The unemployment rate in the 17 countries that use the euro currency has hit a record high. The jobless rate rose to 12 percent in January and February of 2013, adding to signs that the region's economic slump may not be over.
The employment situation is uneven across the EU area. Austria and Germany have the lowest unemployment rates at 4.8 percent and 5.4 percent respectively, while the jobless rates in Spain and Greece both top 26 percent.
Raoul Ruparel, of the Open Europe think tank, says the difference in employment comes down to public debt levels and austerity cuts to the public sector.
"If you look at Greece and Spain, where they are cutting spending drastically, and the [state] may be 50 percent of the economy, it's bound to have an effect," Ruparel says. "There is bound to be unemployment as the public sector lays off its workers."
While these unemployment figures don't necessarily indicate what's ahead, analysts believe the future doesn't look very promising either with trouble now flaring in small member states like Cyprus.
Euro unemployment in February 2013 (seasonally adjusted) via Eurostat:
1. Austria 4.5%
2. Germany 5.4%
3. Luxembourg 5.5%
4. Netherlands 6.2%
5. Malta 6.6%
(United States 7.7%)
6. Finland 8.1%
7. Slovenia 9.7%
8. Estonia 9.9% (Jan 2013)
9. France 10.8%
10. Italy 11.6%
11. Belgium 12.5%
12. Cyprus 14%
13. Ireland 14.2%
14. Slovakia 14.6%
15. Portugal 17.5%
16. Spain 26.3
17. Greece 26.4 (Dec 2012)
North Korea vowed Tuesday to restart a nuclear reactor that can make one bomb's worth of plutonium a year. That's escalating tensions already raised by near daily warlike threats against the United States and South Korea.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's third and final term is drawing to a close. He is by far the wealthiest politician in the country, worth about $27 billion. Bloomberg claims that his wealth is a political asset -- meaning he can't be bought -- but there are two sides to that coin.
In his last State of the City speech, Bloomberg offered up one reason to support his aggressive agenda. "Special interests and campaign donors have never had less power than they've had over the past 11 years, and this year we're going to show them just how true that is," Bloomberg said.
"There are a lot of things the mayor has been able to do because of his immense personal wealth," says Doug Muzzio, a professor at Baruch College and an expert on New York City politics. "He doesn't need to take campaign contributions, he doesn't owe anybody anything."
That, says Muzzio, theoretically lets the mayor pick fights that a conventional politician might avoid. He points to the smoking ban that pit City Hall against bar and restaurant owners, the proposed sugary drink ban that antagonized the beverage industry, and Bloomberg's opposition to paid sick days that upset organized labor.
So, Muzzio says this take on his independence "is a very positive side of the Bloomberg narrative, but the counter narrative is, he doesn't have to listen to anybody."
And that makes some people mad. "He finds it impossible to feel anybody else's pain," says Scott Levenson, with the Democratic strategy firm The Advance Group. Levenson says, yes, Bloomberg's riches mean he isn't beholden to any special interest, but one man's special interest is another man's champion.
"Special interests are not alien to democracy, [they are] integral to democracy," Levenson says. "Michael Bloomberg seems to miss that point."
Bloomberg has by no means won all of the fights he's picked. And he won two of his three elections by slim margins, notes Kenneth Mayer, professor of political science at University of Wisconsin.
"So it's not as if his wealth and ability to spend lots of money has led to absolute landslides," Mayer says.
Will New Yorkers ever have another mayor wealthy enough to ignore everybody? Well, last month, billionaire John Catsimatidis joined the race. But he's only worth $3 billion.
There's been a lot of attention paid to furloughs of government workers because of the sequestration -- those across-the-board cuts to the federal budget that went into effect March 1. But what about all the contractors the government does business with? Some have indeed taken a hit, while others are sitting pretty.
Robin Lineberger is one of the winners in the sequestration struggle. He heads up the government contracting arm of the consulting firm, Deloitte. Lineberger’s division is huge, occupying eight floors of an office building in Arlington, Virginia.
On a tour, he shows me the Center for Federal Innovation. The center is like an airy lobby, giant computer monitors hang on the walls, employees cluster around them. Lineberger tells me Deloitte will lose three to four percent of its contracting business because of sequestration. But, the budget cuts also have a big silver lining for Deloitte. Smaller government contractors who are feeling the cuts are calling Lineberger. Saying, hey, wanna buy me?
“Shopping the businesses around, looking for alternatives," he says, "that’s been happening since the fall, into January of this year.”
And they’re offering Lineberger a bargain. The value of these companies has fallen 30 to 40 percent in the past eight months. So Deloitte is doing ok, but many other contractors are not. Small firms, like Davis Interiors, which is a family owned business founded in the 1950s that makes specialized furniture and fixtures for Navy ships at a small complex in Norfolk, Virginia.
Whitney Metzger, the company’s administrator, says normally at this time of year, “Our upholstering shop would be humming. Our work crews would be getting here at 7 a.m. and the phone would be ringing off the hook.”
Instead, she’s laid off six employees. The 26 who remain are only working four days a week. Metzger did get a bit of good news recently -- the Defense Department has decided to go ahead with a massive overhaul of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. Metzger is hoping to get some work on it.
NYU professor Paul Light, who studies contracting businesses like Metzger’s, says most contractors will survive because the government relies so heavily them.
“I mean there’s practically nothing that contractors don’t do," he explains. "And I suspect there’s nothing they wouldn’t do."
Light says, contractors will just have to get used to less government spending with more competition for fewer government contracts.
This week the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, which administers nurse licensing exams, is rolling out a new update to its test. Remember those Johnson & Johnson ads from the early 2000s? The sentimental long-form tributes to nurses? Consider how much those nurses have had to adapt to big changes in their tool kit in the last ten years -- and the exam that licenses new nurses is changing too.
“We've just seen technological revolution in medicine and nursing," says Susan Sanders, Vice President of Kaplan Nursing, who has been a nurse for 34 years.
To pass the test now, nursing students have to show that they can read the latest digital record systems and interpret data from state-of-the-art devices.
Nurse Emily Hoppe, cites the importance of tech in a question she recieved about EKG's:
"That question would show a six second strip of a heart rhythm, and say, 'If this is what your patient was showing on the monitor, what would you do?'"
So what can future nurses look forward to seeing on test day?
"Certainly we are seeing the use of holograms, which will gain more widespread usage," says Dr. Michael Bleich, Dean of Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College in St. Louis. "So if you stretch your imagination a little bit about this topic, it is fascinating to think what might emerge with this."
Hologram technology is expensive now, but Dr. Bleich believes that that in the next decade, it will be part of the nursing exam. Too bad they can’t give your shots to your hologram instead of you.
Auto sales figures for the month of March are due out today and analysts expect some of the strongest numbers since 2007. Industry watchers attribute the trend to low interest rates and renewed faith in the economy.
“I think that as people start to feel better about the economy, people start to feel a bit more stable in their job, they feel more comfortable buying a car,” says Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst at Edmunds.com.
But those same analysts note that the auto industry has learned to appeal to consumers who were shaken by the recession and are shunning pricey cars and trucks with low gas-milage in favor of dependable midsize sedans and crossover vehicles.
“There is an onslaught of very attractive vehicles that are meeting the needs of today’s consumer," says Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting with LMC Automotive, "and I think that intense competition has lead to much better products."
George Magliano, a senior economist for IHS Automotive, agrees. He says carmakers are shifting their product lines away from SUV's.
"Now they make crossovers, which, actually, look exactly like sport utilities, but they're built off a car platform so they get a better ride and save on fuel," says Magliano.
This is all sparking a big shift in priorities. Ford, for example, used to focus on churning out gas-guzzling, but profitable SUV's and trucks. Now, Ford is back in the car game. Its Fusion sedan is one of the top five selling models in the U.S.
So, the recession may be over, but consumers and manufacturers are still embracing what's practical.