Business Trends

Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

Majority of Americans Pessimistic About Economic Recovery

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2009 at 10:35 pm

As 2009 comes to a close and Obama’s popularity dwindles, the majority of Americans are filled with significant uncertainty and anxiety about the state of the US economy – and its prospects for a quick recovery in the New Year.

Of the 1,000 Americans surveyed by telephone over the weekend by polling firm StrategyOne, nearly 9 in 10 Americans (87%) believe the US is still in a recession and 3 in 4 (78%) disagree with economic experts that the US is no longer in a recession.

Despite increasingly optimisic talk from experts about the health of economy, just 1 in 4 (26%) believe the economy will recover fully by the end of 2010. Instead, the majority of Americans – 51% – believe the economy won’t fully recover and be back on track until sometime until the end of 2011 – or even 2012. A frighteningly high 15% believe the economy will never fully recover.

“Consumers appear more likely to believe the economy has stabilized compared to the summer, but see a pretty long road to full economic recovery,” said Bradley Honan, Senior Vice President of StrategyOne, who authored the survey. “15% of US consumers believing a full recovery won’t ever take place speaks to how deeply scarred America has been left by the recession – and how the hangover is likely to last well beyond the ‘official’ end of the recession.”

The StrategyOne survey also found that slightly more people believe that the economy is on the wrong track (48%) than on the right track (44%), and most Americans believe the economy has either “not yet bottomed out and will get worse” (34%) or that “it’s at the bottom and not getting better or worse” (19%).

That’s not to say that opinions are not shifting more positively though, indeed they are. For example, Americans are not nearly as negative about the state of the economy as they were in July.

Today 42% say the economy has “bottomed out and is getting better” compared with just 30% who felt that way in July of this year. The current StrategyOne survey found that the youngest consumers polled, those 18-34 years of age, were most likely (50%) to believe the economy has already “bottomed out and is getting better” compared with just 38% of those 55 years and older, who feel the same way. There is clearly a significant generational gap about perceptions of the economy today.

“It’s clear some of the positive discussion about the economic recovery has broken through – but there is still much, much more consumers need to hear to regain their confidence in the direction of our economy,” said Bradley Honan of StrategyOne.

Survey Methodology:

StrategyOne conducted 1,000 telephone interviews among a representative sampling of Americans between December 16 and 20, 2009. The overall margin of sampling error at the 95% level of confidence is = +/- 3.1% overall and larger for subgroups. Statistical weights were designed from the United States Census Bureau statistics.

Latest Senate Health Bill Continues to Overlook Plight of Small Businesses

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2009 at 12:15 am

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council recently announced that the latest version of the Senate health care bill continues to ignore the plight of U.S. small businesses, and instead burdens them with additional taxes and regulations that will drive business costs even higher.

“Rather than moving in a direction that heeds the concerns of small business, the Senate health bill imposes an even higher tax burden on our sector while retaining other tax, regulatory and compliance measures that will drive business and health coverage costs higher,” said SBE Council President & CEO Karen Kerrigan.

According to SBE Council, the “manager’s amendment” put forward by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid raises the Medicare payroll tax higher (from 0.5 percent to 0.9 percent), and exposes small businesses in the construction industry to a punishing employer mandate that will cripple this already hurting sector. The bill singles out the construction industry by not exempting businesses in this sector from the “play-or-pay” employer mandate that other firms with 50 or fewer employees are exempt from (although it does exempt construction firms with five employees or less). The latest Reid bill also increases the individual mandate penalty/tax, which will hit the self-employed, and maintains an array of other tax hikes and regulatory requirements that will drive up the cost of health coverage for small business.

Kerrigan said changes to the tax credits aimed toward helping small business are too insignificant to outweigh the cumulative cost load of the overall bill.

“The changes that were added to mollify small business concerns are too minuscule and complex,” said Kerrigan.

SBE Council has urged the Senate to start the legislative process over, and include small business reforms within the core bill. The group has long advocated a national marketplace for health care, robust tax incentives for businesses and individuals, the expansion of health savings accounts, tax parity for the self-employed, medical liability reform as well as support for local and state programs that are helping to deliver health care and insurance to those who lack access. Such market reforms and tax incentives will do far more to cover the uninsured — and at far less cost to taxpayers — than the $2.5 trillion Reid bill, according to SBE Council.

Actuaries Detail Health Care Reform Concerns to Congressional Leaders

The American Academy of Actuaries has detailed concerns for congressional leaders to consider as they negotiate combining the House and Senate versions of health care reform legislation. The actuaries underscored the need to limit adverse selection, whether it is stemming from new issue and rating restrictions or inherent with the current design of a new federal long-term care insurance program better known as the CLASS Act.

“Adverse selection occurs when higher-risk individuals are more likely to purchase coverage while lower-risk individuals are more likely to forgo coverage,” said Cori Uccello, the senior health fellow for the American Academy of Actuaries. “The result is that premiums increase.”

The actuaries said that an effective and enforceable individual mandate will minimize adverse selection resulting from more restrictive issue and rating rules that are included in both versions of health care reform legislation.

“The individual mandate language should be strengthened,” Uccello said. “The viability of health care reform depends on attracting lower-risk individuals. Strengthening the mandate through higher financial penalties and non-financial incentives would increase the likelihood that these individuals will purchase coverage.”

Regarding the CLASS Act, the actuaries continued to express their concerns regarding adverse selection issues that are likely to lead to high premiums and could threaten the viability of the program. The actuaries recommended adding eligibility restrictions to the program to limit adverse selection.

The actuaries also addressed other significant areas of the bills including an excise tax on employer-sponsored coverage, grandfathering provisions and medical loss ratios.  The letter is available at: http://www.actuary.org/pdf/health/differences_jan10.pdf.

Related Links

IBISWorld industry reports:
Global Direct Life, Health and Medical Insurance Carriers
Life & Other Direct Insurance Carriers in the U.S.
Funding (Federal) – Medicare and Medicaid in the U.S.

November Jobs Report Stirs Optimism But Economy Still Weak

In Uncategorized on December 4, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Unemployment data released today by the U.S. Department of Labor indicates that although job losses have slowed significantly, the economy continues to face challenges.

According to the report the U.S. economy shed 11,000 jobs in November, the smallest decline since the recession began in December 2007. The unemployment rate edged down to 10.0 percent. Retail job losses slowed to 14,500, compared to the more than 44,000 jobs lost in October.

“Today’s unemployment report gives hope to consumers and retailers that a recovery may not be far off. However, it is also a reminder that employers seeking to grow their workforces continue to face challenges,” said RILA President Sandy Kennedy. “Policymakers intent on stimulating job growth and the economy must focus on reducing the challenges employers face rather than erecting new barriers to job creation – which elements of the health care legislation under consideration threaten to do.”

The average of 87,000 jobs lost per month in the overall economy over the past three months is down considerably from the 700,000 per month pace of job loss at the depth of the recession.

The retail industry shed 14,500 jobs last month, an improvement over the more than 44,000 retail jobs lost in October and considerably better than the 90,800 jobs lost in November 2008. The retail industry averaged 33,000 job losses over the past three months, compared to an average of 70,000 over the same period last year.

Other economic data likewise show that the economy has begun to recover. Initial claims for unemployment insurance have fallen back to the level of last September before the worst part of the financial crisis, while increases in personal income and spending in October suggest improved prospects for families. The housing market remains weak but has stabilized, with home prices up over the past two quarters, and rising home sales whittling down the elevated inventory of homes for sale. Forward-looking surveys of purchasing managers suggest that the manufacturing sector has begun to expand, while orders for services firms are improving as well. Overall, GDP grew by nearly 3 percent in the third quarter of this year, and many forecasters believe it is on track for a similar increase in the fourth quarter. In sum, the economy remains weak, but a broad view of the data suggests that spending and incomes are on the rebound and that the job market is slowly turning upward as well.

“Today’s data confirm that the labor market is beginning to heal,” said Donald B. Marron, visiting professor at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute and RILA outside economist. “Layoffs have slowed dramatically in recent months, but new hiring remains restrained. Employers are adding hours but not yet jobs, though employment has increased in a few sectors, including temporary help services and department stores. We have a long way to go to get back to the strong economic performance that Americans have come to expect, but the economy and the job market are turning up.”

Health Care Reform and Jobs

Costly burdens, such as those imposed by the health care reform legislation passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the legislation currently under consideration in the U.S. Senate, could undermine economic recovery and cost more jobs for the retail industry, while also pushing insured retail employees from the health care plans they currently have and like.

“Congress simply should not pursue major initiatives that could add significantly to the cost and regulatory burdens faced by the retail industry, thus providing a disincentive to the hiring and business investment critical to ongoing economic recovery efforts,” said RILA president Sandy Kennedy.

Of specific concern are provisions within the Senate bill that would shift costs on to employers to pay for a public plan, reduce benefit-design flexibility and innovation, or not take into account the unique needs of the retail workforce such as separate treatment of part-time and holiday hires.

World-Class Hub for Medical Research To Be Built In Mexico City

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2009 at 11:50 pm

The government of Mexico City announced it will build a world-class center for biomedical and nanomedical research, called Campus Biometropolis. The center for medical research and development will be integrated with the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the top Spanish speaking university in the world. The research complex, scheduled to begin construction in 2010, has been designed by the internationally-acclaimed architectural firm, Foster + Partners, whose previous works include the Hearst Tower in New York City and Berlin’s Reichstag building.

Campus Biometropolis, which will attract significant investment over the next several years, will become an engine for the transformation of Mexico’s economy. Mexico has first-class human resources and considerable infrastructure to position itself as the leading knowledge center for Latin America. It will attract medical tourism, deliver multiple medical services for the US economy and become a platform for world-class clinical research.

This state-of-the-art research and development cluster will look to attract pharmaceutical and biomedical companies and organizations from around the world. Given its close proximity to corporate laboratories, start-ups and public research institutions, it will provide fertile ground for R&D, and offer an environment to accelerate product development and commercialization. As one of the world’s leading financial capitals, Mexico City is an ideal location for companies looking to access Spanish-speaking markets.

“Mexico City’s Campus Biometropolis is the cornerstone of a broader vision to transform Mexico City into a knowledge capital,” said Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard. “This is a critical investment in the future of Mexico City, taking us a step further toward becoming a global hub of scientific and technological excellence.”

Mayor Ebrard continued, “As one of the most vibrant cities in the world, Mexico City is the ideal location for pharmaceutical and biomedical companies and organizations looking for new development opportunities and access to new markets.”

Campus Biometropolis will be sustainably designed and built, and will be composed of hospitals, laboratories and medical universities, as well as residential and retail areas. In addition, the complex will include a natural reserve and will become a model for green buildings and water conservation. This project is in accordance with Mayor Ebrard’s plan to transform the city into one of the most environmentally-conscience and sustainable cities in the world.

The medical hub is at the core of Mayor Ebrard’s General Development Plan, which was designed to convert Mexico City into Latin America’s premier knowledge economy. The five-year plan, launched in 2007, aims to create more equity for Mexico City’s inhabitants by building a sustainable and inclusive city, promoting equality through better health, education and technology and improving the competitiveness of the Mexican capital.

Related Links


Global Pharmaceuticals and Medicine Manufacturing