Immigrant Workers Sending Less Money Home Thanks To Slow Economy

The slowing of the U.S. economy is affecting people in other countries, too.

Many of those with family members working in the U.S. are accustomed to receiving remittances from their family members abroad. But with costs rising across the board in the U.S., immigrants to America have less money to send home.

"As he fixes a broken sliding glass door at an apartment in Anaheim, California, Eduardo Gutierrez worries about his parents in Mexico," according to a recent CNN article. "But with the U.S. economy sagging, his hours have shrunk, even as his gas and grocery bills have skyrocketed along with other expenses. He's struggling just to support his wife and three children."

A recent poll by the Inter-American Development Bank's Multilateral Investment Fund found that 50 percent of Latin American adults living in the U.S. were sending money to their home countries--down from 73 percent of respondents in 2006.

"Bank of Mexico, Mexico's equivalent to the Federal Reserve, says stories like these are becoming more common. Deceleration in the U.S. construction industry resulted in $100 million less in "remittances" -- money from workers in the U.S. to their relatives in Mexico -- in January this year, the most recent available stats. The overall figure went from $1.7 billion in January 2007 to $1.6 billion this January, according to Bank of Mexico," CNN reported.

The slowdown of the construction industry can be tied to the slumping housing market.

Wages In China Are Rising

Wages in China are skyrocketing thanks to labor shortages. "Last year salaries surged 40%, to an average of $160 a month," according to BusinessWeek.

In addition to increasing salaries, turnover is sky-high, too; BusinessWeek reported that "turnover in some low-tech industries approaches 50%, according to the Institute of Contemporary Observation, a Shenzhen labor research group."

One company "has upgraded its dormitories and improved the food in the company cafeteria. Despite those efforts, its five factories remain about 10% shy of the 6,000 employees they need," according to BusinessWeek.

There is a shortage of qualified workers in provinces all across China.

"Although the total labor force is about 800 million, relatively few people have the qualifications employers want. For most textile, toy, and tech-assembly jobs, for example, export-oriented manufacturers prefer women from 18 to 25 years old or people with experience operating machinery," according to BusinessWeek.

"Reports of labor shortages first cropped up in late 2004, but companies thought the phenomenon was temporary. Now a surge in both turnover and wage costs is convincing multinationals and their suppliers that the China game is changing permanently," according to BusinessWeek.

While increased productivity has, to some degree, offset rising wages, those productivity increases are getting fewer in number.

Some companies are retreating to China's interior, where land and wages are both cheaper than they are in the major cities on China's coast. But costs are sure to rise there, too, and some companies will simply find themselves squeezed out of the country.


Economic Slowdown Delaying Retirement

When most people think of their retirement years, they picture themselves traveling, relaxing and enjoying hobbies they had less time for when they worked--or even finding some new hobbies.

But, with the U.S. economy floundering as it is, many people are putting such plans on hold.

"As the economy slows and prices rise, most middle-aged and older respondents report that they are having difficulty paying for food, gas, utilities, and medicine, and are responding to the situation by cutting luxuries and postponing major purchases and travel," according to a recent study by the AARP.

Some people are even postponing retirement itself. 27 percent of American workers aged 45 or older have postponed their plans to retire in response to the economy, according to the study.

Even more troubling is that one in four have trouble paying their mortgage and rent, and that one in three have stopped putting any money into their retirement accounts. And nearly one in four--23 percent--have prematurely withdrawn funds from their 401(k) or IRA.

But, with costs rising as they are, many people simply have fewer dollars to save. Making ends meet is tough for many, with the costs for necessities rising as they are. "Majorities are having trouble paying for essential items such as food, gas and medicine or utilities such as heating, cooling and phone service," according to the study.

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The Economy Of Rwanda Is Being Revived By Women

The civil war in Rwanda resulted in the slaughtering of its Tutsi minority, as well as many moderate members of its majority, the Hutu, in 1994. Around 800,000 are estimated to have died in the genocide.

"In the 14 years since the genocide, when 800,000 people died during three months of violence, this country has become perhaps the world's leading example of how empowering women can fundamentally transform post-conflict economies and fight the cycle of poverty," according to a recent article in the Washington Post. "That is particularly clear here in Maraba, a southern village where a host of women -- largely relegated to backbreaking field work in the days before the genocide -- found unwanted opportunity in the fertile lands they would inherit from slaughtered husbands, fathers and brothers."

Maraba's women "showed more willingness than men, officials here said, to embrace new techniques aimed at improving quality and profit. Now, Maraba's female farmers are outdoing their male counterparts in both, numbering about half of all farmers in the village's coffee cooperative but producing 90 percent of its finest quality beans for export," according to the article.

Many microfinance companies focus on lending to women, because women tend to reinvest profits from their businesses into things such as food, education and their communities.

The march of female entrepreneurialism, playing out here and across Rwanda in industries from agribusiness to tourism, has proved to be a windfall for efforts to rebuild the nation and fight poverty. Women more than men invest profits in the family, renovate homes, improve nutrition, increase savings rates and spend on children's education, officials here said," according to the article. "It speaks to a seismic shift in gender economics in Rwanda's post-genocide society, one that is altering the way younger generations of males view their mothers and sisters while offering a powerful lesson for other developing nations struggling to rebuild from the ashes of conflict."

For more on microfinance, see Microfinance Institution Reviews. For more on women as entrepreneurs, see Women in Business.

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Baby Boomers: Invest In Yourself

I recently read an article MSN titled “Internships for Boomers” and it hit home. I’ll turn 53 next month and I’m an intern at NuWire Investor, getting my feet wet in the world of online publications. I want to confirm what I read in that article with my personal story so others will know that big boomer changes are happening all over the country. I guess the first thing I would like to declare is that retirement is an anachronism for many people 50 and older. I don’t ever want to stop being involved, plugged in or a contributing member of society--I just want to have fun doing it. I think it’s a national tragedy that so many retirees take their experience (and money) out of societal circulation. OK, so much for the rant.

After 18 years in the ceramic tile industry I (and my knees) decided that it was time for a change. I taught myself how to type and use a computer. During the course of a year, my wife and I downsized into a small condo located between the local community college and the University of Washington. We did this anticipating we would be paying huge college tuitions with only her income. As it turned out, we didn’t need to.

At the community college, I wrote for the school paper. The job paid $750 per quarter and tuition was around $800 per quarter. Even though I had never had a job writing before, I quickly adapted. I even had an advice column called “Ask the Old Guy.” After my first year, and because of my high GPA (I wasn’t messing around) and my involvement with the paper, I was nominated by the school for a national two-year college award. That award resulted in a $750 scholarship and eventually a $400 partial quarterly tuition waiver at the UW. Meanwhile I applied for and was awarded an honors scholarship from a private foundation for community college transfer students. Between the two awards, I actually ended up netting about $200 per quarter to attend the University of Washington for two years. I graduated in 2007 cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with a liberal arts degree. The challenge that I had put off all of my life had become a reality. None of it would have happened without the decision to “pull the trigger” and do it.

The point that I would like to make is that starting a new endeavor at 50ish is completely possible--as far as getting a college degree anyway. I was astonished how many scholarships are available for “non-traditional” students, making financing a non-issue if you go through the rigors of their application process. I would suggest doing some research on the available scholarships in your area prior to enrolling. There are scholarships out there that will take you through all four years if you ask. The thing to note is that you have to commit to doing it. Even once you’re in school, the opportunities are available.

I don’t know where this internship will lead. I don’t know if it will lead to a job in this field, or a new set of questions. What I do know is that whether you leave a job because you have to or because you want to, there are many, many opportunities for older Americans to stay sharp, and stay involved.

Guest post by James Krieger, an intern at NuWire

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Food Stamp Recipients Suffer From Rising Food Costs

Danielle Brown of Chicago has a one-year-old and a three-year-old. With food prices rising quickly, she is one of many people whose food stamps don't go as far as they used to.

"The consumer price index for food rose 5 percent last year, the highest gain in nearly two decades. It is especially grim news for the poor," according to the Associated Press.

"'Ain't got no food left, the kids are probably hungry,' said Brown, a 23-year-old single mother who relies heavily on her $312 monthly allotment of food stamps — a ration adjusted just once a year, in October," according to the AP.

26.1 million people received food stamps as of February 2007; by February of this year, that number had increased to 27.7 million. The Agriculture Department predicts that the number will reach 28 million by next year.

"For Lynda Wheeler, who receives $281 in food stamps each month, the rhythm of life has been one of shopping for food, running out of food and then turning to churches, food pantries and friends for help. And all the while, she is doing things like cutting milk with water to make it last a bit longer," according to the AP. Wheeler has a two-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son.

But food banks such as the one Wheeler visits are feeling squeeze by increased costs, too, and many have had to give less food out to individual families. "Higher fuel costs and commodity prices have sliced into private donations" to food banks, according to the AP. For more on how the increasing cost of food has been affecting food banks, see Rising Food Costs Lead More People To Food Banks.

"Between March 2007 and this year, a gallon of milk jumped from just over $3 a gallon to nearly $3.80, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the same period, eggs climbed from about $1.60 a dozen to $2.20. Bread, chicken and tomatoes are all more expensive than last year," according to the AP.

Many food stamp recipients are purchasing "soda pop, bags of cookies and chips—much of it cheaper than healthier food," according to the AP. They "are doing what they can to stretch their shrinking buying power."

For more on rising food costs, see Global Food Prices Up 40 Percent Since Mid-2007.

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Estimated Productivity Losses Caregiving Causes U.S. Businesses

The baby boomers comprise a large and aging population. As baby boomers and their parents age, more and more people are requiring caregiving in varying levels of intensity. In fact, more than 44 million Americans provide some sort of care for a family member or friend 18 years or older. The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP conducted the study, called Caregiving in the United States, to find the costs to employers of caregiving employees.

"This study estimates the productivity losses to U.S. business of employees who must make workplace accommodations as a result of caregiving responsibilities. These include costs associated with replacing employees, absenteeism, crisis in care, workday interruptions, supervisory time, unpaid leave, and reducing hours from full-time to part time," according to the study.

Some of the key findings of the study are listed below:

The total estimated cost to employers for full-time employees with intense caregiving responsibilities is $17.1 billion.

The average cost per employee for those with intense caregiving responsibilities is $2,441.

The total estimated cost to employers for all full-time, employed caregivers is $33.6 billion.

The average cost per employee for all full-time, employed caregivers is $2,110.

The majority of family caregivers (79%) are providing care to someone over the age of 50.

Nearly 60% of those caring for an adult over the age of 50 are working; the majority of those work full-time.

Nearly 40% of caregivers are men.

The average age of the caregiver for a person over the age of 50 is 47.

Most caregivers provide unpaid care to a parent or grandparent.

Approximately 15% of the caregivers were providing care to someone who lived at a distance of more than an hour away.

At least 6 out of 10 employed caregivers reported that they had made some work-related adjustments as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.

10% of the employed caregivers reduced their hours from full-time to part-time.

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Study Documents Baby Boomers' Plans For Working In Retirement

By dint of their sheer number alone, baby boomers are an influential group. So when a group of about 78 million people decides to blaze a new trail, the rest of us have no choice but to follow their lead.

In this case, the baby boomers have begun to reshape the American workforce.

"A succession of surveys over the past decade makes plain the plans of a new generation of older Americans to keep working. Most of this research reveals that four of five boomers are expecting to continue working at the point when earlier generations moved to the sidelines," according to the MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures New Face of Work Survey. "Indeed, there is already evidence of shifting labor patterns on the part of the pre-boomers, as early retirement levels off and millions of older workers remain in the workforce. These polls also find that most people who keep working want more than an endless incarnation of midlife work. Instead, they are keen on renegotiating their relationship to work, looking for more flexibility and liberation from the long hours characterizing midlife labor in America today."

53 percent of adults aged 50 to 70 expect to work even into their retirement, according to the survey.

The survey focused on what baby boomers want to accomplish through their work once they have passed the traditional retirement age, and whether those desires meshed with what America will need to have people doing. Thankfully, rather than finding a huge disconnect between what baby boomers will want to be accomplishing and what will need to be accomplished, the survey found "heartening indications of what might well be a win-win opportunity of staggering proportions."

According to the survey, 50 percent of Americans aged 50 to 70 are interested in working--now or in the future--in positions that would help improve the quality of life in their communities. More specifically, of leading edge baby boomers, 58 percent are interested in such positions.

"There is overwhelming interest in finding specific types of work in retirement that would
serve the community and people in need," according to the survey. Of baby boomers who plan to work during retirement, 78 percent are interested in working to help the poor, the elderly
and others in need. 56 percent are interested in working with health issues, such as in a hospital or for an organization working to fight a particular disease. And 55 percent are interested in teaching or other educational positions.

Those surveyed gave a variety of reasons for why they will want to continue working past the traditional retirement age. The most common reasons included staying connected with other people; receiving a sense of purpose from working; earning additional income; and the ability to help improve the quality of life in their community.

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Philadelphia Tops List Of Best Cities For New Grads

As summer rapidly approaches, millions of college students are preparing to graduate and find their first "real world" jobs. (Few of them will likely be actually working for "The Real World.")

Philadelphia topped a recent list of the top 10 most affordable cities for grads. The list was compiled based on research from and, which is part of CareerBuilder.

"Joey Hyde, a 25-year old physics grad student at the University of Pennsylvania, likes living in downtown Philadelphia because he can get around without a car, make spontaneous plans with friends or his fiancée for a night on the town, and enjoy a great meal at his favorite upscale Cuban restaurant for half of what it would cost in Manhattan," according to MSNBC.

"Frontrunner Philadelphia, along with other cities on the list, has been working to enhance its reputation among younger workers and prevent the 'brain drain' that happens when young adults graduate and leave," according to MSNBC.

For more on this phenomenon, see our article on the Top 5 Declining U.S. Markets.

Research criteria for each city included "the population of people age 20 to 24, the number of entry-level job openings suitable for new grads, and the average cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment," according to MSNBC.

The rest of the list included, in order from second through tenth: Boston, New York, Phoenix, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Houston, Detroit and Atlanta.

New York was the most expensive city on the list in terms of the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment, which is $1,520 per month. Detroit featured the cheapest rental rate for a one-bedroom apartment at $699 monthly.

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Layoffs Up 68 Percent From March To April

Planned layoffs by U.S. companies in April increased 68 percent compared to planned layoffs in March, hitting the highest levels seen since September 2006, according to a report released today by employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

U.S. companies planned 90,015 layoffs last month, compared to 53,579 in March. April's layoffs were a 27 percent increase from a year earlier. Planned layoffs haven't been this high since September 2006, when 100,315 jobs were cut, according to the report.

The financial sector was hit hardest by the spate of layoffs, because of "the housing slump and about $300 billion in write-downs on bad mortgages and investments, the firm said," according to Reuters. "The financial services industry announced 23,106 cuts in April with almost half of them occurring in a two-day period that saw hefty planned layoffs from Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, it said."

The telecommunications and transportation sectors also suffered heavy job losses, with 8,007 and 7,954 planned layoffs in April, respectively.

"Employers have announced 290,671 jobs to be eliminated in the first four months of 2008, up 9 percent from the 266,658 cuts recorded during the same span in 2007, the firm said," according to Reuters.

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