Saturday :: Aug 7, 2004

Clowning Around As The Jobs Go Down

by pessimist


U.S. stocks end at 2004 lows after weak jobs data

U.S. stocks closed at the lowest levels of the year on Friday after weaker-than-expected data from the July jobs report prompted investor skepticism about the strength of the U.S. economic recovery.


Sykes to shut Fla. call center

Sykes Enterprises has informed Florida officials that it will close its Marianna call center, and will lay off 145 of its Marianna employees Saturday and the remaining 121 on Oct. 2. The disclosure came just weeks after the Tampa company said it would shutter its only other Florida call center, located in Palatka. The announcement Tuesday brings to nine the number of U.S. call centers that Sykes plans to close in 2004. Only five other U.S. call centers will remain: Bismarck, N.D.; Wise, Va.; Morganfield, Ky.; Ponca City, Okla.; and Sterling, Colo. At one time, Sykes had nearly 20 call centers in the United States.

Total layoffs among the nine facilities to be closed this year is expected to exceed 2,500.

Let's see - economic strength through unemployment. Think this trick works? The investors do!


Analyst Brandon Dobell of Credit Suisse First Boston said in a research memo this week that Sykes' migration overseas is a good strategy, and he continues to rate its stock a "buy" despite recent setbacks. "The economics of the offshore opportunity continue to be compelling, driven by a labor arbitrage between the U.S. and countries with large, well-educated English speaking populations," he wrote. "(Sykes) is the best way to play the offshoring trend."

An outsourcer, Sykes handles customer service for such clients as Microsoft and SBC Communications via its global network of nearly 40 call centers. Like many of its competitors, the company is shutting down U.S. call centers and opening up new ones in offshore locales like the Philippines and India, where relatively low wages allow Sykes to meet client demands for reduced pricing.

Separately, Sykes confirmed that it fired eight members of its 15-person "Americas" sales force last week. The company's Americas division covers call centers located in the United States, Canada, Latin America, India and the Pacific Rim. "If the sales were stronger," spokesman Jeff Tucker said, "the people would probably still be employed."

HEL-LOOOOOO!!!!!! If people were still employed, then sales would be stronger!!!

People without good-paying jobs don't have much money to buy things. Are these guys really so far out there that they fell off the edge of the Earth and can't understand this? I guess so!


Here's another little dose of reality for these bozos (apologies to professional bozos everywhere):

9 million lost health coverage since 2001, study says

The number of Americans with employer-paid health coverage fell dramatically from 2001 to 2003, with about 9 million people losing coverage, according to a national study released Aug. 2. The Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) said the proportion of Americans under 65 with employer coverage fell from 67% in 2001 to 63% in 2003. Because of the recession, there was a notable drop in the proportion of the U.S. population in a family with at least one worker: 84.2% of the under-65 population was in a working family in 2001 compared with 81.4% in 2003, according to the HSC study.

Public programs such as Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program took up the slack, preventing a big increase in the number of uninsured. Those public programs saw almost 5 million low-income children added to their rolls from 2001 to 2003. "Clearly, public insurance expansions provided a safety net for millions of people -- especially children -- who otherwise probably would have lost coverage as the country moved through a recession and jobless recovery," said Paul B. Ginsburg, Ph.D., president of HSC, a nonpartisan research group funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"While the economic downturn reduced employment and accounted for much of the decline in employer coverage, the rapidly rising cost of health insurance, which increased about 28% between 2001 and 2003, likely contributed to the decline as well," said HSC health researcher Bradley C. Strunk, who co-authored the study with HSC senior health researcher James D. Reschovsky.

Employer-paid coverage for the poorest families -- those families of four making $36,800 a year or less -- fell to 32.5% from 37.4% from 2001 to 2003. But the percentage enrolled in public insurance programs leaped from 37.9% to 49.3% in that time. As private insurance is expected to continue its decline, government coverage can't be counted on to provide a safety net in the future, the authors noted.

At present, about 43 million Americans have no health insurance coverage, either public or private.


This situation doesn't look like it's going to be getting any better soon.

Job Growth Anemic, Markets Stunned

U.S. employers added just 32,000 workers to payrolls last month, a surprisingly weak number that led Wall Street to fret about second-half economic growth and to expect a slower pace of interest-rate rises. Economists said the data, coming only days before the Federal Reserve's next meeting, showed the economy had yet to regain momentum after a speed bump in June. Expectations on Wall Street had centered on a 228,000-job gain.

The Labor Department on Friday also cut its tally of job growth in May and June by a combined 61,000, adding to the soft tenor of a report that came as unwelcome news for an election-bound President Bush. "It's a huge disappointment, a big surprise," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Fla. Analysts said the report spelled trouble for Bush, who is locked in a close battle for the White House with Democratic Sen. John Kerry in which the economy, and job creation in particular, are commanding the spotlight.

Some economists said the report suggested businesses were holding off on hiring in the face of surging oil prices and uncertainty caused by the potential for terror attacks and the looming U.S. elections. The jobs report, however, raised doubts over how quickly the economy might bounce back. Factories added 10,000 workers in July, after cutting 1,000 in June, while construction firms hired just 4,000 new workers. The service side of the economy put in a poor showing as well, creating only 14,000 new jobs.

July's overall gain was the smallest since December and well short of the 150,000 or so jobs economists say need to be created each month just to keep pace with an expanding labor force and ensure the unemployment rate doesn't rise.


Poor Jobs Figure a Sharp Blow to Bush - Analysts

Disappointing job creation figures issued Friday were a sharp blow to President Bush, making it much more difficult for him to argue on the campaign trail that the economy has turned the corner, analysts and pollsters said.

"This is not good news for the president, especially since his approval ratings on the economy had begun to inch up a little to around 47 or 48 percent," said Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center. "It also comes at a very bad time, just when voters have started to pay closer attention to the conditions they see around them when they consider whether Bush deserves another four years," he said.

Adding to the administration's woes, crude oil prices are at a record high, which will soon be reflected at gas stations and throughout the economy. "Pocketbook issues remain central to the way people think about their voting decisions, even in a time of war. This kind of figure could have a big impact," said Karlyn Bowman of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Still, pollster John Zogby said not much was going well for Bush on the economy. "People are not feeling job growth in their communities. The president's approval ratings on the economy are stuck in the low 40s in my polling, which is not high enough for him to feel any confidence," he said.

Some analysts fault Kerry for not seizing on economic issues aggressively enough at last week's Democratic National Convention and said he needed to make a stronger case. "The reality is, Kerry has not picked up on this opportunity very much. Now he has real ammunition but he needs to show a clear alternative," said political scientist Robert Holsworth of Virginia Commonwealth University. The figures are likely to infuse Democrats with renewed confidence they can win many of the highly competitive swing states in the Midwest, America's industrial heartland.

Said University of Texas political scientist Bruce Buchanan: "This is a golden opportunity for Kerry to seize the upper hand."


He might be so prompted after seeing these articles:

Poll: John Kerry Enjoys Wide Lead in California

A Field Poll of 633 Californians between July 30 and Aug. 4 found that 51 percent favored challenger Kerry against 40 percent for Bush. Seven percent of those polled were undecided in the survey, which had a 4.1 percent margin of error. The latest numbers have changed little from a Field Poll in May, which found 51 percent backing Kerry and 39 percent behind the incumbent.

Kerry leads Bush among NH voters

John Kerry leads George W. Bush among likely voters in New Hampshire, according to a survey by the American Research Group. A total of 49 percent of likely voters say they would vote for Kerry if the Presidential election were being held today and 42 percent say they would vote for Bush. A total of 2 percent of likely voters say they would vote for Ralph Nader and 7 percent of likely voters are undecided. Kerry has gained the lead by strengthening his support among Democrats. In a race between just Bush and Kerry, Kerry is at 50 percent and Bush is at 43 percent.

These results are based on 600 completed telephone interviews among a statewide random sample of likely voters in New Hampshire. Of the 600 likely voters, 34 percent are registered as Republicans, 30 percent are registered as Democrats, and 36 percent are undeclared voters (independents).

Kerry Has Double-Digit Lead in N.J.

John Kerry has reclaimed a healthy lead in Democratic-leaning New Jersey, where he holds a double-digit lead over President Bush , according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday. The poll, taken after the Democratic National Convention, found Kerry with the backing of 49 percent, Bush with 36 percent and independent Ralph Nader with 6 percent. In a late June Quinnipiac poll, Kerry had 46 percent, Bush 40 percent and Nader 7 percent.

"This is the kind of lead you expect a Democratic candidate to have in Democratic New Jersey," said Clay Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Kerry's popularity increased after the convention, with 38 percent now viewing him favorably and 25 percent unfavorably. Bush was viewed favorably by 34 percent and unfavorably by 43 percent. Terrorism and security were picked as the top issues by voters, followed by Iraq and then the economy and jobs.


California is no real surprise to me, but the numbers reflecting the voter registration in New Hampshire, and the issues in New Jersey, tell me that Bu$h is losing his support badly. John F. Kerry is gaining support from people who should be Bu$h supporters on the issues that should be Bu$h'$ strengths.

Granted, there are still some 80+ days before the election, and the terror attack from the Rovian Imperious Jihad may yet strike, but right now it's looking like the Crawford Clown is going Down!

(Apologies to professional clowns everywhere)

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pessimist :: 12:09 PM :: Comments (12) :: Digg It!