Economy Hot Docs: Geithner's Plan to Boost Credit for Small Business

Today's selection of timely reports.

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Help for Small Businesses: The Treasury Department has outlined a wide-ranging plan designed to increase credit for small businesses through a series of purchases, guarantees, and fee reductions. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, in remarks at the White House, said that "tens of thousands of small-business owners are finding it hard to get the credit necessary to stay in business. Credit is essential to economic recovery, and we need our nation's banks to go the extra mile in keeping credit lines in place on reasonable terms for viable businesses." As part of the program, the government will purchase up to $15 billion of securities backed by loans from the Small Business Administration's 7(a) program. Such loans are made to small businesses by banks and are partially guaranteed by the SBA. The program would also temporarily raise government backing of such SBA loans to 90 percent and temporarily eliminate some fees.

News Business Hammered but Still Standing: The news business may be economically battered, but it's far from dead. In its annual News Media Report, the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism finds both bad and good news. In the area of newspapers, the report finds that revenues fell 14 percent last year and 23 percent in the past two years, circulation continued to decline, and the industry lost 10 percent of its newsroom jobs. However, "the death of newspapers is not imminent." The newspaper industry sells 48 million papers a day, took in about $38 billion last year, and had profit margins in the double digits. Owing to the intense interest in last year's election, cable news saw ratings rise 38 percent and profits 33 percent. While network news viewership continued to decline, the decline has slowed and news divisions continue to take in hundreds of millions in advertising dollars, and the NBC news operation may be a "significant profit center."

Minimum Wage Workers: Those making at or below minimum wage are most often female, living in the South, young, without a high school diploma, and employed in the service industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in releasing a report titled "Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers: 2008," found that among the more than 75 million Americans paid by the hour, 286,000 earned the federal minimum wage of $6.55 per hour and about 1.9 million had wages below the minimum. Fifty percent of those earning the minimum or less were under 25. Of those paid hourly rates, 4 percent of women were at or below the minimum, compared with 2 percent of men. States with the highest proportion of workers at or below the minimum were Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. About 70 percent of those making at or below the minimum wage worked in the service industry.