National Construction Report

"Because construction is a lagging indicator, construction activity needs to increase before we see the industry's unemployment rate begin to decrease."

          —ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

The nation's construction industry lost jobs for a second straight month, shedding 12,000 jobs in November, according to the Dec. 2 jobs report by the Department of Labor.

During the past twelve months, the construction industry has added 18,000 jobs, or 0.3 percent. The construction unemployment rate slipped from 13.7 percent in October to 13.1 percent in November, and is down from 18.8 percent in November 2010.


Chamber Survey Shows Decline in Business Outlook

Billings Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau staff members are discussing the latest findings released from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The data shows small businesses' outlook for the United States economy declined in the third quarter and fewer expect to hire additional employees, with many executives citing government taxes and regulations as significant hurdles, according to a poll conducted online for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by Harris Interactive between September 29 and October 6, 2011.

"The voices of Main Street businesses are telling us plain and simple: To start hiring, we need faster economic growth and a change of course in Washington," said U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue.

Read more: Chamber Survey Shows Decline in Business Outlook

Conoco to Split Company

ConocoPhillips plans create two leading, independent energy companies.

ConocoPhillips’ board of directors has approved pursuing the separation of the company’s Refining & Marketing and Exploration & Production businesses into two stand-alone, publicly traded corporations via a tax-free spin of the refining and marketing business to ConocoPhillips shareholders.

Read more: Conoco to Split Company

A More Costly Thanksgiving Dinner

The cost of Thanksgiving Dinner is going to cost more this year – 13 percent more, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. The average cost of a traditional dinner for 10 is averaged at $49.20 — $5.73 more than last year. Impacting the cost the most is the cost of the turkey itself – up 25 cents a pound over a year ago. A 16-pound turkey—is $21.57 this year, or about $1.35 per pound.

Even with the increase, the meal "remains a bargain, at just under $5 per person," said the AFBF President Bob Stallman, a rice and cattle producer from Texas. "The quality and variety of food produced for our dinner tables on America's diverse farms and ranches sets us apart from our contemporaries around the world. It is an honor for our farm and ranch families to produce the food from our nation's land for family Thanksgiving celebrations."

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray, coffee and milk,sufficient to serve a family of 10.

Read more: A More Costly Thanksgiving Dinner

Mining Industry Becomes Much Safer

The year 2009 was the safest year in history for mining in the US, according to “Montana Mining 2011.” It marks a century-long effort to improve mine safety and a steady decline in accident-related deaths in the industry.

There were 15 fatalities in metal and non-metal mines and 18 in coal mines –a dramatic difference than the beginning of the century when over 2500 miners being killed per year was considered normal. The turning point happened in1907 after the “deadliest month” in American mining history with over 700 fatalities across the nation. But “there is more work that can and should be done,” said the publication.

Read more: Mining Industry Becomes Much Safer

CEOs say They are Hiring, Recovery Accelerating

For the first time in three years, the majority of small-business CEOs nationwide said they plan to hire in the next twelve months, according to a recent Vistage CEO Confidence Index study. Of the 1,729 respondents in the quarterly study, 77 percent expect increased revenues and 63 percent foresee higher profits in their own companies. A whopping 54 percent expect to expand their staffs in 2011, while only one in 20 said they’d have to trim back. 

“On the whole, companies are coming out of their bomb shelters,” said Becky Smith, Ed.D., the Vistage Chair in Bozeman. “They are no longer in survival mode.”

The quarterly Vistage CEO Confidence Index is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive report on the opinions and projections of CEOs at small- to mid-sized businesses (grossing at least $5 million annually).

Read more: CEOs say They are Hiring, Recovery Accelerating

Mountain Mudd Acquired by New Owners

Café International, LLC, an Idaho-based company, announced that it has acquired coffee franchise Mountain Mudd Espresso. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Café International, LLC, is owned by its CFO Betty Hawkins of Boise, Idaho and industry veteran John Adams, CEO. Adams is also the co-owner of regional premium coffee roaster White Cloud Coffee. The pair acquired Mountain Mudd from CHS, Inc., a Minnesota-based company that had owned the franchise for five years.

Adams stated, "Acquiring the Mountain Mudd franchising rights and brand represented a great opportunity for our company. We intend to grow the franchise aggressively over the next several years, both domestically and internationally, and we're excited about keeping the headquarters for these operations in Billings."

Café International is maintaining the Mountain Mudd headquarters in Billings to capitalize on the strength of the existing staff and the operation already in place. Café International has contracts to fulfill at least 117 previously executed franchise agreements in the coming years, with a significant number of those franchises expected to open in the Midwest and Northeast.

Read more: Mountain Mudd Acquired by New Owners

US Western Oil Production Poised to Displace Imports


Blueprint for Western Energy Prosperity: West Poised to Displace Imports from the Middle East, Venezuela and Russia. The Blueprint for Western Energy Prosperity finds that by 2020 the West will produce as much oil and natural gas on a daily basis as the U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Venezuela, Colombia, Algeria, Nigeria, and Russia combined.

Read more: US Western Oil Production Poised to Displace Imports

Farm Bureau: Inaction on FTAs Hurting U.S. Economy

The inability of Congress and the administration to move three stalled free trade agreements is hurting U.S. economic growth, testified American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman before the House Ways and Means Committee. Combined, the Korea, Colombia and Panama agreements would add an additional $3 billion to the U.S. economy through agricultural trade.

Once fully implemented, the Korea free trade agreement would trigger $1.8 billion annually in agriculture exports. Gains in exports through the Colombia agreement are estimated at $815 million, while the Panama agreement is estimated to increase U.S. agricultural exports to more than $195 million.

Read more: Farm Bureau: Inaction on FTAs Hurting U.S. Economy

Market Update

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