Al’s column

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by Al Wahnon

I’M WITH HIM: Warren Buffett ruled out a second recession in the U.S. and said businesses owned by his Berkshire Hathaway are growing. The Omaha Oracle is so right so often, logic dictates you agree with him. “I am a huge bull on this country,” he said last week in remarks to the Montana Economic Development Summit. “We will not have a double-dip recession at all, I see our businesses coming back almost across the board,” added Berkshire’s CEO. “I’ve seen sentiment turn sour in the last three months or so, generally in the media. I don’t see that in our businesses. I see we are employing more people than a month ago, two months ago.” Buffett’s companies are in insurance, energy and luxury goods. In case you weren’t aware, Berkshire is the parent company of Shaw Industries.

MORE OPTIMISM: Expectations about corporate growth turned positive this year, according to a new survey by Ernst & Young that measures attitudes about key economic and performance indicators among U.S. companies with $500 million to $3 billion in total revenues. Respondents were particularly optimistic about revenue, profitability, technology spending and hiring. The Growth Company Leadership survey indicated that 75% of senior executives questioned say they are optimistic about achieving their companies’ growth expectations over the next two years. They and Buffett are on the same page. Almost two-thirds (64%) expect their revenues to increase over the next 12 months by an average of 11.3%, and 58% anticipate profit increases this year. And, get this: 73% are optimistic that the current economic recovery will continue to expand this year.

JOB MARKET: August was a good month for half the country in the construction job market. That’s not a rosy report but it does indicate selective improvement that could ignite a positive trend. The Associated General Contractors of America said jobs were added in 25 states in August, while the year- over-year job gains rose to 10 from just six in July, the biggest gain since October 2008. The largest year-over- year increase was in New Hampshire, where construction employment rose 9.6% (2,100 jobs), followed by Oklahoma, 9.5% (6,300 jobs); Kansas, 6.1% (4,600 jobs); District of Columbia, 3.7% (400 jobs), and Arkansas, 3.5% (1,800 jobs). Illinois gained the most jobs in August with 14,200, a 7.7% increase. In simple terms: The new construction jobs give workers money to spend and the new buildings create new floors.

WEIRD SURVEY: Here’s the most bizarre survey I have ever encountered: What’s your biggest pet peeve at work? The antidote to that malady is simple. Get rid of the peeve (even if it is your pet) or get rid of your job. Anyway, 43% said poor time management. Well, stop using the computer and telephone as personal privileges and buy a watch—not a Rolex, a Timex—and learn to tell time. Then, 36% said gossip. Think of gossip as a communicable disease. It is passed on by contact. Either don’t listen to unfounded rumors or be like the roach motel where rumors check in but never check out. That was followed by 25% citing messiness. This is not complicated. Clean up your work area and stop being a pack rat. Get a quick glimpse of the boss’ office and then realize how much busier he or she is and how neat and orderly the office is. Again, the option is change offices or change jobs. Loud noises garnered 21% of the vote. This is baffling, unless you operate a pneumatic drill or a cement mixer. Advice: get earplugs or work in a funeral home. And finally, 20% said potent scents. I guess that means foul odors. Here, either get scuba equipment or get a job in a perfume factory. I said it was a weird survey.

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