Business, Economics and Jobs

Macro chatter: Disappointing news for the US job market and Canada's got banks of steel


A sign points to an employment fair in the Queens borough of New York.


Stan Honda

Need to know:
The percentage of American adults working or holding out hope of finding a job has fallen to the lowest level in 30 years.

The US added 115,000 jobs in April, a number that isn't enough to keep up with population growth or bring down the unemployment rate under normal circumstances. Still, the US unemployment rate in April fell to 8.1 percent, its lowest level in three years. 

This is a cloud with a decidedly gray lining: the decline wasn't due to job growth but was instead a reflection of just how many given up.

Employment growth in the US has slowed sharply since the beginning of the year, and people working in warehousing, transportation, construction and for the government fared the worst in April.  

Want to know:
Unemployment may be a problem
 in the US and across much of Europe, but in Germany labor unions are demanding nice pay raises.

Tens of thousands of German workers have gone on strike this week, disrupting everything from air traffic to the production of Porsches and Audis.

Hundreds of companies have been affected so far, and the workers on strike are making a pretty strong argument. German industrial giants like Volkswagen have making lots of money and workers say they want a bigger piece of the profit pie.

Dull but important:
Sorry Wall Street, your banks aren’t the strongest in the world. Banks in Singapore and Canada dominated Bloomberg’s list of the world’s strongest banks. 

Singapore’s Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. was named the world’s strongest bank for the second year in a row. It was one of three Singapore banks to make the top 10, and a local economy that stayed strong through the global recession helped it get there. 

Canadian banks captured four of the top 10 spots, an amazing feat for a country with just eight publicly traded banks. It should come as no surprise, though. Canada makes its banks put more capital away for rainy days than international standards require.

The strongest US bank was JP Morgan Chase, in thirteenth place.

Just because:
Men are out-shopping women online, and it’s not because they’re busy buying gifts for their sweethearts.

Of the roughly 19 million six-figure men online, nearly half spend more than $4,000 a year, the marketing firm iProspect said in its latest digital dissection of the affluent male. A quarter of the men make purchases each week, and they’re often buying clothes or accessories.

The one thing they’re not doing is buying you a gift. Nearly 85 percent of the men shopping online are shopping for themselves.

Strange but true:
High metal prices can apparently be really motivating. 

In perhaps the heaviest steel heist ever, thieves in the Czech Republic have stolen a 10-ton steel bridge. The thieves told cops they were building a bicycle path and then used a crane to dismantle a pedestrian bridge and some railway track that linked two Czech Villages 

The metal they got away with is worth an estimated $6,300.