April 1, 2023

Japan’s E-Reader Industry Struggles to Keep Up as Amazon Takes the Lead

It was a T-shirt emblazoned with “Beat Amazon.” Mr. Mikitani wanted to signal that the two companies had no intention of slugging it out in a print-versus-digital fight in Japan.

The alliance did little to help them defend against Amazon. Four months later, Amazon brought its Kindle e-reader to Japan. It quickly became Japan’s top-selling e-reader, gaining 38.3 percent of the market, according to the MM Research Institute, a data firm in Tokyo. Even though Rakuten’s Kobo had beaten Kindle to market by nearly five months, it grabbed only 33 percent of Japan’s e-reader sales during the same 12-month period. Sony, which had stated its goal of selling half of all e-readers by 2012, managed to hold only 25.5 percent with its devices.

Amazon sells its Kindle in 14 countries, Japan being the very latest. Misao Konishi, an Amazon spokeswoman, declined to talk about the company’s goals for the Japanese market, but she did offer some insight into Amazon’s ambitions. “Every book ever printed, in every language, available to buy in 60 seconds,” Ms. Konishi said. “There are many things to accomplish in order to achieve that vision in Japan.”

The Kindle’s quick success is a stark contrast to the Japanese companies’ efforts. Until Amazon showed up, e-readers failed to live up to expectations. Sony brought out the first reader using E Ink technology in Japan in 2004, the LIBRIe.

Buyers of the LIBRIe, which like early Kindles showed black text on a white background, suffered from a convoluted marketplace that allowed them only to rent e-books, not buy them. Amazon, which developed its Kindle with digital books people could buy from — where else? — Amazon.com, found instant success after its introduction in the United States in 2007.

Sony stopped selling its device that year. The company’s subsequent e-readers, even after Sony developed a library of books to buy, have met with limited success.

Japan isn’t a big contributor to global e-reader sales, estimated at around 19.9 million units by IDC, a market research firm. MM Research said that a total of 470,000 devices were sold there last year, and that it expected sales to climb about 10 percent to 520,000 units in 2014.

Amazon’s victory over Sony and Rakuten, which got into the e-reader business when it bought the Toronto-based Kobo in November 2011, began with aggressive pricing. Amazon sold the Kindle Paperwhite, a color-screen tablet, for 7,980 yen, or about $80. Not only was its price about $40 less than it was in the United States, it also matched that of Rakuten’s Kobo and Sony’s PRS-T2, both color-screen tablets.

In a bid to gain market share, Rakuten dropped the price of its e-reader in July to to 5,480 yen, and will continue to focus on this basic model, even as the company launches the new high-end Kobo Aura HD in Europe and the United States in September.

But Amazon wasn’t winning just because of price. It also gave consumers another reason to prefer the Kindle. “The reason for the Kindle’s success in Japan is the same as it was in America,” said Munechika Nishida, author of “The Truth About the E-book Revolution” and a technology analyst. “The Amazon Web store is the easiest to use, the easiest to understand.”

Sony and Rakuten’s e-readers are not technologically inferior to the Kindle, Mr. Nishida said, but buying e-books on the Kindle marketplace takes fewer steps. Rakuten and Sony’s devices make browsing and purchasing more difficult, he said.

The Japan Kindle store, which opened last October, offers more than 140,000 Japanese-language titles. It added 7,000 more titles in just the last 30 days. Kodansha now has 10,617 e-book titles available on the Kindle marketplace.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/02/business/global/japans-e-reader-industry-struggles-to-keep-up-as-amazon-takes-the-lead.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Output Falls in Japan, but Labor Market Expands

TOKYO — Japan’s factory output fell the most in more than two years in June, although the labor market improved, a sign that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-growth policies are bearing fruit but still have far to go to establish a durable recovery.

The decrease in industrial production, the first in five months, largely reflected efforts by manufacturers to avoid a buildup of inventory, and they forecast a brisk pickup in July.

The levels of unemployment and job availability, the best since 2008, augur well for the private spending Mr. Abe has sought to prompt through aggressive monetary and fiscal stimulus programs since he took office in December.

Analysts said the data served as a six-month scorecard for Mr. Abe, who is seeking to strike a balance between reviving growth and fiscal consolidation, while facing a tough decision on whether to go ahead with a planned increase in the sales tax next year.

The 3.3 percent decline in industrial output from the previous month was the largest since March 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami ripped through Japan’s northeastern coastal areas, data released Tuesday by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed.

The drop exceeded forecasts of a 1.8 percent decline in a Reuters poll because of lower production of cars in response to lower demand in Japan and abroad. Production of semiconductors also decreased, reflecting weakening demand for smartphones in Asia.

Output had risen 1.9 percent in May, and the ministry stuck to its assessment that the trend was showing a moderate increase. Manufacturers expect output to have risen 6.5 percent in July and to fall 0.9 percent in August.

“I think there is no change in the trend that production is expected to stay on a steady recovery as June trade data was good, benefits from the yen’s weakness are appearing, and domestic demand is solid,” said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute.

Labor market data showed that the ratio of jobs to applicants rose to 0.92 in June from 0.9 in May, meaning jobs were available for more than 9 out of 10 job seekers. That was the strongest demand for workers in five years.

The unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent in June, its lowest level since October 2008.

However, wage earners’ household spending unexpectedly fell 0.4 percent in June from the same month a year earlier, compared with a median estimate for a 1 percent increase, suggesting that rapid gains in private consumption might be moderating slightly.

“We see positive numbers emerging, including a drop in the jobless rate, which is one example,” Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters. “Certainly the mood is looking up.”

There are signs Mr. Abe is rethinking the sales tax increase out of concern it could derail a nascent economic recovery.

Mr. Aso said the final decision would be made after a summit meeting of the world’s 20 major economies in early September.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/business/global/output-falls-in-japan-but-labor-market-expands.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Palin Returns to Fox News, After a Brief Split

Months after ending a sometimes tense working relationship, Sarah Palin and the Fox News Channel are back together.

Ms. Palin, the former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate, has returned to Fox News as a paid contributor, Roger Ailes, the channel’s chairman, announced on Thursday afternoon. Her first appearance will come Monday on “Fox and Friends,” the channel’s conservative morning show.

The announcement came about five months after Ms. Palin’s contract with Fox News expired. That contract, signed barely a year after Ms. Palin’s unsuccessful 2008 bid for vice president, was said to be worth $1 million a year, making her the highest-paid pundit at the channel.

Her new contract is almost certainly less costly for Fox, since Ms. Palin does not have the star power she once did. (Fox’s news release on Thursday noted that in 2010, the year she joined Fox the first time, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.)

She continues to have an ardent fan base. Some were disappointed when she left Fox in January. That month she seemed to take a shot at Fox in an interview published on Breitbart.com; in it, she encouraged people to “jump out of the comfort zone” and broaden their horizons.

“I’m taking my own advice here as I free up opportunities to share more broadly the message of the beauty of freedom and the imperative of defending our republic and restoring this most exceptional nation,” she said. “We can’t just preach to the choir; the message of liberty and true hope must be understood by a larger audience.”

On Thursday, she said in a statement that “the power of Fox News is unparalleled” and “the role of Fox News in the important debates in our world is indispensable.”

Mr. Ailes, who was reportedly critical of Ms. Palin in the past, praised her in Fox’s announcement. “I’ve had several conversations with Governor Palin in the past few weeks about her rejoining Fox News as a contributor,” he said. “I have great confidence in her and am pleased that she will once again add her commentary to our programming. I hope she continues to speak her mind.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/business/media/palin-returns-to-fox-news-after-a-brief-split.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The Haggler: A Winding Road to Benefits From Long-Term Care Insurance

After several repairmen couldn’t fix the problem, Ms. London called the company that administers the extended warranty she bought from Whirlpool. A rep there told her that the warranty didn’t cover her refrigerator. Why?

“It has a pre-existing condition,” she recalled the rep explaining to her.

“I was actually speechless,” Ms. London wrote.

The Haggler, on the other hand, was not speechless. He was laughing. And when he was done laughing, he forwarded the e-mail to a Whirlpool publicist, Nicole Hall. A day later, Ms. London wrote again.

“Nicole called me — they are replacing my refrigerator!” she wrote. “I can’t believe it.”

Believe it. And hope the new fridge is healthy.

O.K., enough mirth. Now let us segue to a topic that actually involves health care and, sorry to say, is not very amusing.

Q. In 2002, my mother-in-law, Beverly Schultz, bought a long-term health care policy from the Continental Casualty Company, a subsidiary of the CNA Financial Corporation. She has since made more than $32,000 in premium payments.

Last September, she suffered a stroke. She was left with the problem-solving and safety awareness equal to a 6-year-old, according to the hospital. When a doctor asked her to name the president, she was stumped — even when told that his first name is Barack. We were instructed to move her to an assisted-living facility.

At 74, she can no longer be trusted to drive, ride her bicycle to the store, use a stove or remember to take her medicine. She is, in short, the very definition of someone unable to care for herself.

For five months, we tried to get CNA to conclude that it ought to cover the $4,000 a month in assisted-living costs to which my mother-in-law is entitled under the terms of her policy. It’s been an ordeal. Instead of asking for all information upfront, CNA made a series of requests in drips and dribbles, each time leaving the impression that once this new information was provided, the case would be resolved. It took days for phone calls to be returned. With each contact we got a new person, who provided different advice and asked for different information.

That’s bad enough. But after countless calls, e-mails and faxes, CNA denied my mother-in-law’s claim, asserting that she didn’t qualify for benefits. I have no idea how we’ll find the money for the care she needs.

Can you give this a shot?

Pete Kotz

Lakewood, Ohio

A. Those of you scoring at home — and, really, who isn’t? — know that the Haggler’s career record as a consumer pugilist is roughly 200 wins and one loss. What explains this lopsided history?

Picking the right opponents. And that means avoiding insurance companies. Generally, these companies don’t actually fight. They simply stand back and say, “Hey, we’re just following the definitions of the policy,” or words to that effect.

The Haggler’s one loss came at the hands of an insurer. Did the Haggler learn from this experience? No.

A spokeswoman for CNA, which is based in Chicago, sent the Haggler a lengthy and detailed letter explaining why the company says Ms. Schultz does not meet the definition of “chronically ill” as detailed in her policy and is therefore not qualified for benefits. The company said a rep from a home care agency visited Ms. Schultz two weeks after her stroke and wrote in a report that she likes to read and do Sudoku puzzles, and “stays active with household chores.”

CNA also cited the findings of Dr. Maja Visekruna, who is not affiliated with the insurer and who examined Ms. Schultz on Sept. 28. In her report, Dr. Visekruna said Ms. Schultz did not have any motor deficits. As CNA put it, “There is no mention of any concern for Mrs. Schultz’s safety, and her orientation to person, place and time was normal.”

The Haggler is condensing, but additional evidence is laid out, and then conclusions are drawn — that Ms. Schultz’s records do not suggest that she suffers from severe cognitive impairment, and that she therefore doesn’t qualify for benefits.

Mr. Kotz says he believes that all of this is bunk. That talk about Sudoku puzzles, chores and reading was, he says, his mother-in-law describing her former self, unaware that she was no longer capable of those activities. And CNA has cherry-picked Dr. Visekruna’s conclusions, he adds. He says that under a section titled “administration of medicine,” the doctor wrote, “She needs help — memory loss.” Under a section titled “Diagnosis causing the need for long-term care services,” the doctor wrote: “S/P CVA, Dementia, ” says Mr. Kotz, who adds that this is medicalspeak for “status post cerebrovascular accident, dementia.” 

“In other words,” Mr. Kotz writes, “dementia caused by or subsequent to a stroke.”

The Haggler duly forwarded Mr. Kotz’s rebuttal to CNA, expecting to hear another take on “Look, the policy is the policy.”

That is not what happened. In a thoroughly startling conversation, a CNA spokeswoman, Jennifer Martinez-Roth, explained that the company would re-examine Ms. Schultz, using an independent physician who specializes in dementia. Also, the company will dispatch a “senior officer” to meet with her family to discuss this case. A letter outlining all of this was just sent to Mr. Kotz.

“This is the best thing to do for the family,” Ms. Martinez-Roth said.

No doubt, that is true. The Haggler is happily amazed. And hopeful. After Ms. Schultz is re-evaluated, look for an update in this space.

E-mail: haggler@nytimes.com. Keep it brief and family-friendly, include your hometown and go easy on the caps-lock key. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/your-money/a-winding-road-to-benefits-from-long-term-care-insurance.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

U.S. Retail Sales Jump

WASHINGTON — Retail sales in the United States rose more than expected in February, suggesting that consumer spending this quarter will hold up despite higher taxes.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday that retail sales increased 1.1 percent last month, the largest rise since September, after a revised 0.2 percent gain in January.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected retail sales, which account for about 30 percent of consumer spending, to rise 0.5 percent last month after a previously reported 0.1 percent gain in January.

So-called core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline and building materials and correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, rose 0.4 percent after advancing 0.3 percent in January.

The rise in core sales was the latest suggestion of momentum in the economy even as fiscal policy tightened, marked by the end of a 2 percent payroll tax cut and an increase in tax rates for wealthy Americans in January.

The gains in core sales in the first two months of the year offered hope that consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the American economy, might not be slowing much this quarter after growing at a 2.1 percent annual rate over the last three months of 2012.

Receipts at auto dealerships rose 1.1 percent after falling 0.3 percent in January, the government said. Excluding autos, retail sales increased 1 percent, also the largest increase in five months. That followed a 0.4 percent advance in January.

Last month, the high gas prices helped to lift sales at gasoline stations by 5 percent, the largest increase since August. They had risen 0.7 percent in January. Excluding gasoline, sales rose 0.6 percent.

Sales at building materials and garden equipment suppliers increased 1.1 percent, reflecting gains in homebuilding as the housing market recovery gains momentum. Receipts at clothing stores gained 0.2 percent.

Delays in tax refunds probably hurt sales at restaurants and bars, which fell 0.7 percent, while receipts at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores declined 0.9 percent. Sales of electronics and appliances slipped 0.2 percent, while receipts at furniture stores dropped 1.6 percent, the largest decline since April 2011.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/14/business/economy/us-retail-sales-jump.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Chinese Manufacturing Data Suggests Muted Recovery

HONG KONG — A survey of manufacturing activity in China on Thursday provided more reassurance that the Chinese economy, buoyed by somewhat improved global trade and a string of government stimulus measures last year, has settled into a muted recovery.

The reading of the purchasing managers’ index, published by the British bank HSBC, rose to 51.9 in January from 51.5 in December. It was the fifth consecutive improvement in the monthly index, and took the number to its highest level in two years.

The early version of the HSBC index, which is based on about 90 percent of the survey results, provides one of the earliest insights into the world’s second-largest economy each month, and is thus closely watched by analysts and investors.

“The upbeat manufacturing PMI reading heralds a good start to China’s economic growth into the New Year,” commented Qu Hongbin, chief China economist for HSBC, in a note accompanying the data release. While export growth was likely to remain tepid, he added, infrastructure construction was regaining momentum, and companies had started to step up hiring and manufacturing again.

The reading underlined a picture that has been crystallizing since last year: That the years of double-digit growth are a thing of the past, and that China’s economy has, for now, settled into a more modest pace of expansion.

Data released last week showed that the Chinese economy expanded just 7.8 percent last year — from 9.3 percent in 2011 and 10.4 percent in 2010.

The last few months have shown an improvement as government-mandated measures aimed at propping up growth filtered through to the economy.

But that recovery has been modest. The January HSBC index released Thursday, for example, was just 4.3 points higher than its last trough in August, Mr. Qu noted. By comparison, the rebound of 2009 saw the index jump more than 9 points in just five months.


Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/25/business/global/chinese-manufacturing-data-suggest-muted-recovery.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Economix Blog: More Jobs Than We Knew

The government’s estimates of job creation are not particularly accurate, a point that is often made and often ignored. On Thursday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics provided another reminder. The agency said it probably undercounted the extent of job creation between April 2011 and March 2012 by 20 percent.

The agency, which issues a much-discussed monthly estimate, also issues regular revisions of those estimates, which regularly receive much less attention. One of the most important revisions uses state unemployment insurance tax records – records filed by nearly all employers, which include actual counts of the numbers of people they employ — to check the accuracy of a full year of its monthly estimates.

In that revision, published Thursday, the agency concluded that an additional 386,000 jobs were created during the 12-month period, a 20 percent jump over its previous estimate that employment increased by about 1.94 million jobs. The revision is preliminary; a final version will not be published until February.

The new numbers would increase the monthly pace of job creation during that period to about 194,000 a month, up from a pace of 162,000 jobs a month.

The agency still estimates that job growth has since slowed to a pace of 87,000 jobs a month over the last five months. Those data won’t be revised until next September.

Article source: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/27/more-jobs-than-we-knew/?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: CVC Capital Is Said to Have Reduced Its Stake in Formula One

A Ferrari at the 2012 Formula One Grand Prix of Spain.Valdrin Xhemaj/European Pressphoto AgencyA Ferrari at the 2012 Formula One Grand Prix of Spain.

The private equity firm CVC Capital, which owns a controlling stake in the company Formula One, is not taking any chances before the racing company’s proposed $3 billion initial public offering.

Over the last five months, CVC has sold a 21 percent stake in Formula One to three investors for a combined $1.6 billion, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The combined deals, which value the company at over $7 billion, have reduced CVC Capital’s stake in Formula One to 42 percent, from 63 percent. The sale is part of the private equity firm’s efforts to reduce its risk ahead of Formula One’s I.P.O., the details of which began to be presented to investors on Tuesday.

The buyers include Waddell Reed, the Kansas-based money manager, which paid $1.1 billion at the start of the year for a 13.9 percent stake in Formula One. The investment management firm BlackRock bought a 2.7 percent share in April for $196 million, the person added, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the sale.

Norges Bank Investment Management, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, bought a 4.2 percent stake from CVC Capital for $300 million.

The motor racing company, which has focused on Asia as a major growth area, intends to set the final pricing of its offering in mid-June and to have its shares begin to trade in Singapore a week later, according to another person with direct knowledge of the matter.

By selling stakes in Formula One to new investors, CVC Capital also hopes to build momentum for other potential buyers for the I.P.O., according to one of the people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Unlike other companies, Formula One has few similar publicly traded sports franchises that can be used to guide investors on the price of its stock offering.

Formula One employs 200 people and last year recorded revenue of 1.17 billion euros ($1.5 billion), according to a statement on CVC’s Web site. The racing teams will meet at the Monaco Grand Prix this week, which is the most important series race of the year for sponsors and for media exposure during the race weekend.

The lead underwriters on the deal are Morgan Stanley, UBS and Goldman Sachs. The Singaporean lender D.B.S., the C.I.M.B. Group of Malaysia and Banco Santander of Spain also are involved.

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/05/22/cvc-capital-is-said-to-have-reduced-its-stake-in-formula-one/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn Has Become the Go-To Guy of Tech


THEY come for his money. They come for his advice. They come — duh — for his connections.

But mostly they come, with all the élan of Dorothy on her way to Oz, for a chance at some face time with Reid G. Hoffman, the start-up whisperer of Silicon Valley.

Mr. Hoffman made his name and fortune as the co-founder of LinkedIn, the social network that went public five months ago. But he has also emerged as something else — — as the man whom Internet entrepreneurs call when they dream of becoming the next, well, Reid Hoffman.

Want to brainstorm about new technology? Build a business? Raise a cool million — or billion? Mr. Hoffman is a man to see. If he can’t help, he probably knows someone who can. He is, as you might expect, a seriously linked-in guy.

On this particular day in July, a rising entrepreneur named Brian Chesky has come calling. Mr. Chesky, the co-founder of Airbnb, an online service that matches people looking for vacation rentals with those with rooms to rent, wants some pointers about expanding into China.

Mr. Hoffman, 44, leans back in his chair. Then he lets fly: Airbnb will need a team in China, a robust Chinese-language platform, Web filters to keep Beijing happy, he says. It might also need a joint venture partner. He rattles off a few names.

It’s noon, and this is the third of nine meetings that Mr. Hoffman has scheduled today. He is trying not to sneak a peek at his smartphone — or, rather, his four smartphones. He fields upward of 400 e-mails a day, not counting all the stuff that streams in via Facebook, Twitter and, naturally, LinkedIn, where he had 2,536 connections at last count.

These days, Mr. Hoffman finds himself, a bit to his own surprise, at the center of the social media universe. He has a second full-time job as a partner at Greylock, the venture capital firm. He serves on the boards of eight companies, including Zynga, the hottest game company on the Web, and Mozilla, of Firefox fame. He is also involved in three nonprofits.

Oh, and there’s that little company called LinkedIn, which, as of Friday, was worth about $7.9 billion in the stock market. Amid all the meetings and messages and tweets, Mr. Hoffman, the executive chairman, must persuade Wall Street that LinkedIn will prosper and that its lofty valuation is not just another sign of Internet mania.

For the moment, Mr. Hoffman seems to give off a golden aura, at least to many in Silicon Valley. Everyone wants a piece of him.

“He’s the first stop for every hot deal,” says David Siminoff, a technology investor.

Gina Bianchini, the founder of the Internet start-ups Ning and Mightybell, says: “He’s like an early warning system for something great in Silicon Valley.”

Cyriac Roeding, the founder of Shopkick, a mobile shopping app that has been bankrolled by Greylock, adds: “I’ve never made a significant move, decision, without consulting him.”

Hearing Mr. Hoffman wax philosophical about technology, it’s easy to understand why so many here seem to view him as something of a yoda. When he talks about “scale” — Internet-speak for having enough people use a network to make the network actually useful — he often invokes Archimedes, the great mathematician and inventor in ancient Greece.

According to lore, Archimedes created a device with a revolving screw-shaped blade to pump water against gravity: the Archimedes screw. Mr. Hoffman urges his followers to find their own levers and devices to encourage people to adopt their technologies. Entrepreneurs, he says, often spend too much time creating products and too little figuring out how to get people to use them.

Archimedes is reputed to have said that, given a lever big enough and a place to stand, he could move the world.

“It’s not really quite true, once you understand Newtonian physics, but it is an accurate metaphor,” Mr. Hoffman says.  “Build a compact piece of work with the right leverage, and you can solve a very big problem.”

LONG before LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman was just another kid in California obsessed with playing games. He grew up in Berkeley, bright and precocious, despite B’s and C’s in middle school. His father, William Hoffman, a real estate lawyer, recalls that his son always showed remarkable focus.

When Reid was 5, for instance, his father read to him from “The Lord of the Rings” before bed.

“Apparently, I wasn’t reading fast enough,” William Hoffman recalls. “Whenever I picked up the book, the bookmark moved further and further ahead.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=10739d3625865abf53b2126dd88f39f3

After Adding Some Jobs, U.S. Economy Still Uncertain

The government also revised its estimates upward for the previous two months, suggesting that job growth in July and August had been better than originally reported. Although the numbers staved off the bleakest forecasts for now, the Labor Department’s monthly snapshot highlighted the challenges for President Obama as he continues to press a balky Congress to pass his jobs bill.

The unemployment rate for September was unchanged from August at 9.1 percent. And while the number of new jobs exceeded consensus forecasts, it was barely enough to accommodate population growth, much less help those who have been out of work for an extended period.

More than two years after the recovery officially began, there are still 14 million people searching for work, a little less than half of them for six months or longer.

September’s employment numbers were “no disaster,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief United States economist at MFR. But, he added, “it’s certainly not off to the races, and in absolute terms it is still very, very weak.”

While the private sector added 137,000 jobs in September, that included about 45,000 Verizon workers who had been on strike during August and returned to work by September. The public sector was the weakest link, with the largest losses in public education.

With the economy trying to build off a precarious foundation, some recent indicators actually paint a slightly better picture. Auto sales rose close to 10 percent in September to their highest level in five months, and sales at chain stores also increased last month, led by luxury purchases.

Consumer confidence has lately come off of its lows. And the government reported net gains of 127,000 and 57,000 jobs in July and August, respectively, an increase from the originally released numbers.

But the housing market is still teetering and economists have grown increasingly concerned about a ballooning European debt crisis that could send ripples across the Atlantic.

The focus of political attention remains job growth. In a news conference on Thursday, the president urged Congress to act to prevent weaker growth and more job losses. “There are too many people hurting in this country for us to do nothing,” Mr. Obama said. “And the economy is just too fragile for us to let politics get in the way of action.”

Some economists worried that the September jobs report was not galvanizing enough for the president’s agenda. “Policy is running out of ammunition and the willingness here, particularly with today’s number, may be even less to do anything dramatic,” said Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank.

“The optimists could argue that now we don’t need any more support because we have at least some evidence that the economy is not falling apart completely, so waiting for things to organically improve is the most likely scenario.”

Large-scale job losses might offer Mr. Obama help in pressuring Congress on his jobs bill. Strong growth in employment would help counter criticism from Republican presidential candidates. But the so-so results merely added to his dilemma.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans swiftly seized on the report to criticize the administration.

“Across the country, millions of people remain out of work and uncertainty from Washington continues to freeze capital and prevent businesses small and large from hiring,” said Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader.

He added, “Unfortunately, the policies being promoted by this administration are serving as a roadblock to growth. Constant threats of tax increases and excessive regulations send the wrong signal to our entrepreneurs, investors and small business people.”

Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota said in a statement from her presidential campaign, “The president is offering only bad medicine — higher taxes, more  spending, more dubious ‘green jobs’ boondoggles and more tactical blame-gaming.”

Advocates for President Obama’s jobs bill said the aid was desperately needed to alleviate the suffering of the unemployed. The average length of unemployment rose to 40.5 weeks in September. Including those who are working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment and those who are too discouraged to look for work anymore, the total unemployment rate rose to 16.5 percent.

Jennifer Steinhauer and Michael Shear contributed reporting from Washington.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/08/business/economy/us-adds-103000-jobs-rate-steady-at-9-1.html?partner=rss&emc=rss