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Three quick takes on 12 cents, coal cuts, bank rankings

Three quick takes on a new minimum wage, a layoff in coal country and what small businesses think of banks.

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A gain of just 12 cents an hour, 96 cents per eight-hour day, or $249.60 in the coming year. Effective Jan. 1, Florida's minimum wage increases by 12 cents an hour from today's $7.67 to $7.79 per hour.

Each year, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity recalculates Florida's minimum wage based upon the increase in a federal consumer price index.

Proponents of the minimum wage and its annual increases say those gains help lower-income families from slipping closer to poverty. A 40-hour-a-week job at $7.79 translates to a mere $16,203.20 of annual income. Opponents to raising minimum wages argue businesses hire fewer people because of higher costs. Teens, already suffering high jobless rates, are especially squeezed. Or so the argument goes.

Ten states and three cities will increase their minimum wages in 2013. Washington will lead the country with the highest state minimum wage: $9.19 per hour. San Francisco will have the highest overall minimum wage at $10.55, says the Employment Policies Institute.

In Florida, this wage hike was no passing fancy. In 2004, 71 percent of voting Floridians approved a minimum-wage amendment to the state Constitution. The first state minimum wage took effect in 2005 at $6.15 an hour. Since then, the per-hour increase amounts to $1.64. If that sum discourages some companies from relocating or expanding in Florida, well, maybe that's not such a bad thing.

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Direct from the Kentucky keyboard of irresistibly named reporter Trent Knuckles, writing for the Corbin News Journal, comes a story that TECO Coal Corp. will lay off 90 employees from mines across the region in response to tough market conditions.

"We are hopeful that this is temporary and that some time in 2013 the coal markets will recover," Paul Matney, TECO Coal human resource director, told Knuckles. TECO Coal, of course, is one of the business units of TECO Energy, based in Tampa.

The timing of the 90 layoffs is interesting, coming just days after the presidential elections. President Barack Obama is viewed as less of a fan of coal than challenger Mitt Romney. Would those layoffs have occurred had Romney won the White House? Besides, TECO Coal's still waiting to see how much the Environmental Protection Agency may fine the company for discharging mining wastewater in Kentucky's Pike County. It so happens that most of the lost jobs will happen at the TECO Coal subsidiary called Clintwood Elkhorn Mining Co. — in Pike County.

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If there's a constant in the business universe, it is the lament of small businesses trying to get bank loans. A JD Power survey says small businesses are less happy with banks than retail customers. But some banks get higher marks than others from small business. Among better ranked banks in the Tampa Bay area: SunTrust and BB&T. And the least liked? Bank of America and Fifth Third received weak marks.

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@tampabay.com.

Three quick takes on 12 cents, coal cuts, bank rankings 11/12/12 [Last modified: Monday, November 12, 2012 6:47pm]
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