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Economy Briefs

- - Wednesday, October 12, 2011

AUTO

Chrysler, UAW agree on new contract

DETROIT | The last of Detroit's carmakers has reached a deal with the United Auto Workers union.

Chrysler Group LLC and union negotiators agreed Wednesday on a new four-year contract that creates 2,100 new jobs. The company will also invest $4.5 billion in its plants under the deal, which covers 26,000 U.S. workers.

The deal is less generous than those given to General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. It includes a $3,500 signing bonus and $1,000 in annual bonuses. Most Chrysler workers won't get yearly raises but could receive profit-sharing checks if the company makes money. The agreement also raises entry-level wages to $19.28 per hour by 2015. Chrysler's workers must ratify the agreement.

This is the first contract since Chrysler's government bailout and trip to bankruptcy court two years ago and the first since management of the company was taken over by Italian automaker Fiat SpA.

GM workers ratified their labor agreement last month. Ford workers are still voting.

JOBS

Companies posted fewer job openings in August

Employers advertised fewer jobs in August than the previous month. Some may have pulled back on hiring plans in the face of wild stock-market swings and renewed recession fears.

Companies and governments posted 3.1 million job openings in August, down from 3.2 million in July, the Labor Department said Wednesday.

The drop was the first in four months, although July's openings were the highest in nearly three years.

Still, there's heavy competition for each job. Nearly 14 million people were out of work in August, which means an average of 4.6 unemployed workers competed for each opening. That's worse than July, when the ratio was 4.3. In a healthy economy, the ratio is roughly 2-1.

STORES

Wal-Mart reverses revenue decline

NEW YORK | Wal-Mart's effort to reverse a two-year sales slump at its U.S. namesake business is beginning to work.

Company officials told analysts gathered a few miles away from its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., on Wednesday that it has had three consecutive months of gains in revenue at stores opened at least a year, a critical yardstick in measuring a retailer's health. Wal-Mart had been aiming to reverse nine straight quarters of declines in revenue at stores opened at least a year by the end of this year, but it's too early to tell if it will report a sales gain in the current quarter.

The weak U.S. job market and other economic woes have hurt Wal-Mart's business, straining its core low-income shoppers. But the world's largest retailer has also stumbled because of mistakes it made in merchandising and pricing.

Wal-Mart since has restocked thousands of products it scrapped in an overzealous bid to clean up its stores. It also stopped using gimmicks like slashing prices temporarily on select items and instead returned to its "everyday low price" strategy, the bedrock philosophy of founder Sam Walton.

NEW YORK

Liz Claiborne to sell several brands, change name

NEW YORK | Financially struggling Liz Claiborne Inc. said Wednesday that it is selling its namesake brand and several others to concentrate on its Juicy Couture, Lucky Brand and Kate Spade fashion plates, which appeal to well-heeled shoppers. The company, which hasn't had an annual profit since 2006, said it will change its name to reflect that emphasis.

Liz Claiborne is the latest company to adjust its business as the U.S. consumer market bifurcates into the high and low ends, essentially squeezing out the middle. Companies ranging from Procter & Gamble to Wendy's are doing everything from tweaking their product mix to changing the way they advertise and display their goods to appeal to American consumers on opposite ends of the spectrum.

OBITUARY

Robert Galvin, longtime Motorola CEO, dies

NEW YORK | Robert Galvin, who was Motorola's CEO for 29 years and took it from maker of police radios and TVs to one of the world's leading electronics companies, has died. He was 89.

His family says Mr. Galvin died Tuesday night in Chicago of natural causes.

Mr. Galvin was named CEO in 1959 at the death his father, company founder Paul Galvin. He remained in the post until 1988 and stayed on as chairman until 1990.

Robert Galvin oversaw Motorola's pioneering efforts in the cellular industry, including the creation of the first commercial cellphone in 1973 and the construction of the first cellphone network in the early '80s.