A Sign Of The Times: Dismal Economic Reports

November 1, 2002

By Herb Weisbaum

SEATTLE - The latest figures on consumer spending and unemployment have been released and they're not good. The nation's unemployment rate edged up slightly in October to 5.7 percent as businesses cut 5,000 jobs. Cuts came largely in manufacturing, construction and temporary employment services. The good news is the country's employment situation appears to be moderating.

Cautious consumers, shaken by the turbulent stock market and talk of a war with Iraq, cut back on their spending in September by .4 percent. That is the largest decline in ten months. The pullback was led by a reduction in spending on big-ticket goods such as cars. It comes after consumer spending rose by a solid .4 percent in August.

A scam alert. Beware of a call that's supposedly from the state Department of Licensing telling you about the an "amnesty program" for people who have suspended licenses.The call is bogus. There is no such program. This may be a clever attempt to get personal information.

The federal government will begin rating child safety seats so parents know what models are easiest to properly install and use. The ratings, to be made available next year, will grade seats on a number of other factors including whether the seat requires assembly, if the instructions are easy to understand.

Earlier this week we told you that Amazon.com was planning to start selling clothing online. Turns out the new apparel store supposedly in the works, is already open just not officially announced. Amazon offers $30 in Amazon script if you spend $50 in the apparel store.

Enron's former chief financial officer has been indicted on 78 federal counts. The indictment accuses Andrew Fastow of masterminding a scheme to artificially inflate the now bankrupt energy company's profits. The 40-year-old is currently free on $5 million bond. He is the highest-ranking Enron official to be charged in the federal probe.

Bankrupt Enron is about to cut some more costs. Late last year, Enron hired a law firm to provide counsel for about 250 employees and former employees participating with government investigations into Enron. The price tag so far for that legal work is more than $8 million. Enron wants to stop paying those legal bills for former employees who are cooperating with investigators but who are not targets of the probe. The court said OK.

The Washington State Attorney General wants an Internet cigarette dealer in Kentucky to cough up its list of customers in Washington. The state wants to know who is buying smokes from dirtcheapcig.com so that it can collect tax on them.

Blockbuster isn't satisfied being the leader in movie rentals. It wants more of the movie-for-sale market. So, Blockbuster will remodel about half of its 8,000 stores to make sales racks more prominent, and it vows to compete on price and selection with its bigger competitors.


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