Pittsburghers opened their wallets wider than even the president of The Pittsburgh Foundation expected this year for the annual Day of Giving. The online event, which benefits about 665 nonprofit organizations in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, generated $8.4 million from individual donations and a pool of $830,000 in matching funds contributed by the foundation and the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County. Grant Oliphant, Pittsburgh Foundation's president, had told his staff he expected the event would yield about as much as it did last year -- $6.5 million. He was glad to be wrong.
The National Retail Federation released its most upbeat forecast for holiday sales since the onset of the Great Recession. The Washington, D.C., group is calling for a 4.1 percent spike in holiday sales to $586.1 billion this year despite high unemployment and other uncertainties in the economy. It warns, however, that gridlock in Congress on crucial issues such as tax increases and federal spending cuts could dampen consumer confidence and slow down traffic at the malls.
Travelers can plan that summer trip to Paris next year thanks to Delta Air Lines renewing its direct flights from Pittsburgh to the City of Light. Flights are scheduled to start May 12 and run until the last week of October. The last direct-to-Paris flight this year will be Oct. 25. Delta officials told PG reporter Mark Belko that the "sweet spot" for passenger demand for the direct international flights seems to start around May.
J.C. Penney is moving forward with plans to reinvent itself. Staff writer Teresa Lindeman reported on the challenges the retail giant faces to regain its footing, a process that has included laying off hundreds of employees in its headquarters and at places like the Harmar customer call center that employed more than 300 people. Penney's has also cut coupons and promotions and is redesigning its stores to look like mini-malls with lots of small shops dedicated to a single brand.
Unemployment rose to 7.3 percent in August from 7.1 percent in July in the seven-county Pittsburgh metropolitan area, according to figures released by the state Department of Labor. Private employers cut 4,600 jobs that month; however, the number of jobs is still up 14,500 from August 2011. The region has experienced more growth in the labor market than either the state or the nation as a whole since the end of the recession. On Friday, the national unemployment numbers came out for September, with the rate falling to 7.8 percent.
Tim Grant: email@example.com or 412-263-1591.