Economy still in Decline

Written by: Jason Garoutte

Warning sign stating Slow Economy Ahead.

Slow economy ahead.

The economy is still taking a blow and in a state of decline, despite the slight rise in the stock index seen recently as the DOW Jones index rose above 14,000 points for the first time since 2007. The unemployment rate in the United States as of January 2013 still remains at 7.9 percent with 12.3 million Americans still without work.

Another 8 million workers are considered “under-employed”, having been laid off from higher paying careers and having to settle for  lower paying jobs just to make ends meet. An estimated 2 or 3 million more have simply given up looking for work and are not counted in the government unemployment numbers which are based on applications for unemployment insurance from the Federal government.

It appears that these numbers may increase not only in the next few months but in the upcoming years with many giant retailers closing the doors on numerous locations across the country.

Economists measure economic decline by measuring the income for the whole economy, which is called gross domestic product or GDP. For a recession to take place there must be six straight months with a negative GDP report.

Based on that measure, Americans have been facing a recession for years now and even with the slight increase in the stock market index, there does not appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel any time soon. There are many factors why an economy might decline and economists don’t always agree on what those factors might be. Some of those factors include declines in the housing market, high unemployment, inflation, high oil prices, government spending, and taxes.

So why is the unemployment rate still at 7.9 percent? Businesses earn less profit during a recession and lay off workers, which leads to less demand for products. If enough workers lose their jobs throughout the economy, then many businesses will earn less in profits and continue to lay off more workers. Increased taxes and regulations can have a further downward pressure on both large and small businesses struggling to maintain profitability much less increase their profit levels.

This is still happening today as eight giant retailers are forecasting numerous closures in the upcoming years. J.C. Penney, who has been struggling since this recession started, continues to struggle. They are forecasting 300 to 350 store closures nationwide. The video game giant GameStop announced it will close the doors on 200 stores in the year 2013 alone, with 300 to 400 more closures to occur in following years.

Other giant retail companies forecasting closures are Best Buy, Sears, Barnes & Noble, Office Max, and Radio Shack. Between 2010 and 2011, Radio Shack closed over 120 locations with even more forecasted in the near future.

All of these store closures mean more and more citizens becoming unemployed, which would once again add to the unemployment rate, which is a leading indicator of economic decline.

Animal Shelter Closures Place Lost Pets at Risk

Cats are less likely than dogs to be returned to owners if lost.

Most lost cats are never returned to their owners.

Written by: Tamar Auber

The economic downtown has not spared our four legged friends. Several animal shelters throughout the United States shuttered their doors at the end of 2011 or are at risk of imminent closure, leaving many homeless and lost  pets literally out in the cold. The last hope for many cats and dogs, these non-profit animal organizations, such as the Kindred Spirit Animal Rescue in Ripley County, MO, cite the high cost of operations and lack of volunteers for the closings. As animal lovers, the news is disheartening. Less shelters mean that less deserving pets will be rescued or find homes in the coming year and many more may be left outside and vulnerable to being hit by cars or death by exposure. Yet as pet parents, another less obvious risk could ultimately harm our beloved pets. Without adequate shelters, what will happen to our furry friends if they are lost?

Animal shelters are often a first stop on the search when your cat or dog goes missing. Fortunately, most shelters regularly work hard reunite owners with their lost pets whenever possible. Shelter staff often rely on microchips or tattoos to reunify pets and owners. According to the ASPCA, animals with permanent markers are far more likely to be returned. However, once one local shelter has closed, remaining animal resources are bound to be overcrowded. This means fewer resources and less time will be available to care for and identify your pet and track you down if she is separated from you.

In fact, the lack of a well funded shelter for your lost pet can be downright deadly to your precious pooch or feline. At some overcrowded and under-funded animal shelters, such as California  facilities, owners are given only a few days to claim their pets before their pets risk being euthanized. A critical lack of staffing at some shelters also means that your pet may not easily be identified as owned by the shelter staff. Such is the case at the Miami-Dade Shelter which makes it clear that with its high volume of intake that the responsibility is on the owner, not the shelter to identify your lost pet. This trend will only continue as funding for animal care facilities decreases and shelters close, placing your pet at greater risk if she is ever lost.

As animal lovers and responsible pet owners, then, it is very important that we both support our local shelters and invest in micro-chipping or other ways to identify your pet, which is the fastes and easiest way to reunite owner with pet.

Many local shelters have an on-line wish list of items needed for their animal friends and donations of any form and any amount is welcome. If you cannot invest in pet care products or cash, consider volunteering at your local shelter. While you may end up cleaning cages or filing paperwork, your extra hands will allow the staff more time to care for homeless animals and help reunite lost pets.

Finally, if your pet is not micro-chipped or tattooed, ask your local ASPCA or veterinary service about the procedure. Micro-chipping is a safe, cost-effective way to help your pet find her way back home and ensure your lost pet does not end up in an overcrowded and understaffed animal shelter.

Retail Sales Drop; The Circle Of Recession Continues

Low ring-outs abound

This is the economic recovery that won’t get out of its own way.

Every time one sign points to a light at the end of the tunnel, the light just turns out to be an illuminated sign, pointing to another dim and winding path. Whenever unemployment numbers drop, it’s only about a week before we find out the economy actually lost jobs. When we hear the economy gained some jobs, we soon find unemployment actually ticked up. And now that a economists have rejoiced over better retail sales from a year ago, we get a report those sales actually took a pretty big tumble last month, which could mean just about anything … except impending economic recovery.

According to a government report, retail sales dropped 1.2 percent from April to May. There could be many reasons for the drop, ranging from weather to the timing of Labor Day, but the biggest one is most certainly high unemployment, which is really the only measure of economic recovery right now that matters to most people. Executives and major stockholders will get more excited over productivity and the GDP, but 99 percent of people won’t jump for joy until that translates into a thriving job market.

Since domestic sales account for more than two thirds of the U.S. economy, maybe executives and stockholders would best serve themselves by undertaking a united mass hiring; after all, unemployment is the real thing keeping the economy down. It would be like a private sector stimulus operation. Aren’t they the ones who say the private sector can do anything better than the government? Maybe they should prove it. Instead, companies are leery of any substantial hiring until a recovery begins, but it won’t. Nobody’s hiring.

Americans Crave Constant Connectability, but Banks Remain Closed on Sundays

Banking on your phone is smart

As the fortunes of the world rebound, today’s economy proves to be a wonderfuly exciting time to be in charge of a large financial institution. Bank executives should be ecstatic about the task at hand; currently speaking, industry wealth has saturated the financial institutions, and it just so happens that there’s a growing trend of techno-savvy consumers who are freakishly eager to embrace new gadgets and technologies, instead of getting motivated about learning how to incorporate new tools instead of their ever-evolving super-sophisticated smart phones/ mobile devices.

People want to make deposits from across the street

According to Red Gillen, a Celent analyst, every bank that he’d spoken with had reported that their adoption numbers exceeded expectations. A few notable statistics found in a recent research study by mobile tracking vendor Sybase 365 included: 67 percent of Americans who claim tat they prefer to be in constant contact; 69 percent report they use SMS; 39 percent expressed an interest in mobile banking, and another 32 percent would even change banks to take advantage of free mobile banking.

Despite the apparent American interest, the consumers of the US are lagging behind their European and Asian counterparts, who have adopted the widest range of mobile services that are theoretically available.  This can be expected when considering how American banks weren’t very quick on the draw.

Perhaps the banks don’t want to progress the system? Weird.

The Nissan Cube Wins Automobile Magazines 2010 Design of the Year

nissan cube

Nissan Cube

With all the boxy styled cars on the market why did the Nissan Cube win the 2010 Automobile Magazine Design of the Year Award, in a word charm.  The Cube is organic in appearance; it imbues a sense of limitless space once inside. 

Futuristic, yet retro the Cube appeals to all of the senses; it is not beautiful, it is not sexy but it will make you smile.  Available in four models you can build the look that fits your lifestyle.

The first thing that caught my eye was the wrap around rear/side window; it is unique and allows for greater visibility for the driver.  There is space for 5 people to comfortably enjoy the ride.  With 6 air bags for safety and gas mileage of up to 31 mpg this car is a winner.

The windows are inset from the surface with an asymmetrical rear side-hinged door accessing the storage area.  The interior is spacious, in fact it feels enormous.  There is ample headroom, elbow room and legroom accommodating even the tallest of passengers; 58 cubic feet in fact.  It feels like a limo at an economy price.

shag dash topper

Shag Dash Topper

The dashboard design has a wave pattern with circles in the headliner and door speakers, there are no hard edges to be seen and it gives one a sense of flow.  The buttons and switches are pleasing to the touch. 

Based on its aerodynamic design the wind noise is at a minimum.  It is filled with color options and whimsical features down to the shag circle dash topper.  This car just makes you smile.

Add to this IIHS picked the Cube as a 2010 Top Safety Pick and KBB named it one of its 2009 Top 10 Coolest Cars under $18,000.  If you are a recent grad Nissan will give you a $500.00 rebate for a limited time.  Looking cool on a budget never felt so good starting at $13,990, check it out.