Work & Money briefs

Keeping Track: unemployment rate

No change from June as jobs fail to materialize.

The US unemployment rate held steady at 5.9 percent in July as companies, uncertain about the economic recovery and shaken by accounting scandals, added just 6,000 new jobs.

The Labor Department reported Friday that new hiring in the services industry was tempered by job cuts in construction and manufacturing.

Analysts had predicted 60,000 new jobs for July. A revised 66,000 new jobs were added to June's total, up from the 36,000 previously reported.

Does merit lead to job advancement?

Employee trust in the "workplace meritocracy" concept is steadily losing ground – especially among younger workers.

According to a recent survey by J. Howard & Associates, a multicultural consulting company, only 39 percent of employed Americans believe that merit is the most important factor in landing a promotion. The rest cite seniority (26 percent), personal connections (17 percent), or "good luck" (6 percent).

Executives at J. Howard say the poll indicates a fundamental mistrust in the decisions that lead to movements up and down the corporate ladder.

Among those polled, younger workers and African-Americans were much more likely to believe that "who you know" is more important than any other factor.

On the other hand, more than half of workers 65 and older believe strongly that promotions are still most strongly tied to merit.

Mike Hyter, president and chief executive officer of J. Howard, says US employers have a lot of work to do to change such perceptions.

"Companies have to do a better job communicating what's expected for job advancement and developing employees so that they can succeed," he says.

Investors pull money out of stock funds

According to a monthly survey by the Investment Company Institute (ICI), equity-based mutual funds had a net outflow of $18.5 billion in June, after eight consecutive months of inflows.

The dollar outflow was the the third largest ever, but still amounted to less than 1 percent of total mutual-fund assets. It's important to note that the outflow includes moves by institutional investors (often computer-driven) as well as by small investors. ICI reports that both municipal and taxable bond mutual funds – traditional havens – had modest inflows.

Best, worst states for entrepreneurs

The Small Business Survival Committee (SBSC), a Washington-based lobbying group, released its annual rankings of the policy climates for small businesses and entrepreneurs in the US.

The "Small Business Survival Index" combines 20 government-imposed or government-related costs that have a major impact on small businesses. A few examples include personal and business taxes, property taxes, and healthcare and labor costs. The group hopes the index will influence lawmakers to create a more friendly small business environment.

States friendliest to small business:

1) South Dakota

2) Nevada

3) Wyoming

4) Texas

5) Florida

States least friendly to small business:

46) California

47) New Mexico

48) Minnesota

49) Maine

50) Hawaii

51) District of Columbia

Tall coin for a $20 gold piece from 1933

Last week, Sotheby's auction house sold a 1933 gold Double Eagle to an anonymous bidder for $7.59 million. Not bad considering the face value of the coin: $20.

The gold coin is one of only three thought to exist worldwide. President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the 1933 coins melted down when he moved to take the nation off the gold standard.

At the time, two of the coins were sent to the Smithsonian Institution for historical safe-keeping. A third coin – the one sold at Sotheby's – was somehow smuggled out of the Mint. For years it resided in the collection of Egypt's last monarch, King Farouk.

The coin is thought to be the most valuable in the world. The US Mint says the money from the sale will go to the US Treasury to help fight the war on terrorism.

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