February 6, 2003
Post time 6:48 a.m. PST



                                             Battleship Galactica


When the series begins, we see the Cylons deploying a Trojan Horse strategy against the Colonies: Under the guise of peace, the Colonial military is ambushed and destroyed (with the Galactica able to survive by retreating) while the unprotected civilian populations are assaulted. With no hope of survival against overwhelming Cylon forces--and no true defensive capability remaining--a handful of surviving Colonials flee the Twelve Colonies in civilian starcraft. Under the command of Adama on the Galactica, they head into deep space, searching for the Thirteenth Tribe of Man who are "on a shining planet known as Earth."  









  Correction: FirstCorp Purchased by IFC Credit

        Pictures from the Past---1992--Goodman/Haas

           Classified Ads-Jobs Wanted

            Canada Calling---

              Looking for Ron Paterson--

                 ADT Lease Contracts

                  Fitch: ABS Market Faces Challenges

        Financial Federals Exec. VP/Treasurer Michael C. Palitz Resigns

          Quigley New "Ops" at Bluedot Funding

            Bush Budget Proposal Aims to Spur Community Savings Initiatives

                Patrick Henry Quotation---

                  Misses Sunday Sermon

                    Valentine's Day Wines for Every Type of Love Affair

                      Actual Protestor Signs

                        Rhodes hired as Seahawks' defensive coordinator


             Special:  U.S. Economy in Worst Hiring Slump in 20 Years

                          New York Times Feature Article







               Correction:  FirstCorp Purchased by IFC Credit


Leasing News has learned FirstCorp is maintaining an office in Portland, Oregon, and while there may be some employee changes due to the acquisition,

FirstCorp will keep its name and be a wholly owned subsidiary of IFC

Credit Corporation. As the press release states, the two companies are reportedly stronger with their combined resources and leasing products.


Leasing News is also told IFC/First Corp is looking forward to the United

Association of Equipment Leasing October 9–11, 2003 Annual Conference &

Exposition (ACE) Marriott Portland Downtown Portland, Oregon. Trebels will be there, as he is active in many leasing associations and is well regarded as

a leader in the industry.





 ### #############################


IFC Credit Corporation announced that it has signed a definitive agreement

to acquire First Portland Corporation dba FIRSTCORP, based in Portland,



FIRSTCORP is a leading small-ticket lessor of office equipment. The company

serves equipment suppliers and end-users of equipment through a direct sales

force, and through an advanced online lease processing system.


Rudolph D. Trebels, President and CEO of IFC Credit, commented: “The

acquisition of FIRSTCORP is an excellent strategic fit for IFC Credit, and

results in our becoming one of the largest independent lessors in the



Len Ludwig, Chief Executive Officer of FIRSTCORP commented, “Since the two

companies have complimentary strengths and areas of expertise, the new

combined entity will be in a position to offer customers a complete menu of

products and services.”


Mr. Trebels concluded: “We expect a smooth integration of FIRSTCORP’s

business into our operations, and will work to maximize the benefits of the

expanded services and customer base. These factors, combined with greater

financial resources and broadened management and service teams, should

result in efficiencies and further growth.”



As a result of the acquisition, IFC Credit will have an expanded market

presence through staffed offices in Chicago, Irvine, Dallas, Atlanta, New

Jersey, Portland, and Morton Grove, IL.


 ### ###################



Pictures from the Past---1992—-Goodman/Haas




Kenneth D. Goodman, CLP, executive vice-president, Triad Consultants Network, LDT, Los Angeles, CA.



Jon S.Haas, CLP, vice-president and sales for MetroLease, Inc., Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and president of Triad Consultants Network, Ltd.




           Classified Ads—Jobs Wanted


              Accounting: New York, NY.

Three(3)years experience in lease accounting. Managing three Partnerships' Funds, preparing external reports for SEC.,10Q &10K. Consolidation of subsidiaries financial position w/parent company. email:hope2live@aol.com


         Asset Management: Patchogue, NY

12+ yr. Experience in Auto/Equipment Leasing. Managed Liquidation of Repo & E.O.L. Portfolios. Managed Litigation Portfolio as well. Exp. in Bankruptcy. Looking for suitable position in Tri-State area. Email:THood8663@Yahoo.com


          Asset Management: Redmond, WA 10+ years experience with Small/Middle Market portfolio's. Managed all aspects of Asset Management including residual setting, inspections, repossessions, remarketing& eol negotiations. email:challenger.rt@verizon.net


           Asset Management: Jacksonville, FL. 15+ yrs of diversified exp. in Comm.Equip.Fin. Equip Generalist, ASA "Cradle-to-Grave," Sr. Management, creative negotiating, presentation and analytical skills. Open to domestic/global travel/relocation. email:AssetMgrASA@aol.com


          Communications: Oceanside, CA. Placed all-wiring-cabling &comp system in Polaris building. Exp. in cabling, webwork, photograph/ad work, server work for 'Racksavor" & top exp.in carpentry-plumbing, finishing work. email:jzapf@artisticimages.com


         Contract Administrator: Schaumburg, IL

10 yrs. small/mid-ticket leasing. Proficient in documentation, funding and legal. Worked with brokers, portfolio purchases, vendor programs, municipal transactions. prefer to stay in Suburban Illinois. Email:sophie1900@msn.com


 Full listing of Jobs wanted at:




  and other sites :


www.craigslist.org (available in many cities now, use scroll feature)
www.insidevcjobs.com Venture County, CA. Newspaper




                             Canada Calling---


Just a quick note to indicate that you have some Canadian subscribers

also, and that the lease financing industry is alive and well in Canada.

 Our national association of lessors is the CFLA - Cdn Finance and

Lease Association. Many of your subscribers no doubt have Cdn operations

also . Our firm, Renowntech Financial Inc. is a lease brokerage in the

Toronto area.


Your newsletter is excellent.


We would be interested in hearing from anyone who can establish a

European funder source as we have some customers who have a need to

finance in Europe.


Again , a great publication.






(I have been including more Canadian musicians and events in “Day in American Leasing History.”  Most of our news comes from our readers. We do print

news from Canada, and Great Britain, too, now, especially if it also pertains to the

United States. Editor)



                  Looking for Ron Paterson--


  Name = Eric Mann

               Address = 725 Darlington Ave

                  City = Mahwah

                 State = NJ

               Zipcode = 07430

                 Phone = 201-574-4014

                   Fax = 201-574-4130

                 Email = mann_e@konica.com

                 Comments = I am trying to locate information concerning Ron Paterson, formerly of American Eagle Financial Group aka Eagle Leasing and  American Eagle.  I'm trying to sort out some issues for customers - their claims are rather unusual, but I seem to be hearing the same stories from folks who don't know each other.  I was advised to contact you by one of my contacts at C2 Capital.  Thanks.



                        ADT Lease Contracts


“I am investigating a financing arrangement on behalf of a friend.  He

contracted with ADT to install an alarm system.  His initial contract

stated that payments were to be made to "Lease Acceptance Corporation,"

which appears to have had a pre-existing relationship with ADT.  I say

that because about eight months later, ADT insisted that he, his wife,

and dental practice formally execute a "lease" with LAC (whose name was

pre-printed on the form as the "Lessor"), personally guaranteeing

payments to LAC regardless whether the alarm system sold by ADT worked

(which it didn't).  I've checked your very helpful website, noting among

other things a report last June that LAC had "closed its doors" and laid

people off.  Are you aware of any relationship between ADT and LAC,

perhaps "insulated" from one another by a corporate firewall?  Any

investigations by state authorities?  Thanks in advance for any helpful





                                                          John Belferman



At your request, will ask readers if they have anything they may

be able to add about ADT


Most likely the lease was sold in a portfolio.  It was common for LCA

 to "bundle" up many leases in $100,000, $500,000 portfolio and "sell"

them off.  It is done in the mortgage and finance industry.


"Sell" is jargon in the trade. the lease contract is property and worth the amount of payments that are called upon, plus residual, if any. This value is then "discounted" to a lender and the seller is paid

the discount of the value of the contract.  They "present value"

the "implied interest."


 It is not uncommon for such transactions to occur more than once as rates

 drop and "sellers" can get better returns.


Here is a very simplified example, if the contract is worth $1800, the buyer may purchase it for $1600, making $200 on the transaction and the seller making $1600 today, rather than wait for their money over the term of the contract.



 They call it a "private label program" because the "go between"

 or "seller of the equipment" put their name on the contract and

 when the transaction is complete, they "discount" the contract

 to the funder, who may then re-assign the lease, especially if

 they get a history of six months or more of lease payments

 paid on time.


 Most of the contracts have an "acceptance form," and most also

 do a verbal authorization with the lessee, as one of the most

 common problems is sellers pushing for payment before the work

 is not complete.


 Depending on the state, it may be too prohibitive to fight the

 matter, which the law enforcement agencies look as a "civil"

 matter versus a "criminal manner." Editor




### ###########################################



                 Fitch: ABS Market Faces Challenges



NEW YORK---The ABS market is fighting battles on four major fronts: collateral quality, issuer condition, regulatory environment, and the economic landscape, according to Fitch Ratings in the latest edition of 'The Fitch Ratings ABS Exchange'. Along with these concerns are the potential impact of the war with Iraq, the threat of a double-dip recession and the destructive forces of fraud.


While the ABS market has proved its resiliency repeatedly over the past 15 years, it is difficult to imagine a more concerning confluence of events than those facing the market today,' said Kevin Duignan, Managing Director, Fitch Ratings. Despite these concerns, 'Fitch believes that since ABS transactions offer a set of protections unavailable in other instruments, they will continue to attract interest as safe havens from these same forces.'


While collateral quality has deteriorated in virtually all sectors, there are a few places where Fitch is particularly concerned: increasing default rates for nonprime and subprime borrowers, declining used car prices, and deterioration in aircraft values.


The combined forces of collateral deterioration, economic malaise, and regulatory pressure have led to a level of tiering never before seen in the ABS markets. The credit deterioration of issuers like Metris on the credit card front and Americredit in the subprime auto sector are representative of this phenomenon.


Also appearing in this edition of 'The Fitch Ratings ABS Exchange' is an article on FASB Interpretation No. 46, an update on credit card ABS, and outlooks on the auto and equipment leasing markets.


The Fitch Ratings ABS Exchange' is available on Fitch's web site at 'www.fitchratings.com' or by contacting the Ratings Desk at 1-800-893-4824.




Fitch Ratings, New York


Kevin Duignan, 212/908-0630 


Deborah R. Seife, 212/908-0604


########### ###############################################


Financial Federal Corporation Announces Michael C. Palitz Has Resigned as Executive Vice President and Treasurer



NEW YORK----Financial Federal Corporation ("FIF" - NYSE), announced today that Michael C. Palitz has resigned from his position as Executive Vice President and Treasurer effective March 14, 2003 to pursue interests outside the industry. Mr. Palitz will remain a member of the Board of Directors.


In 1989, Mr. Palitz, together with Paul R. Sinsheimer, Bernard G. Palitz, Clarence Y. Palitz, Jr. and William M. Gallagher, founded Financial Federal Corporation. He served as the Company's Chief Financial Officer from 1989 through September 2000. During his tenure as Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Palitz had a significant role in establishing and maintaining many of the Company's relationships within the banking and investment communities.


Paul R. Sinsheimer, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer, commented: "On behalf of the Company and myself, I would like to thank Michael for his many years of service and look forward to his continued contributions as a member of the Board of Directors. We wish him well in his future endeavors."


Financial Federal Corporation specializes in financing industrial and commercial equipment through installment sales and leasing programs for manufacturers, dealers and end users nationwide. For additional information, please visit the Company's website at www.financialfederal.com.





Financial Federal Corporation


Steven F. Groth, 212/599-8000


############ ############################################


                   Quigley New “Ops” at Bluedot Funding


Irvine, CA—-Brad Quigley has been promoted to Director of Operations at Bluedot Funding, a National Lessor located in Irvine, CA.


Prior to Bluedot, Mr. James was a President / CEO for Corona Financial and has over 20 years of financing experience.


Bluedot Funding, LLC is located in the Irvine Spectrum and specializes in working with vendors and distributors of medical, printing, computer, telephone and photo equipment.


Marcus Davin / 800-850-3101 ext 223

Vice President, Bluedot Funding, LLC







###########  ##############################################


Bush Budget Proposal Aims to Spur Community Savings Initiatives




The Bush Administration's 2004 budget proposal stipulates less restrictions on savings products and services at banks in the hopes that encouraging consumers to save will help boost the nation's ailing economy.


Ideally, the move would increase the amount of funds community

banks have to lend to small businesses. The Independent Community Bankers Association (ICBA) supports the proposal and says the nation's current savings plans are restrictive and fragmented, preventing Americans from having simple, flexible accounts to meet their savings needs. The ICBA is also pushing the concept of a universal savings account - an option that it says will allow more individuals to save up to $15,000 after-tax in multiple products that can be offered by community banks.




                        Patrick Henry Quotation---



Thanks for the daily update on my industry.  It is like the morning paper, I

look forward to it.


I was glad to see the Patrick Henry quotation.  Another quotation that you

might investigate, that pertains to our times, is Lincoln's Gettysburg

Address.  I seem to recall (We had to memorize that in the 5th Grade in MN.)

somewhere in that speech Lincoln's insistence that we not forget those that

died at Gettysburg (or 9/11) and we carry own the noble cause of freedom.


Food for thought.




ROSS L GUILFORD ross.guilford@gte.net


An excellent thought. Here is the Gettysburg address, a site of serveral

“drafts” and the only picture taken of President Lincoln at Gettysburg,Pennsylvania.



                       Misses Sunday Sermon


I'd like to let you know that I still appreciate your wisdom, your point is

resounding, and that I still miss the Sunday Sermon.


  Bruce E. McCormick



(Thank you. The Leasing News Advisory Board thought it was “too controversial.”  It seems we have more than “one God.”  The “Patrick

Henry” quote yesterday lost us seven readers who didn’t like it.  Perhaps

that is why the other “on line” leasing newsletters have stayed clear of

the Columbia shuttle, the pending war in Iraq, or wine or buying automobiles on line, cartoons, and primarily printing “press releases.” It doesn’t get

their readers angry.


Perhaps I am a little crazy, as I get if from my mother’s

Irish side of the family, as no one else would make an allegory of

Lorne Greene of “Battleship Galactica” and Secretary of State Colin Powell

at the United Nations.


 I personally appreciate your kind words of encouragement.

Editor )




              Valentine's Day Wines for Every Type of Love Affair




Head over heels in love? Starting an exciting new relationship? Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and for those of you who still haven't a clue as to what to get your special someone -- more than likely it's the men we are talking about -- there's a solution. Classy, simple and as close as your nearest liquor store, a romantic bottle of wine makes a Valentine's Day gift you both can enjoy.


For those involved in a committed love affair, plan a romantic dinner that includes candlelight, soft music and the seductive taste of Bunratty Meade ($13.99 for a 750-mL bottle). Known as the Irish aphrodisiac, Meade is the original wine of passion. Attributed with legendary powers of virility and fertility, Bunratty Meade is a delicate yet potent drink made from a traditional fermented honey recipe and a white wine. Enjoyed throughout Irish history to promote the well being of newlyweds, Irish folklore claims that brides and grooms consumed Meade for one full moon after their wedding, hence the name "honeymoon."


The beginning stages of a relationship can often be awkward, especially on Valentine's Day. For those in a new romance, keep it simple with a bottle of red -- literally. As an intimate gift or paired with a meal, Luna di Luna's Merlot/Cabernet ($9.99 for a 750-mL bottle) is a perfect choice. Packaged in a romantic red bottle, the blend combines the smoothness of Merlot with the boldness of Cabernet for an exceptionally crafted wine at a value price.


Bunratty Meade and Luna di Luna wines are imported by A.V. Imports Inc., a Columbia, Maryland-based national wine and spirit importer. The company imports wines and spirits from Australia, Chile, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Russia and Spain and sells them to licensed wholesalers throughout North America. For more information, please contact Bryce Smith at (813) 286-7799, bsmith@hlamarketing.com or visit www.avimports.com.






                           Actual Protestor Signs:


Make Love, Not War

There Is No Path To Peace - Peace IS The Path

Who Would Jesus Bomb?

How Many Lives Per Gallon?

Regime Change Begins At Home

More MPGs, Less MIAs

George Bush Couldn't Run A Laundromat

No Hitting (held by young girl)

No Oilgarchy (Oilgarchy in circle with slash across


Fight Plaque, not Iraq (and the guy was carrying a





            Rhodes hired as Seahawks' defensive coordinator


By Len Pasquarelli



Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren filled a key staff vacancy on Wednesday, hiring


much-respected Ray Rhodes as defensive coordinator, in a move that has been rumored for more than a week.


Rhodes, 52, resigned last month as Denver Broncos defensive coordinator. He replaces Steve Sidwell, who was part of a far-reaching defensive staff purge by Holmgren following the 2002 season.


"Ray is an excellent defensive football coach and has an impressive track record of improving defenses," Holmgren said. "We are excited to have a coach who has consistently produced a top defensive unit."


During his two seasons in the Denver organization, Rhodes improved the Broncos' 24th- ranked defense in dramatic fashion. The unit statistically was No. 8 in 2001 and rose to sixth in 2002. It is rumored that Rhodes had a falling out with Denver head coach Mike Shanahan last season, however, and that the two didn't see eye-to-eye on some schemes.


Even after his resignation, Rhodes had to extricate himself from the final year of his Denver contract before being able to move to the Seahawks.


The veteran Rhodes has twice been a head coach, compiling a 30-36-1 mark in four seasons (1995-98) with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was 8-8 in his one season (1999) as coach of the Green Bay Packers.


The addition of Rhodes reunites him with Holmgren. He worked two years, 1992 and '93, as Holmgren's defensive coordinator with the Packers.


A seven-year veteran as an NFL player, Rhodes was a defensive back and wide receiver for the New York Giants 1974-79 and San Francisco 49ers in 1980. He began his coaching career with the 49ers in 1981 and an assistant secondary aide, and served in that capacity before taking over as a primary defensive backs coach in 1983.


Seattle will mark the sixth different team for which Rhodes has served as the defensive coordinator.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.




                   U.S. Economy in Worst Hiring Slump in 20 Years



  New York Times






The economy has fallen into its worst hiring slump in almost 20 years, and many business executives say they remain unsure when it will end.


The employment decline has become even worse than it was at a comparable point in the so-called jobless recovery of the early 1990's, according to recently revised statistics from the Labor Department. The economy has lost more than two million jobs, a drop of 1.5 percent, since the most recent recession began in March 2001, as layoffs have continued despite the resumption of economic growth more than a year ago. The decline was 1.3 percent at the same point in the business cycle a decade ago.


About one million people appear to have dropped out of the labor force since last summer, neither working nor looking for a job, according to government figures.


The surge in discouraged workers is the most significant since the months immediately after the recession's start. This suggests that the pain of joblessness has worsened even though the official unemployment rate, which counts only people looking for work, held steady at 6 percent in December.


"Last year," said Tom Koehn, 50, who lost his job at a machinery maker in South Bend, Ind., in May, "I heard a lot of people say, `Come back after the first of the year; if the economy picks up, we might hire some people.' But so far, I haven't found anybody who's hiring."


The shortage of jobs has also slowed wage growth so that only workers in the most affluent groups are still gaining ground on inflation, ending a six-year streak of broad increases in buying power.


Manufacturers of durable goods like computers, furniture and steel have made the deepest cuts, with one of every nine jobs in these industries eliminated since early 2001. Airlines, brokerage firms and makers of clothing and textiles have also each cut at least a tenth of their work forces. Government agencies have been among the few employers that continue to expand, although many states are now laying off employees to close budget deficits.


Executives say they have been disappointed too many times by the halting growth of the last year to begin hiring workers in significant numbers. While the government is likely to report tomorrow that the economy added some jobs in January, many executives are still waiting to be convinced that business has regained a solid footing after the collapse of the bubble of the late 1990's.


The possibility of a war with Iraq and an increase in oil prices offers another reason for hesitation, they say. Many companies have also used new technologies and management techniques to produce more with the same number of employees.


"This is what I call the new reality," said Robert M. Dutkowsky, the chief executive of J. D. Edwards, a software maker in Denver that has kept its work force at 5,000 people for the last few years. "The environment we're operating in is what it's going to be like for a while."


In his State of the Union address last week, President Bush called the improvement of the job market his "first goal" for the coming year and asked Congress to pass a $670 billion, 10-year tax cut.


"We must have an economy that grows fast enough to employ every man and woman who seeks a job," Mr. Bush said. "With unemployment rising, our nation needs more small businesses to open, more companies to invest and expand, more employers to put up the sign that says, `Help Wanted.' "


Most economists say that the tax plan and another $4 billion in help for the jobless would have only a small effect on the economy this year.


The number of companies cutting jobs has spiked since November, with  AOL Time Warner, Boeing, Dow Jones, Eastman Kodak, Goodyear, J. C. Penney, McDonald's, Merrill Lynch, Sara Lee, and Verizon all announcing new layoffs. Barring a sustained rise in oil prices, however, the cuts appear likely to taper off in the coming months as the economy continues its slow recovery, most forecasters say.


The bigger problem seems to be the unwillingness of companies to hire new workers. In December, the number of help-wanted advertisements in newspapers across the country fell to the lowest level in almost 40 years, according to the Conference Board, a research group in New York.


"There isn't the confidence level in business today that we need for growth," said Cinda Hallman, chief executive of the Spherion Corporation, a staffing company based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that places almost 400,000 people in jobs, down from 600,000 three years ago. "There's uncertainty. Companies are being much more cautious than they used to be."


The labor market entered the 2001 recession tighter than it had been in 30 years, with the jobless rate falling below 4 percent in late 2000. Even at 6 percent — its level in December, the most recent reading — it remains lower than it was during the aftermath of most other recessions.


But the reluctance of companies to hire is causing pain in ways that the jobless rate does not measure.


An unusually large number of today's unemployed have been out of work for months, including Mr. Koehn, the South Bend manufacturing worker, who lost his job last spring. Almost 1.9 million people still looking for work have been unemployed for at least six months, triple the number of two years ago.


"There are a lot of people out there who aren't used to asking for help who need some help," said Mr. Koehn, who plans on applying to convenience stores if he has not found other work before his jobless benefits expire in mid-February. "It's a tough pill to swallow when people say, `Oh, you still haven't found work,' and you know you've been looking."


Many other people seem to have stopped looking. Since June, the number of adults not in the labor force has jumped by more than one million, to 72.4 million, according to the Labor Department. Many are retired, still in school or raising children, but the sharp change suggests that a growing number have become too frustrated to continue applying.


"I went out and pounded the pavement faithfully," said Theresa H. Washington, who lost her $60,000-a-year electrician's job more than a year ago at a Cleveland steel mill closed by the LTV Corporation. "I did the whole nine yards in terms of looking for work, and I never had an interview.


"There is no job market right now," Ms. Washington, 47, added. She estimated that she had applied to more than 50 companies.


In May, she enrolled in a community college and is studying to become a counselor to people addicted to alcohol or drugs, a job that will pay about $40,000 a year. Until she finishes the program in May 2004, she and her two children will rely on extended jobless benefits of about $370 a week, a local health care clinic, a food bank and help from friends and family, she said.


"It's been a complete change in lifestyle," she added.


The prolonged jobs slump has also taken away much of the bargaining power that workers had in the 1990's.


Qualcomm, the technology company based in San Diego, receives 200 résumés a day, up almost 25 percent from a year ago, and the applicants are generally more qualified than in the past, said Daniel Sullivan, executive vice president for human resources.


At 7-Eleven stores, employee turnover remains high, but it has fallen in the last year. "One of our biggest challenges was getting people," said James W. Keyes, 7-Eleven's chief executive. Now, he said, "it's much, much easier to both recruit and retain employees."


With little need for companies to compete for workers, wage growth has ground almost to a halt, after inflation takes its bite, for people in the bottom of the income distribution. That is a sharp reversal from the late 1990's, when low unemployment and increases in the minimum wage allowed low-income workers to receive bigger proportional raises than those in the middle.


Workers at the 20th percentile of earners made $8.31 an hourat the end of last year, up only 1.1 percent from a year earlier, according to an analysis of government data by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal group in Washington. Over the same span, inflation was about 2.2 percent.


The median worker — the one falling squarely in the middle of the distribution — received a 2.1 percent raise over the same span, to $13.36. The top third of earners received increases of about 2.7 percent.


In the late 1990's and 2000, workers near the bottom were receiving annual raises of more than 4 percent, slightly better than the increases for those at the median or for most of those near the top.


The economy has shown signs of picking up in recent weeks, including a survey of service-sector managers released yesterday that showed their business improved in January. But the hints of recovery are difficult to distinguish from ones that proved false in the last year or so, executives say. Many companies still have more stores and factories than they can profitably use, and little need to add new workers.


The effects of the bubble of the late 90's in the stock market and business investment will eventually wear off, but the recent increases in corporate efficiency appear to have created a long-term change in the level of economic growth needed for an improving job market. The economy advanced 2.8 percent from the end of 2001 to the end of last year, which was once a growth rate capable of generating demand for tens of thousands of new workers a month. Yet payrolls still declined significantly, as companies used both new technologies and strategies forced on them by an increasingly competitive economy to produce more goods and services with fewer people.


In the last few years, for example, Applebee's, the restaurant chain based in Overland Park, Kan., has centralized its purchasing of food to save costs and begun varying the pay of its workers more than it had been, in order to retain the most productive ones. The steps have allowed its sales to grow faster than its employment, said Lloyd L. Hill, the chief executive.


"It's not brain surgery," Mr. Hill said. "We just recognized we had to do better."


BASF, the world's largest chemical company, spent $4 billion investing in new plants and equipment in the United States in the last five years. Like many companies, it will turn to its new machines to increase production.


"Now," said Klaus Peter Löbbe, who runs BASF's North American operations, "comes the time to make the assets sweat."


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