By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor
In the most closely watched private employment estimate, payroll specialist ADP Employer Services reported on Wednesday that the U.S. private sector added 216,000 jobs in February, compared with the company’s revised January estimate of 173,000 jobs. ADP’s numbers are sometimes, but not always, useful harbingers of what the government is going to report two days later. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 243,000 jobs were added in January, so ADP was at some odds with the official numbers.
The majority of the added jobs, some 170,000, were in the service sector, according to ADP, with manufacturers hiring a net of 21,000 workers. In a shift from most of last year, when they rarely hired anybody, large employers (500 workers or more) added about 20,000 positions. But mid-sized companies (50 to 499 workers) added 88,000 workers and small companies (fewer than 50) hired 108,000 new employees, thus still acting as the engineer of job growth for the nation.
Separately, Challenger Gray & Christmas reported late last week that employers planned to cut nearly 53,500 jobs from their payrolls in February, which was an uptick from January’s total of about 41,800 lost jobs, and the highest planned layoff volume since September 2011. The company did point out, however, that it isn’t unusual to see a surge in planned job cutting at or near the beginning of a year, though January is typically higher than February.
Billionaires and more billionaires
Forbes magazine released its annual list of the world’s billionaires on Wednesday—the “0.00001 percent” might be a more contemporary way to put it—and for the most part the upper reaches of the list include the usual ultra-wealthy suspects. Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecom magnate, found himself (and his family) at the very apex of earthly wealth this year, with some $69 billion net worth—roughly the 2011 GDP of Kenya, just to give that figure some perspective. Slim edged out no. 2 rich guy Bill Gates ($61 billion) and no. 3 Warren Buffett ($44 billion).
And who is the number one real estate billionaire? None other than Thomas & Raymond Kwok & family, brothers who control Hong Kong’s largest real estate developer, and who have a net worth of $18.3 billion, according to the magazine. They are no. 27 among all billionaires. Fun fact about them: in 2009 they built a full-sized replica of Noah’s Ark (according to biblical specifications, using cubits, but 270,000 square feet in modern sizing). It’s a tourist attraction in Hong Kong, featuring a restaurant, exhibition hall, children’s museum and the Noah’s Resort Hotel.
As for American real estate billionaires, Donald Bren is no. 1 at $12 billion, coming in at no. 69 on the entire list. At $5 billion, Richard LeFrak & family have the no. 2 U.S. real estate billionaire slot (no. 205 on the list), just topping salty Sam Zell’s $4.9 billion, which puts him at no. 216 among all billionaires. The Donald is only no. 401 among his fellow billionaires, possibly because hair-care expenses have eaten into his fortune.
Consumer credit surges
The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that consumer credit spiked in January by $17.78 billion, more than expected. Non-revolving debt—the likes of student loans, car and personal loans—led the way, up $20.7 billion, while American wisely paid down revolving debt (credit cards) to the tune of $2.9 billion.
Wall Street was a good deal more cheerful on Wednesday than the day before, especially after hearing word that the Fed might employ a convoluted mechanism featuring sterilized bonds to effect another stimulus, should the central bank deem that necessary. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 78.18 points, or 0.61 percent, while the S&P 500 gained or 0.69 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.87 percent.