It was a week where just when you thought you knew what the story was, it changed. So, let’s review:
We’ll start with jobs. Overall, 200,000 new jobs were created in December, and the unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent, surprising many who expected that number to rise after the holiday hiring spree.
No doubt hiring was up in December, a fact that was attributable, in part, to small business, according to at least one economist. Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, echoed her theory from last month regarding the ADP payroll report, which noted that in December, 325,000 private-sector jobs were added. “That’s good news and that story continues to grow,” she told CNBC.com’s Patti Domm. “It’s one we want to keep momentum on, and that’s small business formation … That’s seen a real turn.”
Still, depending on whose survey you believe, small business hiring has or has not turned the corner. A survey of CEOs by Vistage International reported on Wednesday that confidence among CEOs is rising: 41 percent of CEOS surveyed said the economy had improved over the past 12 months; that was more than double the number who said the same thing in the third quarter.
But the National Federation of Independent Business’ own survey of 745 businesses found that although the number of companies adding workers outnumbered those that cut them, overall, the number of workers at small firms actually fell in December by an average of 0.15 per firm.
I’ll take the glass-half-full view: It may not be getting better very quickly, but at least it’s not getting worse.
Small businesses got mixed news about lending, this week, as well. Just as Reuters reported that small business lending is up, we heard from The Los Angeles Times that might not be playing nice with its small business clients. Under pressure to raise capital and cut risks, the LA Times heard from business owners whose credit was cut off.
Bank of America responded that only a small percentage of its 4 million small business customers nationwide were impacted by changes in BofA’s lending practices, and that they had been working with those clients for more than a year to arrange other options. Of course, stopping cash-flow to businesses that are already experiencing tough times isn’t exactly the best way to keep people on the payroll.
One family that doesn’t have to worry about that is the always-entrepreneurial Kardashians. The New York Post reported this week that the family is eager to start a magazine about, what else, being Kardashian, and is “reaching out to several media outlets” hoping to expand their empire beyond reality TV, clothing lines and fake weddings. At least it keeps them off the streets.
And another celebrity’s job was saved this week. Alec Baldwin, whose appearance on Letterman a couple of years ago turned him and his mom into a pitching duo for Wegman’s, a regional grocery store based in Rochester, N.Y.,(read where it all started, here), learned how popular he was with the stores’ customers this week. Holiday ads for the store were pulled last week after some customers complained about Baldwin’s “Words With Friends” incident that caused him to be removed from an American Airlines flight. And then, Wegman’s really got an earful: “hundreds of tweets, emails and phone calls,” according to a company statement. A classic case of “the customer is always right.” And, two more people remain employed.
That’s good news on the jobs front. And, as we said before, we’ll take good news any way it comes.