The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 22, 2007

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Construction lags jobless numbers
LANSING - Michigan's construction and manufacturing industries acted as anchors for the state's jobless numbers, which overall had some good news, dropping two-tenths of a percentage point to 6.9 percent in May from April's' 7.1 percent.

"May's 6.9 percent unemployment rate matched the state's 2006 annual average rate," said Rick Waclawek, director of Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth's Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives on June 13. "However, Michigan continues to outpace the nation in manufacturing and construction job loss. These losses have been tempered by steady growth in health services."

Michigan employed 181,000 construction workers in May 2006, and a year later, that number dropped to 168,000.

From April to May 2007, total employment increased by 14,000 and unemployment declined by 9,000 as the state's labor force rose slightly by 5,000. Michigan's May 2007 jobless rate increased by three-tenths of a percentage point from the state's May 2006 rate of 6.6 percent. In the same period, the national jobless rate decreased one-tenth of a percentage point.

In May, the number of unemployed in Michigan was 348,000. The total number of unemployed in the state has hovered around 350,000 for about four and a half years.

Circuit City not winning friends
(PAI) - A second round of mass firings by the big electronics retailer Circuit City - many of them at its Richmond, Va., headquarters - prompted some workers there to contact the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in New York.

And while RWDSU has made no move to organize the chain, "we're reaching out" to the firm's workers, union spokeswoman Zita Allen adds.

RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum blasted the second round of firings. He said they showed the firm's managers are "poster children for corporate irresponsibility." The coming firings will cut 654 store managers nationwide and 200 workers in Richmond, the Wall Street Journal reported, quoting Circuit City CEO Philip Schoonhover.

Earlier this year, the retailer fired 3,400 staffers nationwide, virtually all because they were its highest-paid workers. It told them they could reapply for their old jobs in two months, at half the pay, and in the meantime it stuck with lower-paid workers. Customers responded by abandoning Circuit City due to lack of expertise on the stores' floors. The firings led to a crash in revenues in the first quarter of 2007.

Schoonhoover earned $17 million last year in pay and benefits while rank and file Circuit City workers earned $7.75-$10 an hour with few or no benefits.

That first round of firings also prompted protests, including one in Minneapolis, where unionists emphasized that had Circuit City workers been organized - a prospect that could occur if the Employee Free Choice Act was law - they would have had protection against the arbitrary pink slips.