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OBAMA BROKERS DEAL TO EXTEND BUSH-ERA TAX CUTS AND FEDERAL UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

President Obama announced an agreement between the White House and congressional leaders that would extend Bush-era tax cuts across the board for two years as well as extend the federal unemployment benefit program for 13 months.

According to the agreement, dividends and payroll tax would remain at 15 percent; there would be a 2 percentage point cut in payroll taxes for one year, a one-year cut in Social Security taxes and an estate tax of 35 percent with a $5 million threshold for the tax to even be triggered.

Additional tax breaks would also be extended, including an expansion of the earned income tax credit and the continuation of a college-tuition tax credit as well as the child-tax credit. House Democrats, however, balked at the deal and Obama had to scramble to shore up support for the plan among his own base. Without the deal, he added, the economy would be at risk of falling into a double-dip recession. Despite opposition, the deal was passed in the lame duck session.

U.S. AND SOUTH KOREA ANNOUNCE FAIR TRADE AGREEMENT; DOMESTIC AUTO INDUSTRY EXPECTED TO BENEFIT

President Obama announced that the U.S. had revised a fair trade agreement with South Korea. The agreement is the largest of its kind since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in 1994.

The pact, which requires congressional approval, would support at least 70,000 American jobs, according to Obama, who added that U.S. automakers would gain greater access to the expanding South Korean market. “It will continue to ensure a level playing field for American automakers here at home,” Obama said.

MICHIGAN ECONOMY CONTINUES TO GROW, BUT AT SLOWER RATE

Metro Detroit’s economy continued to grow in November, but at a slower rate, according to the Southeast Michigan Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), which dropped to 54.2 in November from 67.1 in October. A score above 50 indicates economic expansion. The Southeast Michigan PMI has scored above 50 for 10 consecutive months.

“Southeast Michigan is showing signs of stability and steady growth for almost a year now,” said Nitin Paranjpe, an economist and supply chain faculty member at Wayne State University’s business school, who analyzed the survey data.

More than 85 percent of the local purchasing managers surveyed said they expect the Southeast Michigan economy to remain about the same or improve.

HIRING OUTLOOK BRIGHTENS

The hiring outlook is as bright as its been in more than two years, according to Manpower’s latest Employment Outlook Survey, which revealed that 14 percent of employers anticipate an increase in staff levels in the first quarter of 2011, while 10 percent expect a decrease in payrolls, resulting in a net employment gain of 4 percent.

The hiring outlook in Michigan is even more optimistic. In Michigan, 17 percent of employers plan to hire more workers in the first quarter, while 12 percent expect to reduce their payrolls. Another 67 percent plan to maintain current staff levels, while 4 percent said they were not yet sure. That would yield a net employment gain of 5 percent.

In Michigan, job prospects appear brightest in durable and non-durable goods manufacturing, transportation and utilities, wholesale and retail trade, information, professional and business services. education and health services, and other sectors.

MICHIGAN GETS FIRST LARGE-SCALE WIND TURBINE MANUFACTURING PROJECT

Consumers Energy and Traverse-City based Heritage Sustainable Energy announced an agreement that will result in the first large-scale production of utilities-sized wind turbines fully made in Michigan and hundreds of new jobs.

Northern Power Systems will build the direct-drive wind turbines in its Saginaw facility, where it will employ up to 137 workers by 2014. The company also plans to use substantial supply chain resources in Michigan, including strategic supplier Merrill Technologies Group, also in Saginaw.

The turbines will be shipped to Heritage’s wind farm, located in the Upper Peninsula’s Garden Peninsula, where 80 direct and indirect jobs will be created to support the project development, installation and operation phases.

Heritage said it then will sell the power it generates back to Consumers.

“Development of the wind energy sector is a key piece of Michigan’s strategy to diversify our economy and create clean energy jobs,” said departing Gov. Jennifer Granholm. “The agreement … helps to solidify the state’s emerging leadership in this industry.”

ALMOST ONE-THIRD OF STATE RESIDENTS SERVED BY MICHIGAN’S DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES IN FISCAL YEAR 2010

In fiscal year 2010, the Michigan Department of Human Services and its partners served more than 2.9 million Michigan residents — nearly 30 percent of the state’s population.

“Through no fault of their own, an unprecedented number of hard-working families found themselves short on jobs and opportunities, but not short on work ethic,” DHS director Ismael Ahmed said. “Due to their situations, they turned to the safety net for temporary relief.”

According to the DHS annual report, the food assistance, Medicaid and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs were at historic highs with nearly 2 million people receiving food and health care assistance. The result: DHS field specialists were handling an average of 714 cases compared to 320 cases in fiscal year 2002. RT

— By Jackie Headapohl

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