Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Wed, May 02, 2012

Millennials racking up more college debt as they struggle to start careers

With more college graduates than ever pouring into a job market that went south after 2008, much ado has been made about the convergence of challenges now faced by twenty-somethings. The job market has stiff-armed recent graduates, just as rising tuition and a languid economy have forced many to borrow more money to complete school. Last year, U.S. student loan debt reached $1 trillion and has now surpassed the nation's collective credit card debt. The average debt per graduating student across the country is $25,000. The situation has diminished the expectations of millennials, who were raised to believe that a four-year degree would lead directly to stable work and rapid advancement. "Every job I applied for said that experience was required, but how do you get experience without getting a job first?" says 2010 LSU graduate Holly Kelly, who eventually took a full-time position at the corporate travel firm where she had worked part-time throughout college. Like many millennials, the 24-year-old has revised her career goals and now plans to pursue a travel agent's license. Take an in-depth look at the experiences of more local millennials as they struggle to find a place in a contracted job market—and how college enrollment has been affected—in the new Business Report cover story by Maggie Heyn Richardson here.

Louisiana most improved on CEOs' ranking of best states for business

Ranked at No. 13, Louisiana made the biggest upward move in Chief Executive magazine's annual Best & Worst States Survey measuring the collective sentiment of 650 CEOs from across the country on the most attractive places to do business. Louisiana jumped 14 spots on the list from last year's No. 27 ranking, and has improved 32 spots over the past four years. Texas took the top ranking for the eighth straight year, while California was named the worst state to do business. For the 2012 survey, which was conducted between January and February, CEOs were asked to evaluate states on issues such as regulations, tax policies, workforce quality, educational resources, quality of living and infrastructure. CEOs recognized an improved policy and regulatory environment in Louisiana, along with improved economic performance, according to Chief Executive Editor in Chief JP Donlon, who writes, "Although often eclipsed by Texas, its next-door neighbor, Louisiana is the Cinderella of business improvement." Check out the entire list and read the full story here.

Debate over CATS board makeup continues as Senate prepares to vote

The controversy over the property tax supporting the struggling Capital Area Transit System may have ended with passage of the ballot initiative on April 21 in Baton Rouge and Baker, but some of those who most ardently opposed the tax continue to show up at the Capitol daily to fight a bill that would change the makeup of the board overseeing CATS. "There are no citizens included [on the board under the bill]. They're all appointed from these organizations that have their own agendas," says Glenda Pollard, co-chair of Taxbusters. The CATS board of directors is currently made up of appointees from the Metro Council, which also has authority to OK or veto proposed changes to routes, fares and other CATS operations. House Bill 865, among other things, would take away the Metro Council's authority over operations and alter its appointee nomination process to require them to take recommendations from local entities including the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Together Baton Rouge, Center for Planning Excellence, AARP Louisiana, Louisiana Hospital Association, LSU, Southern University, The Arc Baton Rouge, Louisiana Bankers Association, Visit Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge Black Chamber of Commerce and the Louisiana AFL-CIO. Edgar Cage, co-chair of the Together Baton Rouge Transit Research Action Team, says the changes would make the CATS board the most accountable in the parish and would not lead to less oversight, as those who oppose it claim. "We're trying to take the politics out of the transit system and put it in the hands of the people," he says. The House passed the bill earlier this month. The Senate was to take up final approval of it on Tuesday, but it was once more delayed. It is not clear when it will be taken up, says Cage, adding members of Together Baton Rouge, Center for Planning Excellence and other local groups will also be at the Capitol to urge Senators to pass the bill. You can check out the full text of the bill at the Louisiana Legislature website here. —Steve Sanoski

Editor's note: This story has been changed since its original publication.

OTC speaker: 'Space race today is in the energy industry'

Satisfying the world's surging demand for energy will require rapid developments in subsea and remote technologies for the oil and gas industry as it ventures into deeper waters farther from shore, speakers at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston told attendees on Tuesday, The Houston Chronicle reports. Industry forecasts say energy demand will grow 30% to 40% through 2030, with oil and gas continuing to feed the majority of power generation, transportation fuels and other energy needs. That will push the industry into risky, new frontiers, drilling higher-pressure wells deeper below the ocean surface to reach remote oil reservoirs, industry leaders say. "The challenges before us, though daunting, are not insurmountable," says Lee Tillman, Exxon Mobil Corp.'s vice president of engineering. "By applying new technology, we can find and produce the energy that the world needs." Derek Mathieson, president of Western Hemisphere operations for Baker Hughes, says technology advancements will be key to meeting growing demand in coming years. "I think the space race today is in the energy industry," Mathieson says, alluding to the Cold War competition in the 1960s that led to the Apollo moon landings. The annual Offshore Technology Conference has attracted 70,000 engineers, geologists and corporate executives from around the world for high-tech displays and discussions on key industry issues. It wraps up Thursday. Get the full story and see photos from the conference here.

Private survey shows U.S. hiring slowed last month

A private survey shows U.S. businesses sharply reduced hiring in April, a cautionary sign two days before the government releases its official report on monthly job growth. Payroll provider ADP says that businesses added just 119,000 jobs last month, far lower than a revised total of 201,000 jobs in March. The number of jobs added was the fewest ADP has reported in seven months. Stock futures fell slightly after the report was released. The survey covers hiring only in the private sector—and it has been known to deviate sharply from the government's figures, which will be released Friday. For example, the government said employers added just 120,000 jobs in March, which is much lower than ADP's estimate. Many economists tell The Associated Press the ADP figures would not lead them to change their forecasts. Analysts expect the government will report Friday that employers added 163,000 jobs in April, according to a survey by FactSet. The unemployment rate is expected to stay at 8.2%. The disparity between figures released by ADP and the government, respectively, could reflect the way each gathers employment figures. The Bureau of Labor Statistics draws its data from a survey of employers in government and the private sector. ADP derives its figures from the payroll data it processes for about 344,000 U.S. companies that employ 21 million people. Read the full story for more details in the report here.

Report: Facebook IPO set for May 18

Facebook will go public on May 18, in one of the most highly anticipated tech initial public offerings since Google went public in August 2004, The Wall Street Journal reports. The social networking company is set next week to begin its road show—a series of meetings with prospective institutional investors designed to stir interest in the company's stock—people familiar with the matter tell the newspaper. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook, will reportedly attend some of the meetings. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company is seeking to raise about $5 billion in the offering, giving the entire company a value of about $100 billion. Officials for Facebook declined to comment on the report. The company had 901 million monthly active users as of March 31, up from 845 million as of the end of 2011. Facebook is listing its stock on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol "FB." Read the full story from The Associated Press here.

Today's poll question: Do you think buying stock in Facebook will be a good investment in the long term?

News roundup: LSU-Arkansas football game set for a Friday afternoon in Fayetteville … Applications being taken for Barton Sr. Community Leadership Development Program … Soybean acreage could increase 20% in La.

A post-holiday feast: The CBS network and the SEC officially announced this morning that the LSU-Arkansas football game for the 2012 season will take place on Friday, Nov. 23, in Fayetteville. Kickoff for the Tigers and the Razorbacks is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. from Razorback Stadium, and the game will be a national telecast on CBS. It will mark only the second game for the Tigers in Fayetteville. The only other time that LSU has played in Fayetteville came in 1992, when the Razorbacks beat the Tigers, 30-6, in what was Arkansas' first year in the SEC. The remainder of the CBS Sports 2012 SEC schedule will be announced later this summer.

The future is now: Forum 35 and the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations have begun taking applications for the 2012 John W. Barton Sr. Community Leadership Development Program, which trains young and emerging leaders in nonprofit governance and then matches them with local nonprofits for service on their boards of directors. Classes will commence June 12 and conclude in early September, with matching and placement events to be held in August and September. The application deadline is May 25. Complete details and application forms are available at the LANO website here.

On the grow: High prices for fertilizer and low prices for other crops could boost this year's soybean acreage by 20% from the 996,700 acres planted in Louisiana last year, says LSU AgCenter soybean specialist Ron Levy. "I would say we're going to be somewhere around 1.2 million acres," Levy says. The high cost of fertilizer has moved some corn acreage into soybeans, he says, while some cotton acreage is being converted to soybeans because cotton prices are low. Soybean prices, however, are good, and exceeded $14 a bushel for the entire month of April on the Chicago Board of Trade. The optimal window for planting soybeans closes May 10, but around two-thirds of the crop is already planted, Levy says. "We could use a rain now to finish planting." Concern remains that the warm winter could result in more insect and disease pressures for soybeans.

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