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Roses are red, violets are blue

Wed, 2014-04-09 13:44

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's what's coming up April 10:

  • In Washington, a look at the nation's balance sheet. The Treasury Department issues its monthly statement for March.
  • Drone delivery is just one of the topics at the fourth annual PostalVision 2020 Conference getting underway in the nation's capital.
  • Golfers tee off in Augusta, Georgia during the first round of the Masters Tournament.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel "The Great Gatsby" was first published on April 10th, 1925.
  • And think eloquent thoughts. April is National Poetry Month.

Comcast says it needs to get bigger to compete

Wed, 2014-04-09 13:38

Before a Senate hearing on Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable, the company dropped a lengthy memo to the Federal Communications Commission, summed up in a blog post. In part, it argued that the merger would be good for competition in broadband, since Comcast’s rivals— including telecoms like Verizon and AT&T— are so big

Which is a different question from whether they offer broadband services that actually compete with Comcast. Andy Hargreaves, a Pacific Crest Securities analyst who looks at both TV and tech, thinks Comcast already dominates, with other companies unable to consistently offer similar speeds.

He estimates that the merged company would have the best-quality service in about 70 percent of the U.S. market. He thinks that’s a problem -- it gives the company power to keep jacking up prices.  “They are exceptionally good at raising rates,” he says.

However, he doubts these questions will sink the deal. Merging the companies, he says, doesn’t actually make it much harder for a real competitor to emerge.

“It’s already near impossible,” he says. “So raising the bar from really, really, really, really, really, high to really, really, really, really, really, really, REALLY high is not that big a deal.”

David Balto, an anti-trust lawyer and a former Federal Trade Commission official, thinks the merger will likely be approved. Comcast and Time Warner haven't been competing with each other before the merger in existing markets, so consumers aren’t losing choices.

“You may not like the competitive environment,” he says, “but there are scores of mergers that the FTC and the Justice Department have approved because they could not find a loss of competition.”

Goldman Sachs considers shutting down its 'dark pool'

Wed, 2014-04-09 13:10

Goldman Sachs executives have reportedly been toying with the idea of shutting down their dark pool, known as Sigma X.

"Dark pools" are to stock exchanges what private pools are to the Y. They are places for people to trade stocks in private, and many banks have them.

Privacy and Savings

There are benefits to having a dark pool, to be sure. Customers can trade more cheaply as they don’t pay exchange fees like they would on, say, the NYSE.  For institutional investors, privacy can be critically important as well. For example, an institutional investor making a supersized buy order in the open would be noticed by sellers, who would raise the price before the order was even complete.  

“Essentially, large institutional investors like this as a way of minimizing price impact and reducing trading costs,” says Craig Pirrong at the University of Houston. 

Suspicion and Negative PR

However, there is also a great deal of suspicion over dark pools at the moment, as the flipside of privacy is decreased transparency. “There’s a considerable deal of regulatory uncertainty and legal uncertainty,” Pirrong says.

“Almost all dark pools work by taking prices from exchanges and filling orders based on those exchanges,” explains Larry Harris of the USC Marshall School of Business. So is it fair that a dark pool can use exchange prices, but not contribute to formation of those prices? Harris says: “And even worse, as the orders are taken away from those exchanges, the quality of the prices depreciates.”

Customers may see a conflict of interest as well.  

“It might be better if people weren’t worried that I was only going to my dark pool because it was my dark pool,” says Joe Gawronsky, president of Rosenblatt Securities. It’s a bit of a PR problem. 

A Liability Issue

Running a private stock exchange is no small feat. When participants’ expectations aren’t aligned with reality, or when prices in the pool become disconnected from prices on exchanges, it can be a serious liability for the entity running the pool.

“Particularly when there’s a fast moving, volatile market and the timeliness of the prices may be, for whatever reason, not appropriately reflective of the prices that were prevailing at the time,” says Andrew Karolyi, professor of finance at the Johnson School of Management at Cornell.  This happened to Goldman in 2011, and the bank sent checks to cover traders who lost out as a result.

Alternatives

Gawronsky says firms like Goldman have alternatives. “There are other methods to get price improvement and hide your order other than using your own dark pool,” he says. 

There are other entities’ dark pools, of course. There’s also IEX, an alternative trading platform designed to address what its founders argue are flaws in the structure of the U.S. equity market. Goldman has supported IEX precisely because of its commitment to transparency and market moderating effect.  

Finally, for those concerned with anonymity, Gawronsky points out that Goldman and other large banks offer algorithmic trading. These are computer-based trading mechanisms that can be used to disguise movements -- breaking up a large trade into smaller trades throughout the day, for example.   

When all is said and done: “I’m not sure it will materially affect Goldman’s revenues,” Gawronsky says.  “You could argue they don’t have that much to lose, and what do they gain? Potentially a PR win and something that customers may applaud.”

Peeps year-round: Harbinger of apocalypse

Wed, 2014-04-09 13:10

I've been away, which is maybe how I missed this, but you know peeps? Those marshmallow bird things you get around easter?   The companies that makes them -- Just Born -- says starting May 1, they'll be available all year round.   "We're making every day into a holiday," a company official said.   Allow me to exercise the Marketplace host's prerogative, and declare it this week's sign that the apocalypse is upon us.        

Peeps year-round: Harbinger of apocalypse.

Wed, 2014-04-09 13:10
I've been away, which is maybe how I missed this, but you know peeps? Those marshmallow bird things you get around easter?   The companies that makes them -- Just Born -- says starting May 1, they'll be available all year round.   "We're making every day into a holiday," a company official said.   Allow me to exercise the Marketplace host's prerogative, and declare it this week's sign that the apocalypse is upon us.        

What's your type?

Wed, 2014-04-09 10:04
Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 16:55 http://helvetica-the-perfume.myshopify.com/

Someone loved Helvetica so much, they made it into a perfume.

The break-up of a graphic design duo has resulted in a lawsuit of $20 million – over fonts. Tobias Frere-Jones and Jonathan Hoefler worked together for 15 years to create some of the most famous and ubiquitous fonts around– used by GQ, Martha Stewart, the New York Jets and Saturday Night Live. They won awards for their typefaces - before the relationship turned sour. So now we want to know: How much do you care about fonts? Take our survey! (function(){var qs,js,q,s,d=document,gi=d.getElementById,ce=d.createElement,gt=d.getElementsByTagName,id='typef_orm',b='https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/share.typeform.com/';if(!gi.call(d,id)){js=ce.call(d,'script');js.id=id;js.src=b+'widget.js';q=gt.call(d,'script')[0];q.parentNode.insertBefore(js,q)}})()Marketplace for Thursday April 10, 2014by Sally HershipsPodcast Title What's your type?Story Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

When the coal layoffs trickle down

Wed, 2014-04-09 09:25
Friday, April 11, 2014 - 06:40 Lorri Shundich

Kae and David Fisher opened their store in downtown Whitesburg last year.  

Coal communities in eastern Kentucky are feeling the effects of a relentless wave of mining layoffs the past few years. Competition from cheap natural gas and high production costs have hurt the mining business here. That, in turn, is hurting Main Street.

Take Whitesburg, Kentucky, population 2,000 give or take. At the Railroad Street Mercantile, owner Kae Fisher surprises visitors with an eclectic mix of merchandise. Homemade jellies, aromatherapy oils, snack chips, and jalapeno eggs fill the shelves. In the back of the store, she’s selling used LP’s and consignment quilts.

“These are from ladies across the county who try to earn a little extra money because a lot of them, their husbands have lost their jobs,” says Fisher.

Fisher and her husband David opened their “corner market” last year, as mining employment in eastern Kentucky plunged. Inauspicious timing, but Fisher believed the downtown needed at least one store. “We’re able to pay the bills,” says Fisher. “But have we got our money back that we’ve invested? Not yet.”

A midday stroll down Main Street, Whitesburg can be a lonely experience. The courthouse is the busiest place in town, but tables at the Courthouse Cafe across the street are fairly empty. On a weekday afternoon co-owner Laura Schuster worked the kitchen by herself. She can’t afford an assistant right now. “Once the layoffs started we immediately knew what would happen, that people would be afraid that they also would lose their jobs and they would cut back anyway they can,” says Schuster. “And one way to cut back is to not eat out. I’d say business is down 50 percent, if not more.”

Whitesburg and other coal towns in the region are also suffering from a steep drop in coal tax revenue. The money goes to counties and was originally intended for an economy beyond coal. In Whitesburg’s Letcher County, coal tax revenue is half what it was just a few years ago.

Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, says over the years coal severance taxes have been diverted for other uses. “Local governments in eastern Kentucky have gradually become dependent on the coal severance as just a general fund source for operations,” says Bailey “For them to pay for police, to do basic road repair. So they’ve had a really hard time because there’s the lack of a tax base outside that as well to generate revenue.”

Justin Maxson, president of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, says the transition to a “low-coal” economy will be “slow, hard and expensive.” He points out the region was poor, even while coal boomed. “So there will be no easy fix.”

Marketplace Morning Report for Friday, April 11, 2014 Lorri Shundich

Kae and David Fisher opened their store in downtown Whitesburg last year.  

Check out all our Coal Play stories.

Lorri Shundich

Laura Schuster, co-owner of the Courthouse Cafe in Whitesburg, KY, says business is down 50 percent, if not more.

by Sarah GardnerPodcast Title When the coal layoffs trickle downStory Type FeatureSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

The loaded meaning behind 'What do you do?'

Wed, 2014-04-09 09:08

Jim and Deb Fallows of the Atlantic continue their travels across the United States, in partnership with Marketplace. This week, the Fallows are taking a break from exploring different towns across the country to examine something we all do – introduce ourselves.  

Or more precisely, they're examining the thing we say right after we introduce ourselves. It’s different in every part of the country.

In New York or D.C., the first question after an introduction is often “What do you do?” – meaning, what’s your job? But careful asking that question in Burlington, Vermont, says Fallows. People are more likely to respond, “I ski or I run a lot or I have a little boat.”

Deb Fallows says “It’s a question that matters. It’s something we say all the time." She was caught off guard when, in Greenville, South Carolina, she was asked what church she went to. In cities like Chicago or Boston, it’s not uncommon for people to ask "Which parish do you live in?" In midsized cities, it's often "Where did you go to high school?"

Fallows says the questions are meant to tease out socioeconomic status, political viewpoints, and cultural background.

“You know that somebody’s kind of digging for information to put you into their world – how do you fit into my world?

PODCAST: Medicare's pay-data dump

Wed, 2014-04-09 07:01

As of today, we know a whole lot more about how much Medicare pays doctors. The government has released huge amounts of data on which doctors, got paid how much, for what procedures. The data show payments to more than 800,000 doctors and health care organizations. It includes information for thousands of procedures.

Also, some mergers have relevance to people’s lives says antitrust attorney Allen Grunes, and the proposed Time Warner-Comcast deal is one of them. Grunes, with the firm GeyerGorey, says the internet will be a focal point as the combined company would have at least 40 percent, and as much as 50 percent, of the fastest high-speed internet service market.

Coffee is the single-most popular food item — solid or liquid — that Americans consume at breakfast, according to the NPD Group. And although American coffee consumption has been more or less flat since the 1980s (and has fallen since peaking in the 1940s), one category is booming: single serve. The dominant player in the domestic market is Green Mountain’s Keurig machines and their K-cup pods but Switzerland-based Nestle and its Nespresso machines are hoping to muscle in to U.S. market.

When England walked away from coal

Wed, 2014-04-09 02:26

Former mining communities around Britain have been marking what is for them a grim anniversary: it has been 30 years since the start of a national miners strike that convulsed the U.K. and its coal industry. The year-long strike over mine closures failed. After the strike, scores of mines were mothballed and a work force that once comprised more than a million men dwindled to a few thousand. Today, only three deep mines remain in operation in the U.K., and two of them are marked for closure.

Why did Britain decide to stop digging 30 years ago? Was this solely about coal, or was it political?

Ex-miner Mike Clark has no doubts. "It was political," he says firmly. Margaret Thatcher – the Conservative Prime Minister at the time – "she would do everything she could to break the working class of Great Britain. That's why she decided to close the pits. Don't forget that at the time, the coal mines were publicly-owned. It was a nationalized industry."

The miners believed Thatcher targeted them for reasons of political revenge. The National Union of Mineworkers had humbled a previous Conservative government in the 1970s by going on strike and triggering a general election which that government lost. But Thatcher may have had a more practical motivation for taking on the miners in 1984: They were Britain's most powerful and militant workers, the shock troops of a labor movement that Thatcher was determined to weaken.

"She wanted to redress the balance back in favor of capitalism," argues Christine Rawson, who grew up in a mining village in south Yorkshire. "Thatcher was determined that the unions would not gain strength, and would lose strength."

Quite right, too, says Dieter Helm, a professor of energy at Oxford University Dieter Helm. When Thatcher came to power, British labor relations were in chaos; the country was crippled by more than 2,000 strikes a year. "There was a general consensus that union power had reached a level where the British economy could no longer really function," says Helm. "And there was a very good economic case for closing the pits as well because of the high cost of deep pit mining. The contraction of the U.K. coal industry was economically correct. It had to happen. It was going to happen. It would have happened anyway."

Britain's deep mines could no longer compete on price with cheap imports of high quality coal from open cast mines in South Africa, Australia, and the United States. And, furthermore, the Thatcher government believed that those imports improved the country's energy security. Margaret Thatcher claimed that it was safer to rely on foreign coal than on the output of British miners. During the strike she called them: "The Enemy Within."

In focus: A merged Comcast-Time Warner

Wed, 2014-04-09 02:10

Some mergers have relevance to people’s lives says antitrust attorney Allen Grunes, and the proposed Time Warner-Comcast deal is one of them. Grunes, with the firm GeyerGorey, says the internet will be a focal point as the combined company would have at least 40 percent, and as much as 50 percent, of the fastest high-speed internet service market.

There are concerns the deal would make it harder for the next Netflix or Hulu to stream content, because it would have to pay the combined company more. But there are also concerns about what the deal will mean to individual access to the internet.

"We need to make sure these companies are more accountable to consumers around other things as opposed to the future of the internet," says Nicol Turner-Lee, with the Minority Media and Telecom Council.

Comcast, in a filing ahead of the federal review, says as part of the deal it would expand its program to provide more access to low-income communities.

The dangers of Big Data in health care

Wed, 2014-04-09 02:03

Imagine you had access to your doctors' vital statistics.  For example, how much they charged Medicare for a certain procedure -- kind of like statistics on baseball players. Such data was recently released by the federal government

Jean Mitchell, who teaches public policy at Georgetown, says for many doctors, "Their patients will be quite surprised by how much money they’re making, and the volume of procedures performed." Mitchell also says the new data could spotlight conflicts of interest, like when a doctor who owns an MRI machine orders lots of MRIs. 

But some doctors worry the new information will be taken out of context -- and they point out that Medicare patients need lots of tests: 

"Sixty percent of all Medicare patients actually have three or more medical conditions. Our patients are extremely complex" Dr. Reid Blackwelder,  president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Single-serve coffeemaker market heats up

Wed, 2014-04-09 02:00

Coffee is the single-most popular food item — solid or liquid — that Americans consume at breakfast, according to the NPD Group. And although American coffee consumption has been more or less flat since the 1980s (and has fallen since peaking in the 1940s), one category is booming: single serve.

The dominant player in the domestic market is Green Mountain’s Keurig machines and their K-cup pods — with 72 percent market-share, according to a recent report from Euromonitor. Switzerland-based Nestle and its Nespresso machines have just 3 percent of the U.S. market.

But Nespresso — which is dominant in Europe — is trying to muscle in with a new offering called the VertuoLine. Nespresso's original line of machines — which has seen double-digit growth in recent years in the U.S. — is designed to reproduce a "European" coffee experience, says Nespresso CEO Jean-Marc Duvoisin.

"The objective was to be able to create concentrated strong espresso coffee especially as drunk in Italy, France, Switzerland," Duvoisin says. In other words, a strong short shot of espresso with froth, or crema, on top.

But Duvoisin acknowledges that the market for this style and size of coffee drink is limited in the U.S. So the company's new VertuoLine — with a new coffee-making technology that swirls the hot water through the pod in a centrifuge motion — delivers what the company thinks many more Americans want, says Duvoisin, "the long mug of coffee." 

It's an eight-ounce cup, similar to what rival Keurig machines deliver.

Harry Balzer, who researches American eating and drinking habits at the NPD Group, says Nespresso’s move to a bigger drink is probably wise.

"Look at the sandwiches we have, look at the drinks we have," says Balzer. "We tend to prefer things bigger. Feel like we're getting a good deal, a good value."

But Americans may not feel like they're getting such good value from Nespresso, says Jim Hertel at retail consultancy Willard Bishop. It's not the price of the machines — at around $300 they're in the same price-range ballpark as the competition.

It’s "the price of the pods themselves," says Hertel. He says one can find K-cups for Keurig machines online or at discount groceries for just over $0.30 apiece. Nespresso's pods cost twice that, and they have to be ordered from Nespresso.

"It's going to start off being elite," Hertel says of Nespresso's expanding footprint in the U.S. market, "and then it's going to move its way down. It may never get down to the mid-market."

Right now, Nespresso machines are available in Nespresso's own branded stores — just a handful in upscale markets like Beverly Hills, New York and Miami. The company also has store-within-a-store displays — where customers can sample Nespresso coffee free — in stores like Bloomingdale's and Sur La Table. And the company plans to introduce its new VertuoLine at Target later this year.

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

 

SOME RULES OF OFFICE COFFEE ETIQUETTE:

1. If you drink the last cup, make a new pot!
2. Re-read Rule No. 1 — it's that important.
3. Never leave a dirty cup in the single-serve coffeemaker. Empty the used pod, or pod reservoir if it's full.
4. If there are multiple flavors of single-serve coffee in a rack at work, don't pick a co-worker's favorite if it's the last one left.
5. If there are free snacks in the office kitchen, eat the whole cookie — or donut or Danish. It's okay to count calories, but no one wants a pastry you've already torn apart with your grubby fingers.
6. Chip in to the office coffee pool if there is one — no one likes a freeloader (and eventually you'll probably be found out.)

These are the highest paid doctors in Medicare

Wed, 2014-04-09 01:26

As of today, we know a whole lot more about how much Medicare pays doctors. The government has released huge amounts of data on which doctors, got paid how much, for what procedures. The data show payments to more than 800,000 doctors and health care organizations. It includes information for thousands of procedures. 

If you want to look up a specific doctor, to find out how much she was paid by Medicare in 2012.  You can look it up.  The Wall Street Journal has created an easy to use interactive search tool here. Researchers are at the very beginning of trying to make sense of all the numbers.  But, we have been able to pull out a few interseting tid-bits.

According to a New York Times analysis:

Much of Medicare spending is concentrated among a small fraction of doctors. About 2 percent of doctors account for about $15 billion in Medicare payments, roughly a quarter of the total.

Medicare paid 344 doctors and health care providers more than $3 million in 2012. At the top of the list is an opthamologist in Florida who was paid nearly $21 million.

So who are these well paid doctors? Where are they?

Here are the top 5 states where those 344 doctors and health care providers do business:

 And here's a breakdown of the $3 million-plus club by the type of medicine they practice.

 Some doctors aren't happy with the data dump.  According to the Wall Street Journal, it's the end of a fight that's been going on since the 1970s. As my colleague, Nancy Marshall-Genzer points out, many physicians groups worry the numbers, out of context, could be misleading: 

"Sixty percent of all Medicare patients actually have three or more medical conditions. Our patients are extremely complex" Dr. Reid Blackwelder,  president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Proponents of the database say it will allow patients to figure out which doctors do a good job of providing good quality care while limiting costs.  And, it should help us all better understand what goes into the $2.8 trillion dollar U.S. health care industry.

If these dolphins could talk

Wed, 2014-04-09 01:00

Researchers in Florida have developed an interface that aims to translate dolphin sounds into words that humans can understand. As Dr. Denise Herzing, the founder of the Wild Dolphin Project, puts it:

"Think of it like an acoustic keyboard underwater. The system has four artificially designed whistles that we created. We made them specifically because they aren’t in the dolphin’s normal repertoire."

With their ability to mimic sounds, dolphins can learn how to make whistling noises which they have been trained to associate with designated objects in the water. Underwater computer CHAT (Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry) can hear the whistle sounds being made by the dolphins, and then translate them into words that are transmitted into a researcher's ear piece. 

Dr. Herzing is encouraged by an instance in which a dolphin's whistle was translated by CHAT into the word "Sargassum," which is a kind of brown algae. Though, she warns of celebrating success too soon.

"Let’s remember that when a dolphin mimics a whistle, it doesn’t necessarily mean the dolphin understands what the whistle means."

Still, it's an exciting development in dolphin-to-human communication. And no, we're not referring to this kind of communication.

 

You can now search Yelp for emojis

Tue, 2014-04-08 14:35

You can now search the online review site Yelp using emojis -- those little cartoon-ish characters you can create with a certain set of keystrokes.     So...you search on a pair of scissors, you get listings for hair salons. A high heel gets you shoe stores. You get the picture(s).   I don't even want to search on a smiley face or a wink. Pretty sure the Internet has taken things one step too far.   We, of course, had to try it:   Some results were just... the usual for Yelp.       Others were pretty literal.       But seriously: Could this be a useful search tool?    

 

You can now search Yelp for emojis

Tue, 2014-04-08 14:35

You can now search the online review site Yelp using emojis -- those little cartoon-ish characters you can create with a certain set of keystrokes.     So...you search on a pair of scissors, you get listings for hair salons. A high heel gets you shoe stores. You get the picture(s).   I don't even want to search on a smiley face or a wink. Pretty sure the Internet has taken things one step too far.   We, of course, had to try it:   Some results were just... the usual for Yelp.       Others were pretty literal.       But seriously: Could this be a useful search tool?    

 

Manischewitz promotes 'Kosher' as 'healthy'

Tue, 2014-04-08 13:23

Passover is a week away, and if you know anything about this Jewish holiday, you know that it involves matzos, the unleavened cracker that you can buy in your local grocery store, usually in that one aisle with all the "ethnic foods." The kosher section of the supermarket is dominated by one brand in particular, Manischewitz, which as of today is owned by Sankaty Advisors, a division of the private equity firm Bain Capital.

Manischewitz wants people to think of the kosher symbol -- that little letter K on food packaging -- in the same way they think of the Fair Trade symbol, or the USDA Organic symbol -- higher quality and healthier..

“People want to know where the stuff comes from, how it’s made, who's making it,” says David Bernard, a marketing strategist with Mythmaker, a company whose strategy is to turn brands into compelling stories about "the essential human truth or core beliefs that brought the company to life.".

That strategy seems tailor-made for kosher foods, which according to Jewish belief are approved by God.

“That’s a pretty strong endorsement, but I think what it gets down to is this idea of authenticity," Bernard says. "It’s like, 'The people behind this product really care about what goes into it.'”

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That little "K" (along with its friends "OU" and "P"); has been showing up beyond bottles of Manischewitz. Check out some of the (bizarre) ways companies try to leverage "Kosher":

Coors claims to be "America’s First Kosher Beer

Go on a Kosher Safari in Africa!

Kickstarter funded high-end Kosher cheese! 

For a truly hands on experience: Get yourself a ticket to Kosherfest.

Tech firms challenged over hiring practices

Tue, 2014-04-08 13:19

Several technology giants, including Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe, are embroiled in a class-action lawsuit, where their employees claim the tech companies made an agreement not to poach talent from each other.

Employees at those companies say that resulted in $9 billion in lost wages.

Jim Balassone, with the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, says figuring out exactly how much money in wages was lost is a lawyers' game. But, he says, the emails discovered during the lawsuit help connect the dots.

"In an email exchange between Google and Apple, Google sought the approval of Apple to hire four French software engineers who had already left Apple," Balassone said. 

Steve Jobs’ response? "We'd strongly prefer that you not hire these guys," he said in an email. 

Google honored his wishes.

"So there’s the issue of lost wages but harder to measure is the lost opportunity," says Balasone. 

Steve Donnelly, the head of recruiting for BigCommerce, has been reading the emails too. Referring to one in which Google asked if it could hire a current Apple employee, the answer was also "no." Donnelly believes that leaves the employee exposed.

"That limits the person who ends up staying with the company," he says, adding that an employer may decide not to promote that person or worse, start looking for somebody who’s more dedicated to the company to replace them. 

Scott Brosnan, a recruiter at Workbridge Associates in San Francisco, says competition for hiring engineers is stiff.

"I’ve seen candidates in this market where a year and a half ago were at $80,000 on their base salary and a year and a half later, they’ve changed two or three companies and their now at $140,000".

Brosnan says if engineers were blocked from taking jobs, then they were losing real money.

Google and Apple were contacted for comment, but did not respond to an email request.

Who's quitting? Who's hiring? Is it you?

Tue, 2014-04-08 13:12

There are some good things in the JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey).  There were 4.2 million new job postings in February, 300,000 more than in January. We're at January 2008 levels now.

But let’s have our fresh numbers with a side of pickled context shall we?

First, these are mostly low wage jobs: restaurant jobs, temp jobs, for example.  This is typical of any  post-recession recovery; these are the jobs that rebound first.  We may not like them, but at least they’re rebounding. Second, we still have 2.5 times as many people as job postings.  That means 60 percent of people looking for a job in February weren't going to get hired no matter what they did.  In this kind of environment, employers have little incentive to bid up wages.

If employers aren’t bidding up wages and there aren’t nearly enough jobs to go around, then, thirdly, people aren’t going to really feel very comfortable with their job prospects.  Which is reflected in the Quits Rate – that’s the number of job quits/total employment.  It’s low, at *1.9 percent and it hasn’t really changed meaningfully in three years. 

Finally, job postings don’t mean job hirings.  Employers appear to be taking their time filling these positions.  That’s why the Hires Rate (number of hires during the entire month as a percent of total employment) is still depressed at 3.3 percent. But let’s not get all doom and gloom here.  Things are improving without a doubt.  They’re just doing so very slowly.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the quits and hires rates in the Labor Department's February report. The text has been corrected.

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