The economy: Another grim jobs report
U.S. companies axed 600,000 jobs in January, pushing the unemployment rate to 7.6 percent and dimming “chances for a recovery this year,” said Conor Dougherty in The Wall Street Journal. Last week’s Labor Department report showed employment shrinking in nearly every sector of the economy, from construction to manufacturing to tourism. The job losses in the service sector are especially “worrying to economists,” because “during most recessions, service-related jobs tend to hold up.” The vanishing service jobs, said Harvard economist Lawrence Katz, “show how widespread the downturn is and how uncertain firms are about the future.”
“Job cuts are moving up the age and educational ladders,” said Christopher Rugaber in the Associated Press. The number of laid-off workers older than 55 jumped sharply from the year-earlier period, and many of those workers were professionals with advanced degrees. That’s a big change from the initial stages of the current downturn, when layoffs were largely confined to construction, manufacturing, and retail, “where workers are generally younger and tend not to have a college degree.”
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Autos: Nissan slashes jobs
Nissan this week said it would lay off 20,000 workers, or 8.5 percent of its global head count, said Bettina Wassener in The New York Times. The Japanese workforce of Japan’s third largest carmaker will bear the brunt of the cuts, losing 12,000 jobs. Nissan also said it would reduce production this year to 787,000 vehicles, “down 20 percent from its previous production plan.” U.S. car sales have tumbled, forcing Japanese manufacturers “to step up their cutbacks in recent months.”
Media: Murdoch empire wobbles
News Corp. last week reported a $6.4 billion loss in its fiscal second quarter, after it wrote down the value of its media properties, said Sarah Rabil in Bloomberg.com. The company said that advertising sales shriveled at The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, as well as at its local TV stations. The write-downs reinforce critics’ charge that Murdoch overpaid when he bought the Journal in 2007 for $5.6 billion.
Music: LiveNation, Ticketmaster to join forces
Concert promoter LiveNation this week announced plans to merge with Ticketmaster to create a $6 billion live-entertainment “giant,” said Daniel Kreps in Rollingstone.com. Bruce Springsteen led an outpouring of criticism over the deal, which could lead to a near-monopoly over U.S. concert ticket sales. Springsteen already had a beef with Ticketmaster because fans who logged on to Ticketmaster recently to buy tickets for his upcoming tour were redirected to the company’s TicketsNow site, where they were offered tickets priced above face value, even though face-value seats were still available. “The abuse of our fans has made us as furious as it has made many of you,” Springsteen said.
Electronics: Amazon upgrades the Kindle
Online retailer Amazon this week rolled out a thinner, lighter version of its Kindle electronic book reader, with “seven times the memory of the original version” and a “crisper black-and-white display,” said Brad Stone and Motoko Rich in the International Herald Tribune. Like the original Kindle, the Kindle 2 lists for $359. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos laid out “ambitious goals” for the gadget. “Our vision is every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds,” he said.
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