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Investment Falls Off a Cliff

Wall Street Journal (11/19/12) Sudeep Reddy; Scott Thurm

A review by the Wall Street Journal of securities filings and conference calls finds that half of the nation’s 40 biggest publicly traded corporate spenders have announced plans to curtail capital expenditures this year or next, signaling more trouble for the economic recovery. Nationwide, business investment in equipment and software—a measure of economic vitality in the corporate sector—stalled in the third quarter for the first time since early 2009. Meanwhile, exports are slowing or falling to such critical markets as China and the euro zone as the global economy downshifts.

Corporate executives say they are slowing or delaying big projects amid easing demand and rising uncertainty. Uncertainty around the U.S. elections and federal budget policies also appear among the factors driving the investment pullback since midyear. Companies fear that a failure to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff will tip the economy back into recession by weakening consumer spending, damaging investor confidence, and cutting into corporate profits. A deal to avert the cliff could include tax-code changes, such as revamping tax breaks or rates, that hurt specific sectors. However, some observers say that if the White House and Congress strike a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, the economy could get a boost.

GDP Accelerating to 2.9 Percent Helping U.S. Overcome Sandy Woes

Bloomberg (11/18/12) Shobhana Chandra; Steve Matthews

The U.S. economy looks set to weather the headwinds from Hurricane Sandy and the budget battles in Washington after picking up speed in the third quarter, according to economists from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Barclays Plc. The economists say gross domestic product probably increased at about a 2.9% annual rate in July-September, which would be the fastest quarterly growth this year, beating the Commerce Department’s initial estimate of 2.0%.

“The economy’s momentum has picked up a bit” as the fundamentals of the private sector “are improving,” says Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs. While the damage from Sandy and an anticipated tightening of fiscal policy mean growth will decelerate this quarter and next, the world’s largest economy may emerge on stronger footing in the second half of 2013.

Wal-Mart Seeks to Head Off Worker Protest

Wall Street Journal (11/19/12) Shelly Banjo; Ann Zimmerman

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. filed an unfair-labor-practice complaint against a union the company says is behind plans for worker protests at its stores over the Thanksgiving holiday. Wal-Mart filed the complaint on Nov. 15 against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, asking the National Labor Relations Board to issue an injunction against worker rallies and pickets that have been staged at Wal-Mart stores and warehouses across the country for at least the last six months.

Wal-Mart employees have filed roughly 20 unfair-labor-practice charges since August with the National Labor Relations Board. Several of the charges have been dismissed or withdrawn and others are under review in the regions where they were filed. Wal-Mart confirms that it has taken actions such as sending instruction manuals to managers on how to legally respond to striking workers. So far the NLRB hasn’t issued any complaints related to the retail stores, but it has issued two complaints related to allegations at Wal-Mart warehouses.

UPS Offering Bonuses to Attract Seasonal Workers

Louisville Courier-Journal (Kentucky) (11/17/12) Sheldon Shafer

With about 400 seasonal positions still open, UPS is offering a $150 bonus to current employees who refer temporary holiday help hired to staff its Worldport air hub at Louisville International Airport. The seasonal employees also get the bonus if they stay through Dec. 31. Once hired, they can get another bonus if they refer another temporary worker.

“We have to make sure we are staffed” adequately for the holidays, says UPS spokesman Jeff Wafford. “We wanted to find a way to drum up interest and to get people into interviews. Working through our current employees is one way to do that.” UPS is offering the bonus, in part, because of the competition with other companies for more-qualified seasonal workers, according to Wafford. UPS plans to hire about 55,000 workers nationwide, which is similar to the amount of seasonal employees hired last year. The large majority of the temporary positions are for package handlers but there are a few jobs for drivers and driver helpers and also for a handful of other positions.

ASAPro Webinar Next Week—Health Care Reform After the Election

How will the 2012 election results affect compliance with the Affordable Care Act? Find out during the ASAPro Webinar “Post-Election Health Care Reform Update” Tuesday, Nov. 27, 3-4:30 p.m. Eastern time. A panel of legal and staffing industry experts will discuss the status of the Affordable Care Act and the steps staffing firms can take to ensure their compliance with the law.

ASAPro Webinars are free for ASA members and qualify for continuing education hours toward ASA certification renewal. Register online at