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CEO Daily Brief – Oct. 29, 2010

Jobless Claims Fall, Signaling U.S. Job Market May Be Starting to Mend Businesses may soon find there are not as …

Jobless Claims Fall, Signaling U.S. Job Market May Be Starting to Mend

Businesses may soon find there are not as many applicants for a job. Claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly dropped last week to a three-month low, a sign the U.S. labor market may be starting to mend. Initial jobless claims decreased by 21,000 to 434,000 in the week ended Oct. 23. The total number of people receiving unemployment insurance dropped to a two-year low, while those getting extended payments also fell.

Companies in September added 64,000 workers. Ford, the second-largest U.S. automaker, plans to invest $850 million and add 1,200 jobs in Michigan by 2013 as sales rebound.

Another positive for employment is coming from winter holiday shopping projections. Not only are retail companies hiring seasonal employees, shoppers are expected to spend more this season than last season. The National Retail Federation projects that sales during November and December will rise 2.3 percent from a year ago, the most in four years. Americans plan to spend an average of $688.87, 1 percent more than 2009, and may step up discretionary purchases. For more about a Washington Post story about employment trends, please click here.

Looking at the Military to Help Develop Critical Thinkers and Creative Leaders at Businesses

Today’s leaders are continually encouraged to act as “outside-the-box” thinkers. However, what industry and the military really strive to produce are leaders possessing strong critical and creative thinking skills.

Col. Bernard Banks, a faculty member at West Point, says the military seeks to prepare its soldiers for the challenges they will inevitably face by crafting realistic training scenarios and routinely integrating such activities into its ongoing operations. The goal is not to teach them what to think, but to enhance their ability to think critically and creatively about the myriad of contingencies posed by a fluid environment — in essence to teach them how to think.

In industry, 90 percent of time is typically devoted to executing business actions, and less than 10 percent is allocated for increasing organizational and individual capabilities through training. The military, on the other hand, spends as much time training as it does executing — even in the midst of high stress/high risk operations.

To read more from the Harvard Business Review about how the military crafts its training opportunities, please click here.

Bigger Corporate Profits in 2009 Doesn’t Translate into Bigger Donations to Charity

Some of the nation’s largest businesses gave away billions to charity last year, but bigger profits in 2009 didn’t translate into bigger donations. Despite tough economic times, 162 of America’s largest corporations continued giving in 2009, according to a survey published by The Chronicle of Philanthropy. But in a year when profits were beginning to bounce back, many of them slimmed down their cash donations. Companies on average gave an amount equal to 1.2 percent of their 2008 profits in 2009.

Tyson was the second most generous company. The food production firm contributed $16.4 million, or 10.7 percent of its 2008 profit. The biggest cash contributor was Wal-Mart. The discount retail chain gave $288.1 million in cash, and almost $200 million more in products. The combined giving is 14.4 percent more than in 2008, but the cash-only part dropped about $32 million year-over-year.

Pharmaceutical companies dominate the list of corporations that gave the most in 2009.

In addition, there is a growing trend of companies donating their employees’ time, advice and service instead of cash. Those donations rose 5 percent last year, according to a survey from USA Today and The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

For 19 of the companies surveyed, non-cash contributions such as computer equipment, software, drugs and other products and services accounted for more than 50 percent of their total charitable contributions. Oracle, for instance, gives virtually all its donations — $2.1 billion — as computer software.

To find out more about the corporate giving survey results as reported by Forbes, please click here.

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