• Social Security benefits to go up by 1.5 percent

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Social Security benefits for nearly 58 million people will increase by 1.5 percent next year, the government announced Wednesday.

    The increase is among the smallest since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975. It is small because consumer prices haven't gone up much in the past year.

    The annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is based on a government measure of inflation that was released Wednesday morning.

    The COLA affects benefits for more than one-fifth of the country. In addition to Social Security payments, it affects benefits for millions of disabled veterans, federal retirees and people who get Supplemental Security Income, the disability program for the poor.

    The amount of wages subject to Social Security taxes is also going up. Social Security is funded by a 12.4 percent tax on the first $113,700 in wages earned by a worker, with half paid by employers and the other half withheld from workers' pay.

    The wage threshold will increase to $117,000 next year, the Social Security Administration said. Wages above the threshold are not subject to Social Security taxes.

    Social Security pays retired workers an average of $1,272 a month. A 1.5 percent raise comes to about $19.

  • Health policy cancellations: New blow for Obama admin.

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Move over, website woes. Lawmakers confronted the Obama administration Tuesday with a difficult new health care problem — a wave of cancellation notices hitting small businesses and individuals who buy their own insurance.

    At the same time, the federal official closest to the website apologized for its dysfunction in new sign-ups and asserted things are getting better by the day.

    Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner said it's not the administration but insurers who are responsible for cancellation letters now reaching many of the estimated 14 million people who buy individual policies. And, officials said, people who get cancellation notices will be able to find better replacement plans, in some cases for less.

    The Associated Press, citing the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, reported in May that many carriers would opt to cancel policies this fall and issue new ones. Administratively that was seen as easier than changing existing plans to comply with the new law, which mandates coverage of more services and provides better financial protection against catastrophic illnesses.

  • Brothers fashion a new pursuit

    High-tech printing services have finally made it to Los Alamos, thanks to the creative forces of two brothers, Josh and Caleb Stringer, who officially opened JCS Printing this month.

    After spending four years in the printing industry in New York, Josh longed to own and operate his own printing business. Tired of the east coast, Josh moved back to New Mexico this year, and decided to put his marketing degree from New Mexico State to good use by opening his own business.

    Caleb’s love of art and fashion design made him a natural business partner. Together, they decided to initially focus their attention on the manufacturing end of the printing process, with plans to create and sell their own unique designs in the future. They soon purchased a new Anajet direct-to-garment printer, spending months training and attending conferences in order to hone their new skills and learn the intricacies of their new equipment.

  • LA ranks second behind Clayton

    Last year about this time, Los Alamos ranked pretty high on one of “America’s Best Communities For Young People” by an organization called the Promise Alliance.
    In October 2013, a website called nerdwallet.com has taken up the mantle. Nerdwallet.com’s staff is currently in the middle of rating communities in all 50 states, and they just completed New Mexico.
    In their New Mexico list, Los Alamos was ranked second, right behind Clayton, which seemed to have claimed the top spot due rate of growth, monthly homeowner costs and median home value.
    According to nerdwallet.com, the median home value of a house in Los Alamos is $308,000 compared to Clayton’s $86,700. Monthly Owner Costs in Los Alamos is $1,948, as compared to $957 in Clayton. From 1999 to 2011, Clayton experienced a 57.4 percent growth rate as compared to Los Alamos’ 45.9 percent.
    Overall, New Mexico is ranking somewhere in the middle as one of the best states for young people, said nerdwallet.com’s spokesperson, Laura Zulliger. The website is about two thirds of the way through its survey.

  • LA Monitor among business recycling finalists

    At the Environmental Sustainability Board (ESB) meeting Thursday, three finalists for the Los Alamos Business Recycler of the Year were selected. The ESB was presented with nine businesses which were put forward by the community.

    “We had nine great businesses nominated for the business recycler of the year. It was a tough task for the board to narrow it down to the top three,” said ESB Vice-Chair Suzette Fox. Staff provided some input based on their experience servicing the trash and recycling of the nominated businesses, which assisted each board member in selecting their top three. Each of the seven ESB members selected their top three and these results were analyzed to determine the three businesses who received the most votes.

    The three finalists for the 2013 Los Alamos Business Recycler of the year are:
    • CB Fox
    • Los Alamos Cooperative Market
    • Los Alamos Monitor

    Now that three finalists have been identified Environmental Services Staff will contact these businesses to gather more information about their recycling programs. Then on Nov. 4 this information will be published on the Los Alamos County Environmental Services webpage and voting will officially open.

  • US employers add only 148K jobs; rate falls to 7.2 pct.

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy added just 148,000 jobs in September, suggesting that employers held back on hiring before a 16-day partial government shutdown began Oct. 1.

    Still, hiring was strong enough to lower the unemployment rate. The Labor Department said Tuesday that the rate fell to 7.2 percent, down from 7.3 percent in August and nearly a five-year low.

    The economy has added an average of 143,000 jobs a month from July through September, down from 182,000 from April through June.

    Revisions to the previous two months were mixed. Employers added 193,000 jobs in August, better than the initial estimate of 169,000. But they added just 89,000 in July, the fewest in more than a year and below the previously reported 104,000.

    High unemployment has discouraged many Americans from looking for work. The percentage of Americans working or looking for work remained at a 35-year low in September.

    Stock futures rose after the report was released. The weaker job figures make it more likely that the Federal Reserve will maintain its level of bond purchases when it meets next month. The bond purchases are intended to lower long-term interest rates and boost borrowing and spending.

  • Obama: 'No excuse' for health care signup problems

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Monday said there was "no excuse" for the cascade of computer problems that have marred the rollout of a key element in his health care law, but declared he was confident the administration would be able to fix the issues.

    "There's no sugarcoating it," Obama said. "Nobody is more frustrated than I am."

    The president said his administration was doing "everything we can possibly do" to get the federally run websites where people are supposed to apply for insurance up and running. That includes bringing in additional technology experts from inside and outside the government to work on the issues.

    People have until March 31 to sign up for coverage. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office had projected that about 7 million people would gain coverage through the exchanges during the first year.

    The president on Monday guaranteed that everyone who wants to get insurance through the new health care exchanges will be able to, even if they have to enroll over the phone or fill out a paper application.

  • Study: 15 percent of US youth out of school, work

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Almost 6 million young people are neither in school nor working, according to a study released Monday.

    That's almost 15 percent of those aged 16 to 24 who have neither desk nor job, according to The Opportunity Nation coalition, which wrote the report.

    Other studies have shown that idle young adults are missing out on a window to build skills they will need later in life or use the knowledge they acquired in college. Without those experiences, they are less likely to command higher salaries and more likely to be an economic drain on their communities.

    "This is not a group that we can write off. They just need a chance," said Mark Edwards, executive director of the coalition of businesses, advocacy groups, policy experts and nonprofit organizations dedicated to increasing economic mobility. "The tendency is to see them as lost souls and see them as unsavable. They are not."

    But changing the dynamic is not going to be easy.

    The coalition also finds that 49 states have seen an increase in the number of families living in poverty and 45 states have seen household median incomes fall in the last year. The dour report underscores the challenges young adults face now and foretell challenges they are likely to face as they get older.

  • LANB hires new commercial loan VP

    Los Alamos National Bank recently hired Michael Padilla, a 25-year banking industry professional, as vice president of commercial loans.
    “I am proud to join LANB in supporting local businesses and strengthening the local economy. We offer commercial loans and are eager to visit with our customers about new opportunities to realize their business goals,” Padilla said.
    Padilla, a native of Northern New Mexico, graduated from the University of New Mexico. He is active in the North Central New Mexico Economic Development District, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, the New Mexico Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Council, Special Olympics, United Way and the UNM Lobo Club.
    “With the experience Michael brings to LANB, we are confident that he will be a great asset to our bank and our customers,” said Steve Wells, president of LANB. 

  • WR retailer chooses different direction

    Months ago, the town of White Rock was abuzz about a new furniture store opening directly across from the Bilingual Montessori School in the old village shopping center. The once frosted glass and dusty storefront suddenly began to glow with activity. It seemed that the lonely strip of empty retail spaces might finally get its second wind.

    Furniture is now beautifully displayed inside the spacious retail location, enticing passers-by to stop and take a second look; however, it seems now that the store will never open with regular hours. Owner Perry Handy shares that getting a business off the ground in Los Alamos is extremely difficult, especially in White Rock; and he is convinced that the area will never successfully support his furniture business, or any other retail business.

    The Handys are long-time residents of Los Alamos. They own the village center shops, which they purchased six years ago, when the buildings went into foreclosure. The family’s business offices for Hot Hole Instruments were already located in the village, and it was easier for them to purchase the property than to relocate.