Monday PM February 15th, 2010

State agency budget cut recommendations due today…Continental Airlines makes plans for expected wintry weather at New York hub…Gasoline prices fall another few cents…

The deadline has arrived as state agencies are asked to recommend cuts as Texas faces a projected budget shortfall in 2011. Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus in January asked all state agencies to offer proposals cutting five percent of their budgets. The deadline was Monday. Authorities have said the projected state budget shortfall could range from $10 billion to as high as $16 billion next year. Texas corrections officials, looking for perhaps as much as $300 million in cutbacks in the 112-unit system, have not ruled out closing some prisons. Some schools, including the University of Texas, could be facing possible tuition hikes.

The government has received new complaints alleging 34 deaths in Toyota vehicles due to sudden acceleration since 2000. Many of the complaints have been filed in the past three weeks. The government has received complaints alleging 13 additional deaths during the past three weeks. The deaths allegedly attributable to this problem happened in nine crashes between 2005 and 2010. Through the end of 2009, complaints alleging 21 deaths in Toyota vehicles had been filed with the government. Toyota has recalled 8.5 million vehicles globally during the past four months because of problems with gas pedals, floor mats and brakes. The government typically receives a surge in complaints following a recall. None has yet been verified.

Toyota executives say the Japanese automaker may raise incentives or increase warranties as it tries to recover from a string of safety-related recalls. Group Vice President Bob Carter told dealers at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando, Florida, that mechanics have repaired more than 500,000 of the 2.3 million cars and trucks covered by a recall for sticky gas pedals. Several dealers say people have the mistaken impression they are not selling cars because of publicity about Toyota’s recall.

Continental Airlines says wintry weather conditions forecast for the New York area this week will make air travel difficult, and may force delays and cancellations of flights at Newark Liberty International Airport. The Houston-based air carrier says customers traveling through that hub can reschedule their itinerary with a one-time date or time change, and change fees will be waived. Canceled flights will be refunded.

Average retail gasoline prices in Houston have fallen more than two cents per gallon in the past week, according to, now averaging $2.41 per gallon. Even though prices are almost 17 cents lower than a month ago, gasoline is 61 cents higher per gallon than a year ago on this date. The senior petroleum analyst at says prices will begin to slowly rise with colder than average weather raising oil demand in areas where heating oil is used for warming homes.

When employers hire temporary staff after a recession, it’s long been seen as a sign they’ll soon hire permanent workers. After the 1990-1991 recession, for instance, gains in temporary hiring starting in August 1991 led almost immediately to stepped-up permanent hiring. And after the 2001 recession, temporary hiring rose for three straight months in the summer of 2003. By September, employers were adding full-time jobs each month. This time around, companies have hired more temps for four straight months. Yet they remain reluctant to make permanent hires because of doubts about the economic recovery’s durability. Even companies that are boosting production seem inclined to get by with their existing workers, plus temporary staff if necessary.

Zogby International says 28 per cent of its respondents to a survey say the first thing that comes to mind about China is the loss of U.S. jobs for cheap labor. The interactive survey finds that about a fifth mention China’s growth and booming economy. But 19 percent say their first impression of China is that of a nation which is a growing threat and rival to the United States.

Chinese and Indian companies stand to capture a global competitive advantage on the strength of young workers and students, according to Accenture. The research indicates that they are the world’s most intensive use of corporate information technology. The technology practices of new hires and students from the Millennial generation in China and India—between the ages of 14 and 27—have leapfrogged their counterparts elsewhere in the world. Millennials in Western Europe, the research suggests, feel that technology consumes too much time.

These days, David Niklas’ flowers and vegetable seedlings have fewer places to go, as the housing bubble burst and the state and national economies flat-lined. Just three years after reaching a record high of almost $1 billion in sales, Oregon’s nursery industry has plummeted into an historic slump. Nurseries are laying off employees, cutting costs and foregoing new buildings and equipment. A few, like Niklas’ Clackamas greenhouses, have gone bankrupt. Across the country, the nursery and landscaping trades are also facing tough times. Officials expect the industry to slowly recover–but they also expect the belt-tightening will remain, with fewer purchases, less expansion and fewer employees.

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