Hopeful signs emerge for struggling jobs market


WASHINGTON/NEW YORK |
Thu Jul 5, 2012 1:50pm EDT

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Private employers stepped up hiring in June and the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits last week fell by the most in two months, hopeful signs for the struggling labor market.

But dark clouds continue to gather over the U.S. economy, with the vast services sector crawling forward at its slowest pace in nearly 2-1/2 years in June and retailers reporting sales below expectations, other data showed on Thursday.

The economy has been hit by turbulence from Europe’s debt crisis and fears of tax increases at home next year, undermining confidence among businesses and ordinary Americans.

In a sign of growing concern that the world economy is deteriorating, China, Britain and the euro zone all loosened monetary policy in quick succession earlier on Thursday.

The day’s data showed the U.S. economy has not completely lost steam, but it is not significantly accelerating either, said Anthony Chan, chief economist at Chase Wealth Management.

“We are still looking at an economy that is growing, and if labor market conditions continue to improve, that’s likely to give consumers the wherewithal to give the U.S. economy a second wind in the second half of the year,” he said.

U.S. private employers added 176,000 new workers to their payrolls last month, the ADP National Employment Report showed, after increasing 136,000 in May. The government will release its closely watched employment report for June on Friday.

ADP has a poor track record of predicting nonfarm payrolls. According to Barclays, its figures have differed from the government’s numbers by an average 50,000 jobs per month this year. Still, the report was another welcome sign for the labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 374,000 last week, the Labor Department said in a separate report. The four-week average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, fell 1,500 to 385,750.

“While tomorrow’s employment numbers may not be great, it is beginning to look like the labor market is not nearly as weak as feared,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania.

Nonfarm payrolls are expected to have increased 90,000 in June, according to a Reuters survey taken before Thursday’s data, after May’s 69,000 gain. The unemployment rate is seen steady at 8.2 percent after rising in May for the first time since August.

Citing a recent raft of encouraging labor market data, economists at Goldman Sachs on Thursday upgraded their outlook for June payrolls growth to 125,000 from 75,000, which had been near the lower end of the consensus forecast range.

Financial markets focused on the central banks’ moves. U.S. stocks were down modestly in midday trading, while Treasuries prices rose and the euro hit a one-month low against the dollar.

SERVICES SECTOR SLOWING

A separate report showed the number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms fell in June to the lowest level in over a year. Employers announced 37,551 planned job cuts last month, down from 61,887 in May, consultants Challenger, Gray Christmas said.

While the labor market picture is not deteriorating in the face of the growing uncertainty, other parts of economy are slowing significantly.

The pace of growth in the services sector eased in June to its slowest since January 2010 as new orders, including exports fell, a fourth report showed. Employment, however, rose after dipping in May.

The Institute for Supply Management’s services index fell to 52.1 last month from 53.7 in May. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector.

Still, the report should be considered “a bit of a relief” after ISM’s manufacturing report earlier in the week showed activity in the sector shrank, said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

Dales said the two reports are consistent with around a 1 percent annualized rate of growth after the first quarter’s 1.9 percent pace, and that the most reliable data does not suggest another recession is around the corner.

With the recovery flagging, the Federal Reserve last month eased monetary policy further by extending a program to re-weight bonds it already holds toward longer maturities to hold down borrowing costs.

“If we get a couple of more bad jobs reports, (Fed policymakers) will come in with more stimulus,” said John Canally, an economist at LPL Financial in Boston. “Today’s reports suggest they might hold off, but they will want to see more data before they decide.”

Stubbornly high unemployment and anxiety about the economy weighed on sales at top U.S. retailer last month, raising concerns shoppers are returning to penny-pinching.

Costco Wholesale Corp, Macy’s Inc, Kohl’s Corp and Target Corp were among the chains that reported disappointing June sales at stores open at least a year.

(Additional by Richard Leong in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Dow, S&P fall despite global central bank action


NEW YORK |
Thu Jul 5, 2012 12:29pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Dow and the SP 500 fell on Thursday, retreating from the biggest three-day rally of the year as investors geared up for a jobs report that is likely to show Europe’s crisis is weighing heavily on the U.S. economy.

The market derived no lasting benefit from reports showing rising private sector employment and falling claims for jobless benefits since investors traditionally give more weight to the monthly non-farm payrolls report due on Friday.

Financials were a weight on Wall Street, led by JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N). The Dow component was down 3.9 percent and exerted the biggest drag on the 30-stock average.

News that the U.S. service sector slowed to a 2-1/2-year low in June was more in line with investor fears that the euro zone debt crisis was sapping global growth, encouraging traders to take profits from the strong run that began last Friday and extended on Monday and Tuesday.

Economists expect the payrolls report to show increased hiring in June, but not by enough to dispel concerns that the recovery is losing steam as Europe’s debt debacle saps the strength of the global economy.

“The genesis of the economic decline we’re seeing is Europe. It is spilling everywhere,” said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.

“The market’s main focus continues unchanged and that is going to be the European debt crisis. I still think that is going to be the big news story that will have the greatest impact on stock movements.”

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI dropped 21.95 points, or 0.17 percent, to 12,921.87. The Standard Poor’s 500 Index .SPX dropped 3.77 points, or 0.27 percent, to 1,370.25. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC gained 5.07 points, or 0.17 percent, to 2,981.15.

The SP Financial index .GSPF fell 1.3 percent and the KBW Banks index .BKX was 1.4 percent lower.

Financials have often taken the brunt of selling during the European crisis, though they also enjoyed a good run during the recent rally.

The market was unimpressed by China, Europe and Britain all loosening monetary policy in the space of less than an hour.

If anything, it signaled a growing level of alarm about the world economy and none of the ECB’s moves were seen as dramatic enough to turn the tide on its crisis.

Meanwhile, Spain’s difficulties increased, with its 10-year borrowing costs rising despite the euro zone’s latest plan to help the region’s troubled economies.

Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O), Macy’s Inc (M.N), Kohl’s Corp (KSS.N) and Target Corp (TGT.N) were among the chains that reported disappointing June sales at stores open at least a year.

Costco shares were down 0.4 percent at $94.01 and Target shares fell 0.5 percent to $57.51.

(Editing by Dave Zimmerman)

Inspire Your Workforce: 3 Tips

You want to inspire your employees to greatness? Use these simple tips to increase performance and morale.

One of the reasons I founded The Trademark Company was to breath a Google-esq air of positivity and creativity into an industry long on tradition but notoriously bad on work-life balance. An industry renowned for its threat culture.

Recalling my experiences from the last big law firm for which I worked, I can still remember one head partner threatening to hang me by my tie until I was “[expletive omitted–it started with an F and ended with an “ing”] dead if I did not win the case.” Another partner would notoriously tear my trial strategy down for hours, insult me using derivations of colorful words that would make a gansta rapper blush, and then send me out the door with a “Don’t F this up!” And they wonder why they chewed threw lawyers like Dan Snyder chews through head coaches (it’s a Redskins reference).

But in my relatively brief time on this planet I am sure of this fact: negativity never inspires people to greatness. But through positive inspiration people can reach beyond what they thought possible and achieve the truly amazing.

Maybe in your business inspiration will not lead you to a world sports title. But it can increase your sales, better the attitude of your workforce, and reduce turnover among other benefits.

So how do you inspire those around you? Candidly, it is not that simple. You must look at it as a critical component of your job just like any other requirement. Here’s how:

1.  It’s Your Job…Do It

The first component to inspiring others is to realize that doing so is part of your job, it is your responsibility. Like any other employment responsibility, it does not matter if you are having a bad day, you still must get your job done. Troubles at home? So what? Doesn’t matter. Leave it at the door and inspire. Hard night out last night? Leave it at the door and inspire. Feeling a little under the weather? Bummed for you. Man up, leave it at the door and inspire.

The first step in inspiring your workforce is the most critical: recognizing that it is part of your job and performing that job irrespective of what else is going on in your life.

2.  Something to Aspire to

No one has ever been inspired to reach mediocrity. People are inspired to reach goals greater than they thought possible. In school we study to achieve the best grades. So in business we must remember this simple norm: people are inspired by a goal or a challenge, something they may not think possible but that you push them to reach.  Without a target, there is nothing to aspire to, nothing to inspire them towards.

So to truly inspire your workforce, you must set goals greater than your workforce thought possible. Setting goals bigger than them, more than they thought possible, establishes a critical component for inspiration: something to aspire to.

3.  Positive Enablement

The power of positivity cannot be understated. Negativity begets negativity. Positivity likewise breeds positivity.

You’ve heard about my experience with my last big firm. What you have not heard is my experience with my first. In 1996 I was fresh out of law school. I was hired by a small local Washington, D.C. firm to be a trial attorney in a busy mass torts and worker’s compensation practice. My bosses were former assistant U.S. Attorneys who, quite simply, knew how to try a case. They taught me everything I know about trial work. Within one year of going to work for them they had me trying my own cases (Thanks Pete and Ken).

But aside from the great training they consistently inspired their attorneys to achieve through positive enforcement. They impressed upon every one of their lawyers a belief that they could win every case and that justice would be done for their client. Before every trial they would always send you off saying something to the effect “You’re prepared, you’re ready, now go get it done.

For my first firm I tried about 150 solo cases. I can only remember losing about five. For my last firm-the cursing, tie-strangling bunch-I tried three cases, two with those head partners mentioned above, one alone for another partner. So how did we do? Well, in the two cases wherein I played the role of whipping dog we lost. In the one I was allowed to get away from all of the negativity and just do my own thing focusing on positivity and getting the job done-I won. Think positivity can have an impact?

So inspire your workforce every day. It’s your job, do it. Set lofty goals to allow them to reach higher than they thoughts possible. Then enable them to get their through positivity.

A Gen-Xer’s Rant: What’s Wrong with My Millennial Employees?

Doesn’t anyone under 30 want to work? One Gen-X business owner laments an all-too-common workplace generation gap.

Getty

I never imagined that the toughest problem I would have in running a multi-million dollar business would not be getting off the ground, staying afloat, or growing at a rapid pace. While all huge challenges, they’re a walk in the park compared to the biggest obstacle I’ve dealt with in five and a half years of business: recruiting a group of loyal, competent young employees under 30 years old.

I’d like to think my problem isn’t just that I’m an old fart. I own a luxury swimwear ecommerce platform (and most recently, a brick-and-mortar location in Miami Beach as well) with my husband. We’re thirty-two-year-old owners with a startup mentality. We like to think we care deeply about our culture, frequently discussing our values and hosting regular company Happy Hours. I like to think that though always busy, we’re a very engaging and passionate company with a slew of opportunities for growth. When I was 23, I used to dream about being part of a company that cared about what I thought, that saw my true potential and gave me challenging responsibilities. Turns out, our millennial staffers don’t really see it that way–and, while I know that I can’t generalize my experience to a whole generation, I also doubt that my young employees are unique.

Here’s my list of grievances:

They’re cocky.

I have yet to give a millennial a leadership position and have them accept their new role with humility. Once you give them a fancy title like Assistant Buyer or Marketing Specialist they automatically seem to think they’re God’s gift to you, your clients, and your other employees. They’re not afraid to speak to others in a condescending manner or even to talk back to you. They nonchalantly move through life doing things I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing to any of my superiors, let alone the owner of my company, when I was their age.

They take things for granted.

Millenials seem to think they have a ton of options. Even in a recession-hobbled economy, with very few challenging entry level job openings and even fewer in the fashion industry, 20-somethings seem to think their options are endless. That makes them less aware of how grateful they should be for the things they have, especially the unique opportunity to get paid to learn the ins and outs of a luxury-industry start-up. Recent graduates (regardless of where they went to school) from time immemorial have been asked to make copies and bring people coffee. Millennials, on the other hand, seem to think someone should have rolled out the red carpet when they popped out of school.

They think they’re exempt from rules

I don’t remember the last time I told a new employee something that he or she followed verbatim the first time. In the beginning, before they understand implicitly that carelessness is not a value we favor, almost all millennials demonstrate they don’t care what the consequences of their actions will be. These are all activities they seem to think are normal: sending emails to clients with blatant grammatical mistakes, knowingly telling customers incorrect information (because they think that’s a better answer), and ignoring an inquiry from their boss. 

They don’t follow through

If they end the day without finishing a task, they’ll come in the next morning and forget they needed to finish it. I see myself explaining over and over the term “follow-through,” as if it were some complex mathematical equation that only rocket scientists could grasp. Our normal expectation for an adult over 21 is that they are able to take care of tasks with little supervision without having to be reminded. But that’s not the case, with even our most responsible millennials.

They don’t want to pay their dues

It’s the Culture of Now for them, and frankly, this makes our fairly minor age difference seem like the gap of a century. When I graduated from college, my peers and I were fully aware that our first year or two in the workforce would be spent in dull jobs, because you have to start from the bottom and work your way up. That mentality got me where I am today. Too many of my young staffers seem to think they’re entitled to a high salary and the most glamorous tasks when they have no experience or proven track record.

Do you have this problem? I feel like breaking open the anti-suicide windows of my 21st floor office and shouting, “calling all smart, stable, and humble fashion-oriented people, can you please show up to work today? On time?”

3 Dumb Moves Entrepreneurs Make

No one said starting a business would be easy. But don’t make it harder on yourself with these dumb mistakes.

The 8 most common start-up mistakes

shutterstock images

No one said starting a new business would be easy–in fact it’s pretty tough. But many entrepreneurs make it much harder than it needs to be with dumb mistakes that can quickly kill their businesses. So says Victor Green, author of How to Succeed in Business by Really Trying, and a serial entrepreneur who’s launched several successful companies, and has spent the past 15 years consulting with other entrepreneurs.

Here are the biggest blunders:

1. Skimping on research.

“The most important mistake people make is they fail to research their ideas sufficiently. They talk to their mother, and their father, and their friends, and all these people say, ‘You’re so smart!’ Unfortunately, these people won’t be your customers.”

The only way to find out if an idea will actually work is to test it in the actual marketplace, Green says. “And once you’ve researched it, get a much wider look at how the industry will progress. You may have something that’s a good idea on day one, but will it continue to be a good idea over time?”

2. Focusing on revenues rather than profits.

If your main concern is revenues and how they’re growing, you’re missing the most important part of the picture, Green says. “So many people are driven by that sales figure. They’ll say, ‘I did ten million in sales last month.’ I say, ‘How much did you earn?’ They say, ‘We’re sort of breaking even.’ Then what are you running a business for? I call that vanity vs. sanity!”

Of course, Green concedes, most start-ups aren’t profitable right away. “It may take you five years to make a profit. But the purpose of a business is to make a profit, and you have to be honest with yourself about whether you can do that.”

3. Never giving up.

It’s the moral of a thousand Hollywood movies: Never lose heart! Don’t quit when the going gets tough! But this attitude leads to trouble in the business world, Green says.

“People drive themselves to keep up an appearance because their egos get so inflated,” Green says. “Will you say, ‘I’ve been killing myself for two years, I’ve got $2 million invested, and I’m going to carry on no matter what.’ Or will you be sensible enough to say, ‘I’m a grownup. I’m going to shut this business down, it won’t affect me, and I’ll start again.”

Being willing to pull the plug on your own creation is the test of a true entrepreneur, he adds. “I always congratulate people who tell me, ‘I’m going to pull the plug–it’s not working.’ Every person in business will have a failure during their life, and if they say they don’t I can only think that they have a very poor memory. Do you do most things right? If you get things right 51% of the time, you’re ahead of the game.”

Don’t Do Office Politics? Then You Don’t Do Leadership

“Politics” is a nasty word, implying that business leaders who practice it are insincere, glad-handing, and superficial. Get over it.

Office Politics

Flickr

Recently a corporate executive told me, “I don’t do politics.”

If you don’t do politics, how are you going to get anything done? It is a simple reality that political competence is an essential part of leadership and entrepreneurial success.

So why do you recoil from the word? The problem, of course, is with the word itself.

Don’t be a Princeling

For too many, it brings back memories of Machiavelli’s The Prince and his creepy adage: “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.” You cringe at the idea of being seen as the smiling politician, shaking his constituents’ hands even as he prospers at their expense.  

The error here lies in failing to realize that politics is a leadership skill, not a moral position. Leaders who are politically competent understand that they need the support of others to succeed. They appreciate when and when not to act. They anticipate who will support or resist their agenda, and they determine whose support is needed to move an agenda forward. Political competence is knowing how to map the human terrain at your business, how to get others on your side, and how to lead coalitions.  You don’t need to spend all day slapping backs, or kissing babies, or flattering people you hate. But you do need to be politically competent.

To become politically competent, you need to work on these three key skills:

Anticipation

To get things done, you have to see the world through the eyes of others. You have to fixate not on the beauty and righteousness of your ideas, but rather on how others will react to what you are trying to accomplish. Too many leaders spend too little time anticipating. They over-focus on what they’re trying to do and underemphasize the roadblocks others may put in their way. Before you say or do anything you have to understand the agendas of those around you. Anticipating the arguments they’ll make is the first of the skills you need.

    Negotiation

      Winning others to your position is essentially an act of negotiation. The most successful leaders know with whom to negotiate, when to negotiate, what to promise and what not to promise. You have to articulate your message to get the buy-in and hone it in such a way that others will see the benefits of supporting you. That way you negotiate from a position of credibility and don’t appear as if you’re trying to push your agenda over the interests of everyone else.

         Coalition Building

          You need to foster and maintain a sense of a continuous common purpose. That’s just essential to moving your ideas ahead. But remember: while you may now have the support of others, that support may be fragile. As you move the agenda forward, the collective purpose may weaken. To prevent that, you need to develop the ability to deal with internal conflict and to control counter-coalitions.

             Without mastering these three skills, you will–not to put too fine a point on it–fail as a leader. You can have the best of intentions, the most brilliant of ideas, and the most exquisite processes of execution, but you’ll never be able to get others to buy in.

             If you want to get the things done that need to be done at your company, you have to throw out the negative undertones of the word “politician.” Think of another, less pejorative word: Like Diplomat. Fixer. Mensch. Or–oh, yeah–leader. 

            Mexican drug cartel groomed Texas teen as killer at 13

            When most teens are entering high school, Rosalio (Bart) Reta was killing. At age 13, the Laredo, Texas, native was brought into the notorious Zetas drug cartel across the border in Mexico, where he committed his first murder, he says.

            Groomed to be an assassin, Reta worked as a sicario for the crime syndicate, carrying out hits and kidnappings as part of a three-man cell based in Laredo. The pay was good — between $10,000 and $50,000 per hit, plus a weekly retainer and occasional gifts of posh cars. But that’s not what drew him in, Reta says.

            “It didn’t even start like that. I was doing good in school. I had no problems. I just, I don’t know, in the blink of an eye, everything went sour,” he tells Keith Boag of CBC’s The National in a prison interview in Texas.

            And over the next four years, he says, he killed more than 30 people, mostly in Mexico but also in the United States. He’s now serving a 70-year sentence in a Texas penitentiary.

            In his interview with CBC News, Reta reveals some of the inner workings of one of Mexico’s most depraved and violent drug cartels.

            WikiLeaks publishes ’embarrassing’ Syrian emails

            The secret-spilling group WikiLeaks said Thursday it was in the process of publishing material from 2.4 million Syrian emails — many of which it said came from official government accounts.

            WikiLeaks’ Sarah Harrison told journalists at London’s Frontline Club that the emails reveal interactions between the Syrian government and Western companies, although she declined to go into much further detail.

            Harrison quoted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as saying that “the material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s external opponents.”

            WikiLeaks only posted a handful of the documents to its website Thursday, but the disclosure — whose source WikiLeaks has not made clear — wouldn’t be the first major leak of Syrian emails.

            In February, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published excerpts of what it said were emails hacked from Syrian servers by Anonymous, the shadowy Internet activist group. In March, Britain’s Guardian newspaper published emails it sourced to Syrian opposition activists.

            The messages appeared to catch the glamorous wife of Syrian President Bashar Assad shopping for pricey shoes while her country slipped toward civil war.

            Harrison said the WikiLeaks emails dated from August 2006 to March 2012 and originated from hundreds of different domains, including Syria’s ministry of presidential affairs.

            Harrison said her group was “statistically confident” that the body of material was genuine.

            Assange, who is currently seeking asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, was not at the brief presentation. He is wanted by British police for possible extradition to Sweden to face questions about alleged sexual misconduct there.

            He has denied wrongdoing but faces arrest if he leaves the embassy.

            Harrison acknowledged that WikiLeaks is facing “a difficult time at the moment” but said “we are continuing to work through that.”

            © The Associated Press, 2012
            The Canadian Press

            ‘Trojan’ software extorts money with fake legal threat

            RCMP fraud investigators are warning of a new variant of a malicious software “Trojan” that extorts money from users by claiming to deliver a message from law enforcement officials.

            The Reveton Trojan, once downloaded and activated, causes computers to seize and display a fraudulent message purporting to come from the RCMP, CSIS, FBI or some other law-enforcement agency.

            A Trojan is software that often masquerades as a legitimate and useful or desired file or program.

            Once downloaded onto a computer, it can attempt to take over the computer, steal information or replicate itself.

            Its name is derived from the Trojan Horse of Greek mythology, the “gift” from the Greeks to the Trojans, allowing Greek soldiers hiding in the horse to get inside the gates of Troy.

            The first examples of the scam in Canada earlier this year purported to be from CSIS. After the computer freezes, a pop-up message appears saying the computer has been linked to the downloading of child pornography. It tells users they can unfreeze their computer by making a $100 payment through an online channel such as Ukash or PaySafe.

            Daniel Williams, an RCMP officer with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre in North Bay, Ont., said the scammers have now moved on from their original scenario.

            “More recently they’ve been claiming that the illegal behaviour the consumer is accused of is downloading music,” said Williams.

            “The consumer’s computer is locked, and they’re being requested to send a fee of $100 by Ukash in order to have their computer freed up,” said Williams.

            Paying fee solves nothing

            Paying the fee doesn’t free up the computer, which remains infected with malware. People whose computers are infected with the Trojan will need to find and remove the software or get a computer technician to assist them before the computer can resume operation.

            Williams said that it might seem far-fetched that the RCMP would offer to unlock a child pornographer’s computer in exchange for an internet payment of $100, but the scammers are counting on the initial shock of the criminal allegation to addle people’s normal reasoning.

            The Finland-based security firm F-Secure first identified the Reveton Trojan and said “ransomware” variations of it have been seen in Canada, the United States and across Europe.