USA Today reports that government statistics indicated that the unemployment rate fell in 39 states in April despite rising in 3 states. The 3 states that lost jobs included Michigan, Minnesota and South Carolina. The national unemployment rate remains at 9%.
Retail sales slid in April casting a dent in the Dow
The Dow closed down 93 points on Friday primarily due to poor retail reports in April. The Gap and Aeropostale both reported sales were down 14% in April, as reported by the 'USA Today. The Associated Press reports that world markets are already down on Monday with U.S. futures down 90 points due primarily to credit downgrades slapped on Italy and Greece and slower growth in China.
Three states to reduce length of time for unemployment benefits
Three states, Michigan, Missouri and Arkansas have reduced the maximum number of weeks the jobless can receive state unemployment benefits, according to the Associated Press. Florida is believed to soon be following in the same path. Unemployment rates in these states range from 7.8%(Arkansas) to 11.1% (Florida). Thirty states borrowed $44 billion from the federal government to pay state unemployment claims. Usually state unemployment lasts for 26 weeks. Michigan and Missouri will reduce their payment time to 20 weeks while Arkansas will reduce to 25 weeks. State benefits are generally one third of an employees wages (up to a cap). States may want to increase the taxes on businesses . The amounts paid by businesses are historically low.
Federal pension plan under scrutiny
The Deficit Commission indicates it can save $51 billion by asking federal employees to contribute more to their retirement plan, according to the Washington Post. The Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) is a traditional defined benefit plan that pays a guaranteed monthly amount to employees upon retirement until their death. Few private companies currently offer these plans. Experts indicate that the government currently pays 12.7% of contributions to the federal employees compared to 5.3% paid by private employers.
Backlog of foreclosed homes not expected to lessen anytime soon
The New York Times indicates that banks currently own 872,000 homes, according to RealtyTrac. Home values are expected to fall another 5% nationally by year end 2011. It takes longer for foreclosed homes to sell due to extensive paperwork. Additionally, the compliance issues have slowed down additional foreclosures anticipated to occur this year. Experts indicate that banks do not have the staff to handle the foreclosures and the also lack the ability to unload the homes quickly. Despite this, many experts predict that things will slowly get better.
Cocoa fungus threatens chocolate supply
A fungus known as Frosty Pod Rot is threatening cocoa producers in Mexico and South America. The fungus will send futures prices higher. It has not yet arrived in Brazil or West Africa, some of the biggest cocoa producers.
Princess Beatrice's hat much sought after
Princess Beatrice posted the unusual hat she wore to the Royal Wedding up for sale on Ebay last week. The proceeds were pledged to UNICEF and Children in Crisis. The hat was purchased for $131,648.