion this year, catalog sales are expected to grow 6.7 percent to $143 billion. At this rate, internet sales won't surpass catalog orders until 2010. That's why L.L. Bean recently announced that it has no plans to scale back its mailings of 200 million catalogs each year even as its online sales should surpass catalog orders in two years.

L.L. Bean executives may be aware that sales at Lands' End dropped in 1999 after the company cut back on the number of catalogs it sent out. And even eBay, the epitome of e-commerce, is adopting the catalog approach, sending out a 32-page holiday catalog to millions of its customers this month. Catalog items will list an average selling price for the company's auction items and direct shoppers to eBay's popular website.

Retailers are now realizing that catalogs are an important marketing tool for driving customers to any of their multi-channel outlets, whether traditional brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce, or old-fashioned orders over the phone.

"The companies don't care [which channel] you buy from," said DMA's Amy Blankenship, "as long as you buy from them."

Balance Sheet

  • Clear Channel Communications, the nation's largest radio station operator, has chosen Fox News Radio to become the primary source of national news for most of its news and talk stations. The five-year agreement will initially cover 100 stations.
  • In November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of Americans holding more than one job rose by 346,000 to 7.6 million. Conversely, about 8 million people are categorized as unemployed.
  • Sales of natural Christmas trees have dropped from 27.8 million to 23.4 million since 2001, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. During that same period, artificial tree sales have risen from 7.3 million to 9.6 million.
  • State and local governments will be barred from taxing connections that link people to the internet for the next three years under legislation signed by President Bush. The measure blocks taxation of all types of internet connections, from traditional dial-up services to high-speed broadband lines.
  • India's central bank expects growth of between 6 percent and 6.5 percent this year, down from a 15-year high of 8.2 percent in 2003. Rising inflation, higher oil prices, and insufficient rainfall in some parts of the country have contributed to the slowdown.

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