AMERICANS 'LIVING LARGE'
Americans are living large: bigger homes, more cars, more money and staying in school longer. Those are some of the feel-good findings of Census 2000.
The census found that the average house size increased from 5.2 rooms to 5.8 in the last 10 years. The flip side, however, is longer commutes dictated by those bigger, costlier homes. The average commuting time last year was 24 minutes, up from 22 minutes in 1990. Millions seem to put up with the longer commutes in order to enjoy larger homes in pastoral areas.
Other findings include:
• 18.3 percent of Americans drive at least three vehicles, as compared to 17.4 percent in 1990.
• More than a quarter (25.1 percent) of those age 25 and up have at least a bachelor's degree.
BANKS WOOING SMALL FIRMS
Hoping to boost profits by increasing sales of fee-based services, the nation's banks are rolling out the red carpet for small companies. They are offering deals on credit cards, check printing and cashier's checks.
On the other hand, large borrowers will be pressed to quit spreading their business around. Banks figure servicing loans is so costly, they may be better off to lose a big firm that doesn't agree to consolidate all its business in one bank.
FEELING STRESSED? SWIM WITH FLIPPER
There seems to be a survey to prove just about any premise. Now comes a study reporting relief from stress by swimming with dolphins.
According to the journal Anthrozoos, a greater sense of well-being comes both before and after swimming with dolphins as compared to other swimming. The beneficial results were reported for those swimming with captive dolphins in western Australia and also in swimming with wild dolphins.
PROFITS SUFFER AS EMPLOYEE LOYALTY FALTERS
Employee loyalty is among the strongest influences on company profits. So says Frederick Reichheld, author of "Loyalty Rules!" "Revolving-door defections" clearly impact profits, he writes. The typical company is lucky if half its employees believe it deserves their loyalty.
U.S. businesses lose half their employees in four years, and their customers are not very loyal either with half departing in five years.
MARKING DOWN NOW MORE IMPORTANT THAN MARKING UP
Retail pricing used to focus mainly on what to charge for an item. Now it has become how and when to mark it down.
With customers increasingly waiting and waiting for a bargain, leading retailers such as J.C. Penney are attempting to perfect the science of the markdown. It's called "yield management," as perfected years ago by airlines to eke out the greatest return per seat. The goal is to determine the latest time possible to cut a price and by how much.
Thirty years ago just eight percent of department store sales were marked-down goods, but now it is 20 percent. Neiman Marcus recently cited steeper-than-planned markdowns in estimating a loss for its fourth quarter.
PAY RAISES REMAIN STRONG
Pay raises continue strong despite the economic slowdown. They averaged 7.3 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same time last year, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Many employers fear losing workers if they shrink the pay-raise schedule. However, they are cutting corners by stretching out time between raises, scaling them back a bit or awarding one-time lump sums instead of raises. Many have pushed their merit raises from January to April.
On the plus side for workers, productivity has risen while labor costs fell during the second quarter. Rising productivity boosts living standards because this allows wages to rise without the threat of inflation.