Early Briefing: Autos' One-Man PR Machine
Jack Fitzgerald, owner of nine Washington area dealerships -- seven of which are on the chopping block by General Motors and Chrysler -- left his headquarters on Rockville Pike mid-morning yesterday, armed with a black bag, full of thick consumer reports, pie charts and line graphs on cars. In the past three weeks, he's been a virtual one-man PR machine, meeting with local and national politicians and blitzing the media, all in a desperate attempt to save his business.
Fitzgerald was part of a small army of dealers who descended on Capitol Hill in hopes of putting pressure on the automakers and the U.S. government to back off plans to close more than 2,000 dealerships across the country. Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike spoke sympathetically of the dealers' plight, though it was unclear whether any relief was forthcoming.
Despite a drop in metropolitan Washington's jobless rate, regional economists told business leaders yesterday that they expect unemployment to worsen next year before subsiding in 2011 with the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs.
Government data released yesterday show the unemployment rate dropped from 5.9 percent in March to 5.6 percent in April, the second consecutive month it has a decreased. But analysts said they expect it to rise about 1.5 percentage points before recovery kicks in.
Because the number of employed people in the labor force is not rising, regional economist Stephen S. Fuller said April's decline is not an indication of recovery but suggests that more unemployed people are not being counted because they have become discouraged and either stopped looking for work or exhausted their jobless claims.
Blackboard's patent infringement complaint against Desire2Learn won review by the U.S. International Trade Commission. Blackboard seeks to bar the Canadian firm from importing and selling software that the District-based company alleges infringes on its technology used by colleges to put class lectures online.
Sallie Mae chief executive Albert Lord said he expects loan charge-offs at the student lending company to peak in 2009 and remain high next year. Charge-offs are loans written off as not being repaid. Lord noted that most of the loan losses came from a group of non-traditional loans that were originated between 2003 and 2007.
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