Tricks or Treats?

Research this week scares up retirement planning, job growth, and spooky health-care concerns.

October 31, 2011

Halloween week research fills your plastic pumpkin with treats in retirement planning opportunities, tricks in unemployment and potential areas for job growth, spooky news on the federal budget, health-care trends for your mummy, and a final scary thought: Does your direct mail piece stand a ghost of a chance in the consumer’s mailbox?

The unemployment monster continues to rear its ugly head, as depicted in “The trend in long-term unemployment and characteristics of workers unemployed for more than 99 weeks.” Here, the Congressional Research Service
claims “as the demand for workers increases following a recession, employers generally hire the short-term unemployed before they hire the long-term unemployed. Thus, the number of long-term unemployed could remain high for some time to come.”

Research this week unmasks areas for future employment. “School Modernization Woefully Needed in Urban Schools; Investment Would Create Jobs, Says Report,” from the Council of the Great City Schools; facilities work required in urban schools would provide in excess of 165,000 construction jobs in the first year.

Spooktacular job opportunity also exists for those interested in science and math, according to Georgetown’s “New Report on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Jobs Now Available.”  “Indeed, with the exception of some PhD-level researchers in academia, the demand for workers in STEM occupations is increasing at every education level.”

Shine your flashlight on two additional fields with employment potential: “Boiling Point? The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing” by Deloitte considers whether manufacturing has the talent it needs to perform globally, and SBA’s “Analysis of Small Business Innovation in Green Technologies” findings might want to make parents of growing goblins suggest going green as “U.S.-based organizations were responsible for 43% of U.S. patents in green technologies in 2005-2009, while Japanese organizations were responsible for 32%. No other country had more than 6%.”

Federal budget news is a scream as reported in “The Federal Budget: Issues for FY 2011, FY2012, and Beyond.” A frightening factoid reported here tells us that “In FY2010, the U.S. government spent $3,456 billion (23.8% of GDP) and collected $2,162 billion in revenue (14.9% of GDP), resulting in a budget deficit of $1,294 billion (8.9% of GDP).

Perhaps “The Federal Government’s Long-Term Fiscal Outlook: Fall 2011 Update”will get you howling at the moon as “GAO’s simulations continue to underscore the need to address the longer-term outlook as soon as possible, while still recognizing the current weakness in the economy. Rising health-care costs and the aging of the U.S. population continue to create budgetary pressure.”

Speaking of health care, bewitching trends here indicate that in “Health Care Transparency: Meaningful Price Information Is Difficult for Consumers to Obtain Prior to Receiving Care” and one would guess with such obstacles even a wise warlock could not predict how to budget for his own medical needs.

Health-care concerns further bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble as “Employers Remain Committed to Offering Health-care Benefits Today But Concerned About Viability of Insurance Exchanges,” according to Towers Watson. Given that health care comprises a considerable portion of the budget for consumers and employers, this news requires further examination. Key findings include:
• 8% of employers will reduce coverage for spouses and dependents in 2012, another 23% consider such reductions for 2013 and 2014;
• 54% of employers anticipate discontinuation of retiree health-care benefits for both pre-65 and post-65 groups. Transition strategies are expected; and,
• 88% intend to contain costs and avoid impacts of health-care reform’s excise tax to begin in 2018.

Let’s close the coffin on health-care news this week with a glimpse at the Census Bureau’s “Small Area Health Insurance Estimates,” reputedly “the only source for estimates of health insurance coverage status for every county in the nation.” What’s happening on this in your neighborhood?

Attention sleeping zombies! The African-American demographic hits the news this week in two compelling reports: “The African-American Financial Experience,” a 2011 Prudential study shows that this group is an emerging middle market and displays “a strong desire for assistance in finding appropriate product solutions to meet their goals;” and in Nielsen’s “Report: The Power of the African-American Consumer” which shows buying power of this demographic “is expected to reach $1.1 trillion by 2015.”  Consider this group in your strategic plan.

Ghoulish news persists in retirement revelations, especially for those state and local workers hoping for public pensions. “Census Bureau Reports Public Pension Assets Decline Over $726 Billion for State and Local Public Employee Retirement Systems in 2009,” and Boston College analyzes reports “to test the hypothesis that state-local workers have more than enough money for retirement” at “How Prepared Are State and Local Workers for Retirement?

Finally, don’t be the Headless Horseman when you consider your direct mail marketing campaigns. Know what’s in the consumer’s mailbox. “Americans receive the most pieces of advertising mail per person…nearly twice as much as third-place Canada,” so says the “Consumer Postal Council Market Comparison #3 Pieces of Advertising Mail Per Person.” This equated to 320 pieces of such correspondence per American in 2008. But, U.S. postal service data shows “the number of pieces of advertising mail per American has fallen by about 55 pieces since then.” In fact, since 2005 advertising mail has declined in excess of 20% in the U.S. Boo!?

LORA KLOTH is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.