10 Products That Boomed During the Recession

Behold the damage the recession has wrought on the consumer economy: Retailers and automakers have gone bankrupt, restaurants have closed, and malls have become ghost towns. Most businesses dependent on consumer spending, from clothing to computers to appliances, have felt the pinch.

But some consumer-product companies have benefited from the recession, usually because they sell the kind of stuff that helps people save money. Other companies have capitalized on timely technology or latched on to powerful trends that defy the recession. To identify some of these recession winners, I analyzed data provided by financial research firm Capital IQ, a unit of Standard & Poor's, to see which consumer-products firms have gained revenue and market share since the recession began near the end of 2007. Then I researched earnings reports and other sources to see which products have fueled each company's growth.

For many of these companies, any increase in revenue over the past two years is a nifty accomplishment, since overall sales of household goods have fallen by more than 30 percent, according to Capital IQ. And sales of supposedly recessionproof "staple" items like food, beverages, and personal products have barely risen. So firms that have significantly outpaced the rest of their industry deserve special attention.

What Won't You Do for a Job?

Melissa & Doug LLC, a fast-growing toy maker in Wilton, Conn., puts applicants through an interview process so grueling that one job seeker says she left in tears and felt psychologically traumatized.

Candidates must bring their lunch -- plus three years of W-2 statements. They spend hours on simulated work tasks, several with tight deadlines. They complete a lengthy survey, where they rank their interest in chores such as fixing a leaky faucet and changing the fax machine's toner. Some prospects walk out right after the all-day screening starts.

The process "is sometimes a little rough around the edges," but Melissa & Doug hires only individuals "who will love it here," says co-CEO Doug Bernstein. He and his wife founded a firm where sales staffers often interrupt work to belt out songs using the office karaoke machine. Melissa & Doug can afford to be picky. About 50 people now apply for every position the company fills, 10 times as many as two years ago, according to Mr. Bernstein


Nokia Taps New Finance Chief

STOCKHOLM -- Nokia Corp. said Friday that Chief Financial Officer Rick Simonson will leave his role on Nov. 1 to head the company's mobile-phones sector in the devices unit.

Timo Ihamuotila, 43, who is currently global head of sales, will replace him.

The world's largest handset maker said Mr. Simonson, 51, will also head strategic sourcing for the entire devices unit. "Rick Simonson's deep knowledge of the business and its financials will be valuable for the significant part mobile phones plays in Nokia's business," Chief Executive Officer Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said.

Women's Wages Outpaced Men's During Recession

The wages of the typical woman who had a job during the worst recession in decades rose faster than those of the typical man, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show.

Over the past two years, the wages of the median woman -- at the statistical middle -- rose 3.2% when adjusted for inflation. Wages of the median man rose 2%. Minority men were particularly hard hit, while minority women and highly educated women of all races did better.

The typical full-time female worker earned $657 a week in the third quarter, the BLS said. The typical man earned $812 a week. Men are more likely to be unemployed, though: The male jobless rate is 11%; for women, it's 8.4%

Economists cautioned that the wage numbers and the increases don't reflect the large numbers of workers who aren't working at all.

The Most Annoying, Overused Words in the Workplace

"Could you interface with that team on its ad campaign that's gone viral, and then circle back with me? If we can leverage similar assets, we'll have a game changer."

Ever heard talk like that in your workplace? If it sounds familiar, it could be the buzzwords. "Leverage," "interface," and "circle back" are among the most annoying and overused terms in work settings today, according to a new survey of executives.

The Buzzword Lineup

In research conducted by finance staffing firm Accountemps, 150 senior executives from the nation's largest companies cited these 10 problem words and phrases (in no particular order):

  • Leverage: "We should leverage our investment in IT infrastructure across multiple business units to drive profits."
  • Reach out: "Jim decided to reach out to this underutilized demographic."
  • It is what it is: "The server is down, and clients are irate. It is what it is."
  • Viral: "Our training video has gone viral."
  • Game changer: "The switch from LAN to WiFi was a game changer for our productivity."
  • Disconnect: "There is a disconnect between our customers' wants and their page views."
  • Value-add: "Where's the value-add in this increase in spending?"
  • Circle back: "I have to go, but I will circle back with the client later."
  • Interface: "My job requires me to interface with all levels of the firm."
  • Cutting edge: "Our cutting-edge technology gives us a competitive advantage."

Green Works: Low-Cost Training for an Earth-Friendly Career

The green economy is coming -- some say it's already arrived -- and around the country new jobs and training programs are popping up rapidly, while old jobs are changing to align with sustainable practices. Green services and products are already in demand, and workforce development experts agree that this movement is going to have enormous impact on jobs of every level.

"This will affect all areas of the economy in ways we are only beginning to find out," says Julian L. Alssid, executive director of Workforce Strategy Center (WSC), an East Coast-based organization that consults with economic development agencies and educational institutions to help state and regional economies grow. "If we do this well, green will become a part of every job."

Green enthusiasts believe that blue collar and white collar will one day be ideas of the past, with "green" collar leading the way of the future. Do you know how your job could change to "go green"? And could the green economy present an opportunity for you to increase your marketability and earning power?

Surprising Jobs that Pay $25 an Hour

Career websites typically compile a listing of jobs that pay $25 an hour. The list of professions -- and the career training you need to pass the muster of recruiters -- can be daunting. But you don't necessarily need a post-graduate degree to qualify for a job that pays several hundred dollars a day.

While it may be true that helicopter pilots, high-tech administrators, and civil engineers earn $25 an hour or more, so do many other professionals in careers that require only an associate or bachelor's degree to leap onto the playing field.

Of course, you add to your hourly earnings by continuing your education, taking certification courses or advanced degrees that ultimately boost on-the-job responsibilities along with earnings.

Seven careers you might have overlooked paid workers $25 an hour in 2008, meaning you may be able to earn more performing the same role today. These 2008 salaries may also rise by the time you complete an online degree or career training program to pursue future job openings. Let's look at the education you'll need to land a job:

Unusual Job-Search Tactics That Might Actually Work

Today's competitive job market is causing job candidates to try creative approaches in order to grab a hiring manager's attention and secure an interview.

In fact, Robert Half recently polled executives, asking them to recall the most unusual job hunting tactics they've seen applicants employ. One candidate offered a money-back guarantee for the initial six months if he didn't perform as expected. Another brought the entire department doughnuts.

Although you don't need to wear a sandwich board decorated with your top qualifications to make an impression, thinking outside the box when it comes to your job search could prove beneficial. Here are some unconventional approaches to the job search and reasons these tactics may just work for you:


Working In A Family Business

such a business can be an exciting way to spend your time on the clock and a prosperous way to develop your familial relationships. With the potential for long histories, rich in tradition, successful family businesses thrive because everyone involved enjoys learning and working with relatives with whom they are comfortable. These businesses can also be lucrative for parents due to the tax breaks that can be incurred from having their children work for them.

At the same time, there are several challenges associated with family businesses. Family disputes, unbalanced employee treatment and lack of planning for the future are a few of the most common issues.

As the operator of your family business, you need to know how to walk the tightrope between family employees and non-family employees, all while keeping your eye on the bottom line. Here are some tips to give your family business the foundation that it needs to succeed.

Success Tips From Barack Obama

One of the most important and momentous presidential elections in U.S. history has passed, and the American people are now inaugurating Barack Obama as their 44th President. A variety of his positions and decisions influenced his successful campaign for the U.S. presidency, and although the stakes may differ, they are are still useful in a general sense. Obama’s success presents a handful of valuable tips every man can apply to his professional life in an effort to help him achieve his goals. And on that note, we present success tips from Barack Obama.

Embrace technology

History may look back on Obama’s decision to understand -- and effectively utilize -- the fluid technology of the modern minute as his most prudent decision. He isn’t the first president to capitalize on technology (think FDR’s fireside chats, or JFK’s televised debates), but thanks to the elasticity of Web 2.0, Obama became the social networking "friend" of millions, personalizing him in a way that no candidate has ever done before. This use of technology allowed us to feel a closeness to him as a person first, then as a candidate without him really ever having to do anything.

Presidential pointer: Technology is not staid; it moves quickly. So embracing technology is wise only if you understand and implement the trends that fill it out. The potential network is vast -- Linkedin, Facebook and more -- but it’s not enough to sign up; it needs to be understood and nourished. Embracing technology means embracing a system that is always in flux.


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