TIME Companies

America’s 10 Fastest Shrinking Companies

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Equity markets have been extremely strong in the past few years. Most of America’s largest companies have managed to increase revenue, profitability, and shareholder distributions, sending their share prices to record highs. A few companies, on the other hand, haven’t achieved the same growth levels. In fact, over the past 10 years, some S&P 500-listed companies have consistently shrunk.

Economic headwinds hurt the sales of some companies. Other companies shrunk because they spun off or divested business segments. Based on 24/7 Wall St.’s review of S&P 500 companies, these are America’s 10 great shrinking companies.

Click here to see America’s fastest shrinking companies.

After being hurt by the recession, several industries have been thriving in recent years. Notably, while GM and Chrysler needed a government-financed bailout to survive the recession, eventually America’s automotive sector recovered as car and light truck sales have rebounded. By contrast, U.S. homebuilders have struggled to boost sales in the wake of the recovery, as new housing starts remain well below historical levels. Two of the companies with the largest declines in sales during the last 10 years are home builders PulteGroup and Lennar.

While economic reasons were behind several large long-term revenue drops, divestitures were the primary cause of the declines in most of the other companies. These activities have been especially common in the oil and gas sector. Marathon Oil, Williams, and ConocoPhillips each spun off units into new, separately-run companies.

In other instances, the companies that reported large drops in revenue were conglomerates that elected to break up their empires. For instance, once-troubled Tyco International split itself into three businesses in 2007. What remained of Tyco was again split three ways in 2011. Altria Group, too, spun off its brewing operations, its international cigarette operations, as well as Kraft Foods in the 2000s.

In other instances, America’s fastest shrinking companies divested operations that simply did not fit into their businesses. H&R Block sold its financial advisory and mortgage servicing units to focus further on its bread-and-butter tax advisory business. In another notable instance, Pepco sold its power plant unit in order to shed exposure to commodity fluctuations.

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A shrinking business may, in fact, often serve as a blessing in disguise to shareholders. Motorola split itself into two companies in 2011, Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility. The latter, which sold Motorola phones and other home products, has struggled substantially since the split. While shareholders cashed out in a sale to Google, the business has continued to struggle. Meanwhile, Motorola Solutions, the shares of which have performed well without Motorola Mobility weighing them down, has decided to spin off yet another business and shrink further.

In order to identify America’s fastest shrinking companies, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the S&P 500 companies that had the largest revenue declines over their last 10 full fiscal years. We excluded companies that filed for bankruptcy or are no longer in the S&P 500. Sources included the Securities and Exchange Commission, S&P Capital IQ, and Morningstar.

These are America’s great shrinking companies.
1. Altria Group
> 10-year change in revenue: -71%
> Revenue (last fiscal year): $17.7 billion

Perhaps no company has evolved as much as Altria Inc. (NYSE:MO) has in recent years. Beginning in 2002, Altria, then called Philip Morris, spun off much of its stake in the Miller Brewing Company, which is now part of SABMiller. While Altria still held a 26.8% stake in SABMiller at the end of last year, it no longer records sales of beer as part of its revenue. Altria’s spinoffs continued as the decade progressed. In 2007, Altria spun off Kraft Foods, which itself split into two companies in 2012. The year after selling Kraft, Altria shrank again, this time spinning off its international cigarette operations into a separate publicly-traded company, Philip Morris International (NYSE: PMI). In addition to the spinoffs, revenue from smokeable products has been relatively flat in recen

2. Tyco International
> 10-year change in revenue: -69%
> Revenue (last fiscal year): $10.6 billion

Scandal rocked conglomerate Tyco in the early 2000s, leading to the convictions of CEO Dennis Kozlowski and CFO Mark Swartz in 2005 for stealing money from the company. In the years that followed, Tyco has split up its business several times. In July 2007, the company spun off its healthcare and electronics businesses into two new companies, Covidien and Tyco Electronics — now called TE Connectivity. In September 2011, the company announced a further split, this time spinning off its ADT home security and its flow-control, or valve making, businesses. Currently, Tyco International Ltd. (NYSE: TYC) provides security and fire safety products and services, including alarms and sprinklers, to homes and businesses. While Tyco’s revenue declined by 69% between its 2003 and 2013 fiscal years, former CEO Ed Breen has been praised for his work in turning around the company.

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3. Motorola Solutions
> 10-year change in revenue: -62%
> Revenue (last fiscal year): $8.7 billion

While Motorola has been lost sales over the past decade, much of this decline came when it split its operations into two separate businesses in 2011. The company’s phone and consumer products businesses was named Motorola Mobility, while Motorola, Inc., which focused on providing communications equipment and services to businesses and governments, changed its name to Motorola Solutions. Google acquired Motorola Mobility that same year for $12.5 billion, but sold it earlier this year to Lenovo. Without the struggling home products and mobile devices businesses, Motorola Solutions has experienced solid earnings growth. Motorola Solutions Inc. (NYSE:MSI) is likely not done shrinking. In April, the company announced it would sell its enterprise solutions business, which accounted for about $2.7 billion, or roughly 36%, of Motorola’s $8.7 billion in sales in 2013, in order to concentrate on its government services business.

4. Marathon Oil
> 10-year change in revenue: -60%
> Revenue (last fiscal year): $14.6 billion

Texas exploration and production giant Marathon Oil’s revenue dropped from $36.7 billion in 2003 to $14.6 billion last year. In between, revenue hit a high of more than $77 billion in 2008 as oil prices soared. Of this, $12 billion came from exploration and production, while more than $64 billion came from refining, marketing and transportation. In 2011, Marathon Oil Corp. (NYSE: MRO) spun out its downstream refining, market and transportation business, now called Marathon Petroleum Corporation, into its own public company. The spinoff resulted in the loss of the bulk of Marathon Oil’s revenue. The newly spun off Marathon Petroleum reported revenue of nearly $94 billion in 2013. By contrast, Marathon Oil reported less than $15 billion in revenue.

For the rest of the list, please visit 24/7 Wall Street.

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The United States economy grew 1.9% in 2013, down from the 2.8% growth rate in 2012, as growth in the world’s largest economy remained inconsistent. The largest contributors to the national economy were nondurable goods manufacturing, real estate and leasing, as well as agriculture and related industries.

While the U.S. economy grew less than 2%, the output of a number of states grew well in excess of 3% last year. North Dakota continued its torrid growth pace, leading the nation with a state GDP growth rate of nearly 10%. This year, Wyoming and West Virginia were the second- and third-fastest growing states, respectively, rebounding from slow growth in 2012. Based on data released this week by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), these are the 10 states with the highest real GDP growth rates for 2013.

There were considerable differences in what drove national growth and what drove output in the fastest growing states, according to Cliff Woodruff, an economist at the BEA. “For the nation, it was nondurable goods manufacturing and agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting [that] were the top two contributors to national growth,” Woodruff said.

On the other hand, in “five of the top states, [growth] was primarily a result of mining,” which includes oil, natural gas and coal production. Among these was Wyoming, the nation’s second-fastest growing state, where mining accounted for 6.1 percentage points of the state’s 7.6% growth rate.

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All of the top four states for GDP growth were among the top four nationwide in terms of the mining sector’s share of growth. Additionally, three other top states were among the top 10 for GDP growth contributions from the mining sector.

Outside of those states that benefited from mining activity, a few of the nation’s fastest growing states did follow the national trend, deriving a significant share of their growth from agriculture. Among these were Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, where agriculture and related industries added at least one percentage point to growth. These states were all among the top five nationwide for the contribution of agriculture to the states’ growth rate.

Outside the mining and agriculture sectors, however, these states often shared little in common. For example, nondurable goods manufacturing contributed 1.2 percentage points to Texas’ 3.7% GDP growth, a larger contribution than in most states. However, the sector contributed far less in most other fast growing states.

Similarly, Colorado, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Texas were all among the top states for construction’s relative contribution to output growth. However, construction output was a large drag on growth in both Wyoming and West Virginia, lowering GDP growth by 0.2 and 0.3 percentage points, respectively.

One common trait among a number of the fastest growing states, however, was a resilient government sector. According to Woodruff, “government was the largest detractor — if you will — from growth in most states.” While the government sector directly pulled down GDP nationwide, and served as a drag on output in all but 11 states, this was not the case in the fastest growing states. In fact, six of the top 10 growing states did not experience a drop in output from the government sector.

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Strong GDP growth was also reflected in state job markets. The unemployment rate in all of the 10 fastest growing states was below the national rate of 7.4% in 2013. Each of the four states with the lowest annual average unemployment rates was among the 10 fastest growing states in 2013. This includes North Dakota, the nation’s fastest growing state, where the unemployment rate was just 2.9% in 2013. South Dakota and Nebraska, also among the fastest growing states, had unemployment rates below 4% last year.

Since having more people means more spending on goods and services, population growth often coincides with GDP growth. In fact, while the U.S. population rose just 0.7% between July 2012 and July 2013, the population growth in most of the states with the fastest growing economies was well above that. Five of the six states with the fastest population growth rates were also among the top 10 for GDP growth.

Based on figures published by the BEA, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 states with the fastest growing economies. The BEA’s state growth figures and the industries’ contributions to growth are measured by real gross domestic product, which accounts for the effects of inflation on growth. GDP figures published by the BEA for 2013 are preliminary and subject to annual revision. Real GDP figures for past years have already been revised. Population figures are from the U.S. Census Bureau and reflect estimated growth between the July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013. We also used median household income from the U.S. Census Bureau. Last year’s unemployment rates are annual averages and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Home price data are from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Information from the Energy Information Administration was also utilized.

These are the 10 states with the fastest growing economies.

1. North Dakota

> GDP growth: 9.7%
> 2013 GDP: $56.3 billion (5th lowest)
> 1-yr. population change: 3.1% (the highest)
> 2013 unemployment: 2.9% (the lowest)

North Dakota has been the fastest growing state in the nation every year since 2010. In fact, the state’s GDP grew by 9.7% last year after it already grew by a stratospheric 20% in 2012 alone. The state’s oil boom, driven by hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — in the Bakken shale formation, has been responsible for much of this growth. Last year, mining directly contributed 3.6 percentage points to the state’s growth rate. Other growing industries, such as real estate and construction, have also contributed to the state’s growth. State residents have benefited from this growth. The state’s unemployment rate as of last year was just 2.9%, the lowest in the nation, while home prices were up nearly 28% over the past five years, also better than any other state.

2. Wyoming
> GDP growth: 7.6%
> 2013 GDP: $45.4 billion (2nd lowest)
> 1-yr. population change: 1.0% (11th highest)
> 2013 unemployment: 4.6% (6th lowest)

Wyoming’s economy grew by 7.6% in 2013, just one year after its economy experienced the worst contraction in the nation. The fact that growth rates in Wyoming may be somewhat volatile should not come as a surprise. The state was the nation’s least populous last year, with slightly less than 583,000 residents.. Additionally, the state is highly dependent on the fortunes of the mining sector. Last year, 37% of Wyoming’s total output came from mining, the most of any state. The state’s budget is also highly dependent on taxes from resource extraction. Mining alone accounted for 6.2 percentage points of the state’s 7.6% growth in 2013. Wyoming leads the U.S. in coal production, and all eight of the nation’s largest mines are in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, according to the EIA. Wyoming is also among the largest states for natural gas production.

3. West Virginia
> GDP growth: 5.1%
> 2013 GDP: $74.0 billion (12th lowest)
> 1-yr. population change: -0.1% (the lowest)
> 2013 unemployment: 6.5% (18th lowest)

After shrinking by 1.4% in 2012, West Virginia’s economy grew by 5.1% last year, more than all but two other states. While West Virginia is well-known as one of the nation’s largest coal miners, the state is also a burgeoning source of natural gas. According to a report by the Bureau of Business & Economic Research at West Virginia University, the state’s coal production is expected to decline in the coming years, while natural gas production has risen dramatically and is expected to continue to grow. However, outside the mining sector, the state had little in the way of growth. Last year’s 5.1% rise in GDP was driven largely by the mining sector, which added 5.5 percentage points to GDP growth, meaning, on balance, the state actually contracted outside the sector. By one measure, West Virginia is among the poorest states in the nation. The median household income in the state was just $40,196 in 2012, lower than in all but two other states.

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Successful companies frequently depend on just one product for a large share of their sales. That’s true for some of the most iconic brands, including Coca-Cola, Marlboro, Jack Daniels, and Apple. In many cases, these products not only represent an outsized share of their company’s revenue, but they also have tremendous profit margins that serve as the foundation of the company’s profitability.

Nearly all the most profitable products are market leaders in their industry and are mass produced in incredible quantities. As a result, the company can apply significant pressure on suppliers to lower costs, while still selling to customers at the highest possible price.

Click here to see America’s 7 Most Profitable Products

For instance, Apple sold more than 150 million iPhones in its latest full fiscal year, up 20% from the year before, when the company sold 125 million iPhones. Very few smartphone or consumer electronics devices can match that volume, which gives Apple notable leverage in negotiations for components and with carriers. Today, most Americans own a smartphone, and a huge number of these are iPhones.

The most profitable products tend to rely on the power of their brand, which can command a premium price and sell extraordinary numbers of units. In fact, some of these products, including Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson and Jack Daniels, are also among the world’s most valuable brands, according to brand consultancy group Interbrand.

One major factor that helps to shape product profitability is exceptional management. On one hand, businesses that spend too much on areas such as research and development or marketing can cut deeply into a product’s margins. Of course, controlling expenses is a balancing act. A product that is not well-built or marketed is one that will fizzle away.

Clearly, the ability to develop or market a product well can be a huge source of popularity as well. Apple’s iPhone is hugely popular because it is, by most accounts, one of the most well-built and user-friendly smartphones made by a consumer electronics company. Coca-Cola and Marlboro likely owe much of their popularity to their world-famous advertising.

Product profitability is among the most difficult financial measurements to gauge from the financial information released by public companies. As a result, finding credible and reliable information on a product’s profitability is also quite difficult. Public companies tend to guard data on product profits, and rightly so. This information is equivalent to a trade secret that corporations do not want their competitors to have, even if the figures can be estimated.

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Based on data from by Capital IQ, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the S&P 500 companies that produce consumer products. We only considered corporations that have a single product that is considered to be the company’s flagship brand, or represents the largest single contributor to revenue. To account for the opaque nature of product profitability, 24/7 Wall St. only considered products of publicly traded companies that disclosed significant details about their operations. We excluded companies with an operating margin of less than 15%, as well as companies that did not break out revenue by division or product. In order to estimate product operating margin, in the cases when the product’s margin or revenue was not provided, we used the company or division’s operating margin as a proxy. If it was clear that the brand power of the product and high volume of sales allow the company to sell the product at a premium, we awarded the product a higher operating margin. Market share values listed are for the U.S. exclusively, and come from various industry sources. Variations of existing, well-established products, such as the iPhone 5c, Jack Daniels Honey and Diet Coke, were counted as part of the parent brand.

These are America’s most profitable products.

1. iPhone
> Operating margin: 41%
> Product revenue: $91.3 billion
> Market share: 45.0%
> Industry: Computer hardware

A majority of Americans now own smartphones, according to Pew Research Center. Last year, 45% of all smartphones sold were iPhones. The iPhone is one of the world’s most profitable products and a primary driver in Apples’ (NASDAQ: AAPL) financial success. The company’s fiscal 2013 sales increased by $14.4 billion, or 9%, from the year before. Much of the growth was due to strong iPhone 5 sales, as well as the successful introductions of iPhone 5S and lower-cost 5c. Net sales of the iPhone totaled $91.3 billion last year, up 16% from 2012, when sales increased by more than 70% from the year before. Interbrand named Apple the world’s most valuable brand last year.

2. Marlboro
> Operating margin: 32%
> Product revenue: $18.7 billion
> Market share: 40.3%
> Industry: Tobacco

Despite a massive decline in American smoking habits since the 1960s, Marlboro cigarettes are still among America’s most profitable products. Altria Group, Marlboro’s parent company, shipped roughly 130 billion packs of cigarettes last year, including 111 billion packs of Marlboros, down slightly from the year before. The Marlboro brand, however, still dominates U.S. tobacco markets, controlling more than two-fifths of the tobacco market in America. The brand has been the top-selling cigarette nationwide for the past 35 years. While smoking is on the decline, the Marlboro brand can be found on a variety of smokeless tobacco products as well, including snus. Altria Group shipped 787.5 million units of smokeless tobacco products last year, up slightly from 2012.

3. Monster
> Operating margin: 26%
> Product revenue: $2.1 billion
> Market share: 34.6%
> Industry: Soft drinks

Like several other energy drink brands, Monster has come under some scrutiny for its brightly colored labels and flashy advertising, because such tactics tend to attract a young audience. One can of Monster has roughly five times the caffeine found in a can of Coke. Monster does not children or pregnant women consume its products. Despite bad press, Monster Beverage Corporation’s revenue has steadily increased in recent years. Sales rose more than 9% last year.

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The percentage of American workers in unions remained effectively unchanged last year. This marks a departure from the nation’s long-term trend. In the past 30 years, union membership has dropped from 20.1% of the workforce in 1983 to 11.2% last year.

Despite this long running decline, some states remain union strongholds, while others have almost no union presence. In New York, Alaska and Hawaii, more than 22% of workers were union members last year. Conversely, in five states, less than 4% of all employees were union members.

A number of factors help determine whether unions have a significant or negligible presence in a state, including industry composition, labor laws and political atmosphere. Based on data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and calculations by Unionstats.com, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states with the highest and lowest shares of workers who are union members.

With the addition of Michigan in 2012, nearly half of all states have so-called “right to work” laws. These laws prohibit employers from requiring union membership as a prerequisite for employment. As a result, employees often elect not to pay union fees. All 10 of the states with the lowest proportional union membership have right to work laws. Conversely, just two of the 10 states with the highest rates of union membership — Michigan and Nevada — have such laws.

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However, according to an email from Unionstats founder Barry Hirsch, while these laws can weaken a union’s financial base, the impact may be smaller than some suggest. “Right to work is important symbolically as a sign of a pro-business [or] anti-union environment,” Hirsch added.

The number of union workers in a state depends in large part on the representation of government employees. Although the public sector is far smaller than the private sector in terms of total employment, public sector workers are far more likely to be members of a union. Nationwide, more than 35% of public sector employees — which include teachers, firefighters, police officers and postal workers — were union members last year.

As a result, states where public employees were more likely to be in unions had higher rates of overall union representation. In New York, the nation’s most unionized state, 70% of public sector employees were union members, the highest percentage in the nation. By contrast, in North Carolina, the nation’s least unionized state, slightly less than 10% were union members.

In contrast to the public sector, unions are far less prevalent in the private sector, where just 6.7% of the workforce was unionized. However, because the private sector is far larger, it still accounts for a large share of union membership. In fact, most of the top 10 states for overall membership were also among the top 10 for percentage of private sector workers who were union members.

In recent decades, the private sector has accounted for the majority of the decline in the union workforce, while the share of public sector workers in unions has remained relatively constant, Hirsch wrote. “Public sector members now account for half of all members despite being only [one-sixth] of the workforce,” he added.

Often, high levels of union membership in a state were due to the presence of industries where unions traditionally held considerable influence, most notably construction and manufacturing. As of 2013, 14% of all construction sector workers, and 10% of all manufacturing workers, were union members.

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In the past decade, the share of private sector workers in unions fell in all but a handful of states. From 2003 to 2013, the number of private sector union members dropped by more than 1 million, from just less than 8.5 million to 7.3 million. In the same time, manufacturing union membership slipped by 34%, from just under 2.2 million to 1.4 million.

In addition to sector composition, Hirsch also noted that history played a role in determining unionization rates. “States that historically had high unionization in manufacturing are now more likely to have high unionized hospitals and grocery stores, and vice-versa,” he explained. In turn, when young workers have not been exposed to unions through friends and family members, “these workers are far less likely to support union organizing.”

Based on figures published by Unionstats.com, an online union membership and coverage database, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states with the highest and lowest union membership as a percentage of total employment. The database, which analyzes Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Current Population Survey, provides labor force numbers and union membership in both the public and private sector, including manufacturing and construction. Additionally, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed annual average unemployment rates for each state from the BLS, as well as income and poverty data from the 2012 American Community Survey, produced by the U.S. Census Bureau.

These are the states with the strongest unions:

1. New York
> Pct. of workers in unions: 24.3%
> Union workers: 1,982,771 (2nd highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: 2.4% (14th highest)
> Total employment, 2013: 8,144,204 (3rd highest)

Nearly one-quarter of New York’s workers — close to 2 million people — were union members in 2013, the highest percentage in the country. Union representation was relatively strong both in the private sector and in government jobs. In the private sector, 15.1% of workers were union members, the highest percentage in the country. Nearly 70% of public sector workers belonged to unions, the highest percentage in the country. However, even in New York, unions have been forced to make concessions so that their members could keep their jobs. In 2011, the state struck a deal with New York’s largest public employees union, the Civil Service Employees Association, to freeze wages in order to avoid mass layoffs.

2. Alaska
> Pct. of workers in unions: 23.1%
> Union workers: 70,692 (16th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: 19.6% (3rd highest)
> Total employment, 2013: 306,322 (3rd lowest)

More than 23% of Alaska’s relatively small workforce, or 70,692 workers, were union members in 2013, more than in any state except for New York. Additionally, more than one in 10 private sector workers were union members, among the higher rates in the nation. Unlike many highly unionized states, union membership increased in Alaska — by nearly 20% — between 2003 and 2013. This was the third largest increase in union members among all states. Membership across the nation, by contrast, fell by 8% over that time. Alaska residents had among the nation’s highest incomes as of 2012, when a typical household earning more than $67,000. Also, just slightly more than 10% of people lived below the poverty line that year, among the lowest in the country.

3. Hawaii
> Pct. of workers in unions: 22.1%
> Union workers: 121,357 (23rd lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -0.3% (18th highest)
> Total employment, 2013: 549,219 (9th lowest)

As is the case in many states with strong union membership, a large proportion of Hawaii’s manufacturing workers — 18.3% — were union members as of last year, more than in all but two other states. More than 32% of private construction workers were also union members, among the highest percentages nationwide in 2013. By many measures, Hawaii is a good place to work, with high median incomes and low unemployment helping to offset the state’s exceptionally high cost of living last year. A typical household made more than $66,000 in 2012, more than in all but a handful of states. And the unemployment rate was just 4.8% last year, also among the best rates.

4. Washington
> Pct. of workers in unions: 18.9%
> Union workers: 544,986 (8th highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: 8.7% (8th highest)
> Total employment, 2013: 2,880,935 (14th highest)

Washington’s total employment rose by nearly 104,000 workers, or 3.6%, between 2012 and 2013, one of the highest increases in the country. Washington is one of the most unionized states in the private sector, with 11.7% of all employees union members. Nearly one-quarter of the state’s private construction workers were union members in 2013, among the highest in the country. Similarly, 24.2% of all manufacturing workers held union membership, the most in the nation. There were 52,000 fewer public sector employees in 2013 than in 2012, as the state continued to follow through on the budget cuts it initiated during the recession. Despite this, union membership in the public sector held steady, at more than 261,000 workers, or 57% of all public employees.

5. Rhode Island
> Pct. of workers in unions: 16.9%
> Union workers: 77,367 (18th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -7.9% (25th highest)
> Total employment, 2013: 458,494 (8th lowest)

Like several other states with strong union presence, nearly two-thirds of Rhode Island’s public sector belonged to a union last year, second only to New York. Labor initiatives appear to be a recent priority for policy makers. The state raised its minimum wage to $8 an hour at the beginning of last year, affecting more than 10,000 workers at the time. Wages may increase even further if the labor union-backed legislation introduced in January is passed. The bill aims to increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour by 2016. While union membership may benefit many Rhode Island workers, high wages could potentially also limit new employment opportunities. Rhode Island’s unemployment rate of 9.5% last year was higher than that of any other state except for Nevada.

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The United States is currently engulfed in one of the worst droughts in recent memory. More than 30% of the country experienced at least moderate drought as of last week’s data.

In seven states drought conditions were so severe that each had more than half of its land area in severe drought. Severe drought is characterized by crop loss, frequent water shortages, and mandatory water use restrictions. Based on data from the U.S. Drought Monitor, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the states with the highest levels of severe drought.

In an interview, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meteorologist Brad Rippey, told 24/7 Wall St. that drought has been a long-running issue in parts of the country. “This drought has dragged on for three and a half years in some areas, particularly [in] North Texas,” Rippey said.

While large portions of the seven states suffer from severe drought, in some parts of these states drought conditions are even worse. In six of the seven states with the highest levels of drought, more than 30% of each state was in extreme drought as of last week, a more severe level of drought characterized by major crop and pasture losses, as well as widespread water shortages. Additionally, in California and Oklahoma, 25% and 30% of the states, respectively, suffered from exceptional drought, the highest severity classification. Under exceptional drought, crop and pasture loss is widespread, and shortages of well and reservoir water can lead to water emergencies.

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Drought has had a major impact on important crops such as winter wheat. “So much of the winter wheat is grown across the southern half of the Great Plains,” Rippey said, an area that includes Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, three of the hardest-hit states. Texas alone had nearly a quarter of a million farms in 2012, the most out of any state, while neighboring Oklahoma had more than 80,000 farms, trailing only three other states.

In the Southwest, concerns are less-focused on agriculture and more on reservoir levels, explained Rippey. In Arizona, reservoir levels were just two-thirds of their usual average. Worse still, in New Mexico, reservoir stores were only slightly more than half of their normal levels. “And Nevada is the worst of all. We see storage there at about a third of what you would expect,” Rippey said.

The situation in California may well be the most problematic of any state. The entire state was suffering from severe drought as of last week, and 75% of all land area was under extreme drought. “Reservoirs which are generally fed by the Sierra Nevadas and the southern Cascades [are] where we see the real problems,” Rippey said. Restrictions on agricultural water use has forced many California farmers to leave fields fallow, he added. “At [the current] usage rate, California has less than two years of water remaining.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the seven states with the highest proportions of total area classified in at least a state of severe drought as of May 13, 2014. We also reviewed figures recently published by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service as part of its 2012 Census of Agriculture.

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These are the seven states running out of water.

1. California
> Pct. severe drought: 100.0%
> Pct. extreme drought: 76.7% (the highest)
> Pct. exceptional drought: 24.8% (2nd highest)

California had the nation’s worst drought problem with more than 76% of the state experiencing extreme drought as of last week. Drought in California has worsened considerably in recent years. Severe drought conditions covered the entire state, as of last week. Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency earlier this year as the drought worsened. California had 465,422 hired farm workers in 2012, more than any other state. Farm workers would likely suffer further if conditions persist. The shortage of potable water has been so severe that California is now investing in long-term solutions, such as desalination plants. A facility that is expected to be the largest in the Western hemisphere is currently under construction in Southern California, and another desalination facility is under consideration in Orange County.

2. Nevada
> Pct. severe drought: 87.0%
> Pct. extreme drought: 38.7% (5th highest)
> Pct. exceptional drought: 8.2% (4th highest)

Nearly 40% of Nevada was covered in extreme drought last week, among the highest rates in the country. The drought in the state has worsened since the week of April 15, when 33.5% of the state was covered in extreme drought. According to the Las Vegas Valley Water District (LVVWD), the main cause of the drought this year has been below average snowfall in the Rocky Mountains. Melting snow from the Rocky Mountains eventually flows into Lake Mead, which provides most of the Las Vegas Valley with water. John Entsminger, head of both the LVVWD and the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said that the effects of the drought on the state has been “every bit as serious as a Hurricane Katrina or a Superstorm Sandy.”

3. New Mexico
> Pct. severe drought: 86.2%
> Pct. extreme drought: 33.3% (6th highest)
> Pct. exceptional drought: 4.5% (5th highest)

More than 86% of New Mexico was covered in severe drought as of last week, more than any state except for Nevada and California. Additionally, one-third of the state was in extreme drought, worse than just a month earlier, when only one-quarter of the state was covered in extreme drought. However, conditions were better than they were one year ago, when virtually the entire state was in at least severe drought, with more than 80% in extreme drought conditions. NOAA forecasts conditions may improve in much of the state this summer.

Visit 24/7 Wall St. to see the remaining states on the list.

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These Are the 10 Best-Selling Products of All Time

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This post is in partnership with 24/7 Wall Street. The article below was originally published on 247wallst.com.

Creating the most popular product of the year will make consumers and investors happy. But making an all-time bestseller can transform an industry and define a business for decades.

Many of the best-selling products were first in a new category. Apple, which has sold more than 500 million iPhones, was the first to introduce a touchscreen smartphone that could seamlessly handle music, web browsing and phone calls. Other bestsellers took a niche market and made it mainstream. Before Star Wars, film was either comedy, romance or drama. The Harry Potter book series was so successful that The New York Times Book Review created a separate children’s bestseller list in 2000 to account for the series’ popularity.

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In some cases, top-selling products were a simply better than their competitors. Before the Sony PlayStation, video game consoles were largely cartridge-based. With the advent of the PlayStation, which relied on the new CD-ROM format, game files could be large enough to support 3D gameplay and full-motion video. Lipitor, which has become the world’s best-selling drug with $141 billion in sales, was far more effective than previously-released drugs at lowering bad cholesterol.

A number of these products continue to be dominate their markets. The iPad remains the world’s best-selling tablet, with a 32.5% market share last quarter, despite challenges from Amazon.com’s Kindle Fire and Samsung’s Galaxy tablet lines. The PlayStation 4 has sold over 7 million units since it launched last year, well above the Microsoft Xbox One.

Despite their success, some of these products face challenges. Sales of Pfizer’s Lipitor dropped each year after its maker, Pfizer, lost patent protection on the drug in 2011 and cheaper generic drugs came on the market. The ongoing Star Wars saga may lose its status as the all time best-selling movie franchise to Walt Disney’s Marvel Franchise. The Avengers broke box office records, grossing $203.4 million on its opening weekend.

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To determine the best-selling products of all-time, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed categories of products widely purchased by consumers and identified individual products that had the highest sales in their category.In some cases, we gathered figures from multiple sources and estimated the final sales figure. In other instances, where one company had a clear market lead, figures reflect data from previous years.

These are the best-selling products of all time.

1. PlayStation
> Category: Video game console
> Total sales: 344 million units
> Parent company: Sony

When Sony released the PlayStation in the United States in 1995, its 32-bit processor was the most powerful available on the console market at the time. Sony sold more than 70 million PlayStations worldwide by the time the PlayStation 2 was released in 2000. The PlayStation 2 also sold very well in the U.S. and abroad. Sony released the PlayStation 3 in 2006, and it sold 80 million units to retailers by November 2013. The latest generation, the PlayStation 4, has been wildly successful thus-far, already selling 7 million units as of April.

2. Lipitor
> Category: Pharmaceutical
> Total sales: $141 billion
> Parent company: Pfizer

Pfizer’s Lipitor is prescribed to lower LDL (or bad) cholesterol — high levels of bad cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease. Lipitor is classified as a statin, a class of drug used to reduce the risk of heart-related ailments. However, Lipitor sales have plummeted in recent years after its U.S. patent expired in 2011. Lipitor has lost patent protection in other major markets since. In 2013, Lipitor sales totaled $2.3 billion, down from $9.6 billion in 2011 according to Pfizer’s 2013 annual report. Still, since its introduction in 1997, no other drug came close to Lipitor’s commercial success. The closest competitor for all time sales is Plavix, which had slightly more than half of Lipitor’s lifetime revenue, according to Forbes.

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3. Corolla
> Category: Vehicle
> Total sales: 40.7 million units
> Parent company: Toyota (NYSE: TM)

Toyota announced last month it sold 1.2 million Corollas in 2013, a 5% year-over-year increase. Since its introduction in Japan in 1966 — the car became available in the U.S. in 1968 — Toyota has sold more than 40.7 million Corollas, more than any other car model. The Corolla’s success on the market is likely due to its reliability, relatively low gas mileage, and affordability. The newly redesigned 2014 Corolla is the model’s 11th generation, and it claims to have better gas mileage and a slightly larger interior. Brand new, the Corolla’s starting MSRP is $16,800.

4. Star Wars
> Category: Movies
> Total sales: $4.6 billion
> Parent company: 20th Century Fox

Only “Gone with the Wind” brought in more money than the original Star Wars movie. Combined, however, the original trilogy grossed $2.4 billion, accounting for inflation. When Star Wars: Episode I was released more than 20 years later, it grossed $675 million, considerably more than the later installments — episodes two and three — which each still grossed more than $400 million. In total, the Star Wars movies, including special editions and re-releases, grossed $4.6 billion adjusted for inflation in the U.S. While 20th Century Fox still owns the rights to the original Star Wars, Disney purchased the Star Wars universe — Lucasfilms — for $4 billion in 2012. Disney will release the final three movies under J.J. Abrams’ direction. The first of the three is scheduled to hit the box office in 2015.

5. iPad
> Category: Tablet
> Total sales: 211 million units
> Parent company: Apple

Despite losing market share in the first quarter, Apple’s iPad is still the best-selling tablet. The iPad held 40% of the tablet market in the first quarter of 2013, but only 32.5% in the first quarter of this year, according to market research firm IDC. Close rival Samsung picked up much of that market share. IDC analyst reported that iPad lost some of its market share because consumers are holding onto their tablets for longer rather than immediately purchasing the newest version. Apple sold 16.4 million units in the second quarter alone, and more than 211 million since the iPad was first introduced in 2010.

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10 Cities Where Americans Are Pretty Much Terrified to Live

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According to Gallup, 70.5% of Americans surveyed in 2012 and 2013 said they felt safe walking alone at night. This is effectively unchanged from 2011, when 71% of respondents said they felt safe.

In a number of metro areas, however, far fewer residents felt safe at night. In McAllen, Texas, where Americans were least likely to feel safe, less than half of all respondents were comfortable outside of their homes after dark. Based on data gathered by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, these are the 10 cities where Americans felt the least safe.

Seven of the 10 metro areas in which residents felt the least safe had violent crime rates above the nationwide rate of 386.9 incidents per 100,000 people in 2012. In the Memphis, Tenn., area, there were 1,056.8 violent crimes per 100,000 people, the most of any metro area in the country. Stockton, Calif., also had one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation, with 889.3 incidents per 100,000 residents.

But not all metro areas where residents felt unsafe had high violent crime rates. In two metro areas, McAllen and Yakima, Wash., there were just 319 and 349 violent incidents, respectively, for every 100,000 residents in 2012. In both cases, this was below the national rate.

Click here to see the cities where Americans don’t feel safe

24/7 Wall St. discussed the issue with John Roman, senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think-tank based in Washington, D.C. “A fact of modern life [is] that people are bombarded with negative stories about crime,” Roman said. People “develop the perception that where they live, or wherever they like to go, isn’t safe.”

While concerns about safety may be somewhat misplaced in some areas, in others, such “perceptions of feeling unsafe are right on,” Roman added. In those areas, residents may feel unsafe because crime is underreported. In immigrant communities, because “people who are victimized are afraid to come forward and report it, there’s a hidden number of crime,” Roman explained.

However, in bigger cities, like Washington, D.C., New York and Dallas, “immigrant populations are thriving because they can do business with the local governments in Spanish. Those cities that are attracting a lot of first and second generation immigrants have really much lower crime rates than you’d expect,” said Roman.

Residents of areas who are less likely to feel safe tended to also struggle to afford adequate shelter. According to Gallup, the relationship between the concerns for personal safety and being able to afford housing is not coincidental. “The factors that contribute to both of these problems are often rooted in socioeconomic status and are likely traced back to poverty and the discontent that comes with it,” Gallup noted.

In fact, these areas also suffered from high poverty rates. Each of the 10 had a poverty rate greater than the national rate in 2012. In Fresno, Calif., and McAllen, 28.4% and 34.5% of the population lived below the poverty line that year. Both were among the highest rates for any metro area in the country.

However, Roman noted that the state of the local economy is often “less related than you might think it might be” to perceptions of safety. Instead, perceptions of where an area is heading might be more important. Certain parts of the country that are improving “might be poorer than average, but there’s a sense of optimism, there’s a sense of development,” he explained.

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Not surprisingly, residents in these areas also reported being unhappy with where they lived. Across the United States, 85% of residents told Gallup they felt satisfied with where they lived. In nine of the 10 metro areas where residents felt least safe, residents had lower satisfaction rates. In Stockton, just 73.3% of people surveyed were satisfied with the area, the second lowest rate in the country.

To determine the 10 metro areas where people felt most unsafe walking alone at night, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed figures from the Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index. Responses were collected for the index over 2012 and 2013. To determine how recorded crime rates actually aligned with citizens’ opinions of these areas, we considered figures published in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2012. Unemployment rates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for December 2013 and are seasonally adjusted. Other figures such as poverty rates, education and income are from the Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey. Population figures are from 2012 as well.

These are the cities where Americans don’t feel safe.

5. Modesto, Calif.
> Pct. feel safe at night: 54.2%
> Pct. without money for shelter: 14.2%% (10th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 549.4 per 100,000 (48th highest)
> Poverty rate: 20.3% (64th highest)
> Population: 523,330 (124th highest)

With relatively high crime rates, Modesto residents are not likely to feel completely at ease walking alone at night. Motor vehicle theft was particularly bad in the area, with more than 780 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2012, second worst nationwide. Like many metro areas where people feel unsafe, Modesto’s economy has been strained in recent years. The unemployment rate was an abysmal 12.3% at the end of last year, among the highest rates nationwide. More than one in five residents lived in poverty in 2012, also among the highest rates in the nation. More than 14% of respondents said they had enough money for shelter at all times in the past 12 months, among the worst rates in the country.

4. Columbus, Ga.-Ala.

> Pct. feel safe at night: 54.2%
> Pct. without money for shelter: 14.8% (7th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 437.4 per 100,000 (99th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.7% (102nd highest)
> Population: 304,291 (182nd highest)

Like in many of the cities in which people do not feel safe, 14.8% of Columbus residents said that they did not have enough money for adequate shelter within the past year, among the 10 worst rates in the country. A high percentage of people in the area struggled economically. The area’s median household income was less than $43,000 in 2012, versus more than $51,000 nationwide. Additionally, the area had one of the nation’s highest portions of residents on food stamps, at 20.6% that year. The region also had 166.3 robberies per 100,000 people in 2012, among the highest rates in the nation, and 4,778.6 property crimes per 100,000 people, worse than all but just five other metro areas in the country.

3. Stockton, Calif.
> Pct. feel safe at night: 52.2%
> Pct. without money for shelter: 12.5% (tied for 34th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 889.3 per 100,000 (6th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.4% (108th highest)
> Population: 702,670 (97th highest)

Stockton had 889 incidents of violent crime for every 100,000 residents in 2012, higher than all but a handful of metro areas nationwide. That year, there were 89 murders, or 12.7 per 100,000 residents, among the highest rates in the nation. Cases of aggravated assault and robbery were also extremely frequent. Violent crime was such a problem in Stockton that year that the city’s police declared a policy of immediately dispatching officers only in cases of violent crimes and crimes in progress. The city of Stockton, which is currently working on plans to exit from bankruptcy, has lost police officers in recent years due to a combination of layoffs and retirements. At the end of 2013, 12% of the area’s workforce was unemployed. While this was down from 16% two years before, it was still among the worst unemployment rates in the nation.

2. Yakima, Wash.
> Pct. feel safe at night: 51.3%
> Pct. without money for shelter: 12.5% (tied for 34th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 349.4 per 100,000 (172nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 23.1% (29th highest)
> Population: 249,564 (178th lowest)

While Yakima residents often felt unsafe walking home alone at night, the area’s violent crime rate was actually lower than the national rate. Property crime, however, remains a problem. Despite Yakima County’s Crimestoppers grassroots organization, which encourages citizens to report crimes, the area had 1,217.7 burglaries per 100,000 people in 2012, and 673.2 car thefts per 100,000 people, both among the highest rates in the country. Like most metro areas in which residents do not feel safe walking alone at night, Yakima is struggling economically. Nearly one-quarter of the area’s residents had to rely on food stamps for at least part of 2012, and 23.1% of residents lived in poverty in 2012 — both among the worst rates in the country.

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1. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
> Pct. feel safe at night: 48.5%
> Pct. without money for shelter: 24.5% (the highest)
> Violent crime rate: 319.2 per 100,000 (160th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 34.5% (2nd highest)
> Population: 809,759 (90th highest)

McAllen was the only metro area in which less than half of all respondents felt safe walking home alone at night. This was despite the fact that McAllen actually had a lower violent crime rate than the United States overall in 2012, at just 319 incidents per 100,000 residents, versus 387 crimes for 100,000 residents nationally. However, violence along the border with Mexico remains a concern for many McAllen residents. The State Department warns against traveling to the neighboring city of Reynosa, Mexico, due to high levels of drug-related violence. Additionally, nearly 25% of residents stated they did not have enough money for adequate shelter at some point in the previous year, by far the most of any metro area. A lack of adequate shelter may be tied to the relatively low economic prosperity in the region. In 2012, 34.5% of residents lived below the poverty line, and the median household income was just $33,761, both among the worst in the nation.

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9 Most Ripped-Off Products in America

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Counterfeit products may cost the global economy up to $250 billion a year, according to estimates from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Millions of those shipments enter the United States.

While government agencies do their best to crack down on counterfeit goods, they only manage to catch a fraction of the fake products that enter the United States. Still, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) values that seized fraction at staggering amounts. The value of counterfeit goods seized rose by 38.1% in 2013, from $1.2 billion in 2012 to $1.7 billion last year.

Based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the genuine versions of the counterfeit goods, some of the most valuable imitations were of handbags and wallets, watches and jewelry, and consumer electronics. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the nine most counterfeit items seized in 2013, based on their retail value.

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The value and number of seizures changes considerably from year to year, depending on what items were being counterfeited, as well as law enforcement activity. Therese Randazzo, director of CBP policy and programs on intellectual property rights, explained that, in some cases, increases in seizures are the result of such activity. In other cases, such as footwear, decreases in seizures can also reflect the success of prior campaigns by CBP and other agencies, she added.

In some cases, changes in the number and value of goods seized did not move in tandem. For instance, while the number of watches and jewelry seized remained roughly the same between 2012 and 2013, the value of those seizures rose by 169%. According to Randazzo, fluctuations will occur with luxury goods like handbags, watches and other types of jewelry in particular, because there is such a large range of values with these products.

Luxury items tend to be the most counterfeited products because they are more valuable, according to Randazzo. And with better counterfeiting methods, there is a greater challenge of detection as well as potential for even higher profits, she explained. Consumers can no longer take for granted obvious signs of imitation such as poor stitching or bad zippers. “Now, the quality [of fake products] has improved so dramatically that [criminals] have been able to charge at prices closer to the price of the genuine article.”

China’s role as manufacturer for a broad range of authentic products, as well as its intellectual property rights framework, may contribute to the country’s high levels of counterfeiting. About $1.2 billion of the $1.7 billion worth of imitations picked up by U.S. law enforcement agencies originated in mainland China. More than $400 million worth of seized goods came from Hong Kong, which CBP classified separately.

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The process and methods of detecting these counterfeiting operations is constantly evolving. The increased number of seizures in 2013, according to Randazzo, can be explained in part by new collaborative efforts between CBP and various partners, including China Customs, the customs agency for the People’s Republic of China. The success of such operations has resulted in a measurable increase in the number and value of seizures and the ability to target and intercept shipments of knock-off products, she added.

Based on information provided by the CBP, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the nine most counterfeited items seized by officials based on the MSRP of the genuine article. We looked at the number of shipments of each product type confiscated in both 2013 and 2012. We also reviewed CBP data by country to identify the value of counterfeit goods produced in specific countries.

These are the nine most counterfeited products in America.

4. Wearing Apparel/Accessories
> MSRP of seized goods: $116.2 million
> Pct. of total seized goods: 7%

Last year, the United States seized almost 10,000 shipments of counterfeit apparel and accessories, by far the most of any commodity and up 26.8% from the year before. In all, more than $116 million worth of such items were seized. Like with other goods, exactly what type of product is being counterfeited matters, Randazzo noted, with haute couture knockoffs assigned a higher MSRP than blue jeans, for example. Last year, the CBP, in conjunction with other federal and local agencies, conducted “Operation Red Zone,” which seized $17.3 million worth of fake sporting apparel — jerseys and ball caps — and other collectibles coinciding with the 2013 Super Bowl.

3. Consumer Electronics/Parts
> MSRP of seized goods: $145.9 million
> Pct. of total seized goods: 8%

The dollar amount of counterfeit consumer electronics products seized rose by 40% in 2013, to $145.9 million from $104.4 million in 2012. Further, consumer electronics comprised 8% of the total value of items seized last year, making it the third most frequently seized fake product. The number of seizures of counterfeit electronic products grew in conjunction with their total value. There were 5,656 such seizures in 2013, a 44% increase from the 3,928 seizures in 2012. According to a report by the CBP, one particularly big seizure in 2013 was by a joint CBP and China Customs operation. The two-month long operation resulted in 1,735 electronics shipments being seized, removing more than 243,000 counterfeit consumer electronic products from the market.

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2. Watches/Jewelry
> MSRP of seized goods: $502.8 million
> Pct. of total seized goods: 29%

The value of seized imitation watches and jewelry grew by 168.9% between 2012 and 2013, considerably more than that of any other commodity. In total, the value of watches seized was more than half a billion dollars in 2013. Last year, there were 1,729 seizures, 21% less than there were in 2012. Randazzo noted that the different trends in value and seizures may be a product “of what’s targeted and seized in a given year.” For example, fake versions of high-end watches, which retail for thousands of dollars, can boost the values of counterfeits seized. The Federation of Swiss Watch Industry estimated that some 120,000 imitation watches were seized worldwide in 2013.

1. Handbags/Wallets
> MSRP of seized goods: $700.2 million
> Pct. of total seized goods: 40%

Handbags and wallets were again the most seized counterfeited product, by MSRP, in 2013. The roughly 2,200 shipments seized had a total MSRP of more than $700 million, accounting for 40% of the total value of all goods seized. Because these products are valued so highly, a drop in total handbag and wallet seizures between 2012 and 2013 did not correspond with a drop in the market value of the items seized. In fact, while seizures fell by 17% in that time, the value of goods seized rose 37%, or by nearly $189 million. Randazzo explained that the retail value of the genuine goods can increase the value of the seized counterfeits considerably. While a fake Coach bag is often valued in the hundreds of dollars, “if we seize a counterfeit Hermes bag, the value …of some of those bags is thousands of dollars.” Most such counterfeits originate in mainland China, which alone accounted for more than half a billion dollars in fake purses last year, according to the CBP.

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9 Countries That Hate America Most

Washington Nationals at New York Mets
Mar. 31, 2014. A giant American flag is unfurled on the field during ceremonies before the start of the game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets at Citi Field in Flushing Meadows, New York. Justin Lane—EPA

International approval of U.S. leadership improved last year, rising from of 41% in 2012 to 46% in 2013. This ended a downward trend in U.S. approval ratings, which had consistently declined since 2009.

While people around the world tended to have positive opinions of U.S. leadership, residents of some countries had a negative impression of the United States. In five nations, more than two-thirds of those surveyed disapproved of the current administration, according to the latest U.S.-Global Leadership Project, a partnership between Meridian International Center and Gallup.

Last year represented a major improvement for U.S. leadership, Ambassador Stuart Holliday, president and CEO of Meridian International Center, told 24/7 Wall St. There were several reasons for this, including a wind-down of America’s role in armed conflicts abroad. As a result, “The view that we are the major shapers of the world and our image as being the world’s policeman are fading,” Holliday said. An ongoing return to normalcy in the global economy, in which the United States plays an outsized role, has also helped, he added.

The United States has long-running political tensions with many nations that disapprove of the U.S. leadership. Among these is Iran, which has not had diplomatic relations with the U.S. since 1980, and whose nuclear ambitions and human rights violations are points of contention for the United States. In Pakistan, the U.S. has launched attacks against terrorists and insurgents inside the country. Most notable was the 2011 raid and killing of Osama bin Laden, which led to heightened tensions between the two nations.

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Another potential reason for high disapproval of U.S. leadership is the relationship with Israel. The U.S. State Department notes America was the first country to recognize Israel in 1948, and that “Israel has become, and remains, America’s most reliable partner in the Middle East.” Countries with long-running disputes with Israel — such as Lebanon and the Palestinian territories — also disapprove of U.S. leadership.

Ambassador Holliday noted the situation in the Middle East is also influenced by a lack of clarity over U.S. policy goals and, to some extent, perceptions of the U.S. government’s support of Israel. This is driven in large part by a 24/7 news cycle that chronicles every twist and turn of the peace process, Holliday added.

Several of the countries that dislike American leadership the most have also undergone recent political upheavals. Mass demonstrations in Tunisia, for example, set the tone in 2011 for what came to be known as the Arab Spring. There has also been considerable political upheaval in Egypt following the forced resignation and trial of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Mubarak was long considered a stable ally of the United States.

However, while it may be easy to conclude disapproval of U.S. leadership is largely limited to the Middle East and North Africa, this is not always the case. Most notably, in Slovenia, 57% of residents disapproved of U.S. leadership — despite the fact that the country is both a major ally in NATO and a member of the European Union.

But what Slovenia has in common with a number of other countries that disapprove of American leadership is the citizens’ negative opinion of their country’s government. In 2012, less than one-quarter of Slovenians had confidence in their own government, and a similar number lacked faith in their judicial system, lower than in the vast majority of the countries in the same region. Similarly, less than one-third of Pakistan and Iraq residents had confidence in their governments.

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America’s strong economy may also provoke resentment among residents of these countries. According to Jon Clifton, Managing Director of the Gallup World Poll, residents of many of these countries experience hardship and do not enjoy the kind of broad economic benefits seen in more developed countries. As a result, residents equate “U.S. leadership and the leadership of whatever the current economic order represents for them.”

GDP per capita in four of the nine countries that hate America the most was less than $10,000 last year. By contrast, U.S. gross domestic product totaled more than $50,000 per capita in 2013.

Limited access to basic needs may also add to the misery of the citizens in many countries that disapprove of the United States the most. Just 31% of Iraqis were satisfied with the quality of their drinking water in 2012, less than any of the 16 other peer countries in the Middle East and North Africa. In Slovenia, only 24% of residents said they were satisfied with the availability of good, affordable housing. This was less than in all but one other OECD nation.

To determine the countries that hate America most, 24/7 Wall St. relied on data from The U.S.-Global Leadership Project, a partnership between Gallup and the Meridian International Center. Gallup also provided data from a number of other indices it produced through polling in 2012. Additional economic information and estimates, including unemployment data, came from the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) 2013 World Economic Outlook. IMF figures on GDP per capita are given at purchasing-power-parity in order to show real differences in wealth. Data on life expectancy was provided by The World Bank.

These are the countries that hate America most.

5. Iraq
> Disapproval rating: 67.0%
> GDP per capita: $7,132 (79th lowest)
> Unemployment: N/A
> Life expectancy: 69 years (57th lowest)

The United States and Iraq have a long history of conflict. The Gulf War in 1991 was followed by the Iraq War, which began in 2003 and lasted until U.S. forces left Iraq in December 2011. Although the war has ended, the U.S. State Department warned that traveling to the country is extremely dangerous because of civil unrest and threat of kidnappings and terrorist attacks. The long-running presence of the U.S. military and the years of conflict, during which hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including civilians, died have likely contributed to negative opinions of Americans. The new government has struggled since the war began. Many citizens disapprove of the regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was elected to office in 2010 under a free election overseen by the United States. As of 2012, however, Iraqis were less likely to express confidence in their national government, military or judicial system than citizens of peer nations, and just 30% believed their country had fair elections — lower than in any country in the region.

4. Yemen
> Disapproval rating: 69.0%
> GDP per capita: $2,348 (38th lowest)
> Unemployment: N/A
> Life expectancy: 63 years (38th lowest)

More than 100 Yemeni citizens have been detained at Guantanamo Bay over the years. The United States also has been concerned over terrorist activity in Yemen. It is therefore no surprise that the two countries have a strained relationship and that nearly 70% of survey respondents disapproved of U.S. leadership. Also, just 9% of Yemenite respondents approved of U.S. leadership, less than in any other country reviewed by Gallup. The country suffers from a very poor economy, with GDP per capita at just $2,348 last year, among the very lowest in the world. According to the World Bank, more than half of the country’s population lived in poverty as of 2012. U.S. citizens are currently under advisory from the U.S. State Department to avoid traveling to Yemen due to the extremely high security threat level.

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3. Lebanon
> Disapproval rating: 71.0%
> GDP per capita: $15,832 (66th highest)
> Unemployment: N/A
> Life expectancy: 80 years (tied for 23rd highest)

Like many countries that disapprove of U.S. leadership, Lebanon has a long history of conflict with Israel. Hezbollah, a militant group and political party deemed a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union, has operated out of Lebanon for several decades. In February, Israeli forces bombed a Hezbollah convoy on the Syrian-Lebanese border. Hezbollah subsequently claimed responsibility for the roadside bombing of an Israeli patrol along the Lebanese-Israeli border in retaliation. The country is also strapped with debt. Its gross debt was nearly 143% of its GDP last year, the third highest in the world. According to a recent AP report, the country’s debt problem is compounded by corruption and a government unwilling to act. In 2012, 85% of residents stated that corruption was widespread, the most of any comparable country.

2. Pakistan
> Disapproval rating: 73.0%
> GDP per capita: $3,144 (48th lowest)
> Unemployment: 6.7% (47th lowest)
> Life expectancy: 66 (46th lowest)

While 73% of Pakistani respondents still disapproved of U.S. leadership in 2013, this was a six percentage points improvement over 2012. Relations with Pakistan have been tense since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States by al-Qaeda. Shortly after the attacks, the U.S. made Pakistan the base of its operations in its hunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the war on Afghanistan’s then-leadership, the Taliban. In 2009, a survey revealed that 59% of the Pakistani people viewed the United States as a bully and as a bigger threat than al-Qaeda. Further exacerbating the country’s negative view of the U.S. may be Pakistan’s struggling economy and poor governance. Just one in 10 Pakistanis said they lived comfortably on their incomes in 2012, according to Gallup, and only 23% of Pakistanis expressed confidence in their government.

1. Palestinian territories
> Disapproval rating: 80.0%
> GDP per capita: N/A
> Unemployment: N/A
> Life expectancy: 73 years (95th highest)

Four of five Palestinians disapproved of American leadership, by far the worst perception of the United States globally. One explanation for the country’s hostility toward the United States is Palestine’s conflict with Israel. Hamas, the organization that has effectively governed the Gaza Strip territory since 2007, is considered by the United States and European Union to be a terrorist organization. Possibly emphasizing the deep divides in the Palestinian territories, just 18% of respondents told Gallup the place they lived was a good place for racial and ethnic minorities in 2012, less than all but one other country in the region.

Read the rest of the list on 24/7 Wall St.

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TIME

Here Are the 15 Highest-Paying Companies in America

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A surprising No. 1

Median income for Americans was $34,750 in 2012. At some companies, however, the median is more than five times the national number. Based on figures provided by Glassdoor, 24/7 Wall St. examined the highest-paying companies in America.

The companies that pay their employees the most fall primarily into two industries: management consulting firms and tech companies. These companies employ graduates of elite schools who have skills that are in high demand and have high salary expectations to match.

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Consultancies can afford to pay high salaries. Generally, they are high-margin businesses, relying on a relatively small workforce to generate revenues. McKinsey & Co. and Boston Consulting Group, two consultancies that pay big salaries, continue to draw interest from business school students as they compete with some of the nation’s largest public companies to recruit top performers. According to Forbes, 2013 revenue at McKinsey & Co. was $7.8 billion, generated by only 17,000 employees.

For tech companies, maintaining the talent pool requires paying very high salaries to bring in software developers and engineers. According to a study by Glassdoor published last year, the six companies that paid engineers the most included Juniper Networks, LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Google, Twitter and Apple — all of which were among the top 15 highest-paying companies overall.

Many of the highest-paying companies in America are also listed in Glassdoor’s 2014 Best Places to Work. Most notably, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google are all among the top 15 paying companies, as well as among the top 10 places to work based on employee reviews. Apple, Salesforce.com, Chevron, Riverbed Technology and eBay are also among the 30 best-paying companies and the top 50 places to work.

Many of the companies paying the highest salaries are headquartered in some of the wealthiest metro areas in the country. Boston, the fifth-wealthiest metro area by median income, is home to Boston Consulting Group. San Francisco, the nation’s fourth-wealthiest such area, is home to four of the top payers, including both design and engineering software-maker Autodesk and social networking company Twitter.

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But no metro area is home to more top-paying companies than the San Jose area, where Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Yahoo! and Juniper Networks are all headquartered. San Jose topped the nation with a median household income of $79,841 in 2012.

To identify the companies paying employees the most, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from Glassdoor on median annual salaries by company, as well as job reviews and average salaries for specific positions. We also examined Glassdoor’s 2014 study on the Best Places to Work. In addition, we reviewed 2012 median salaries by occupation from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

These are the highest-paying companies in America:

1. Apogee Medical
> Median salary: $220,000
> Number of employees: 750 (no. of physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants)
> Sector: Manufacturing
> Headquartered: Phoenix, Ariz.

Apogee Medical pays its employees a median annual salary of $220,000 — the best in the country. It is likely that the salaries are high because the company is the largest physician-owned hospitalist group in the country. Hospitalists — physicians who provide comprehensive care to hospitalized patients — are Apogee’s highest-paid employees, making an average of $215,000 per year. According to the company’s website, Apogee employs more than 750 physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, all of which earn more than $100,000 a year. The company also offers a variety of opportunities to improve professionally, including its “Apogee University” program, which is available to all employees.

2. Boston Consulting Group
> Median salary: $143,750
> Number of employees: 6,200
> Sector: Business services
> Headquartered: Boston, Mass.

Top management consulting firms generally pay handsome salaries, and that is especially true at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which pays a median of $143,750 per year. This is well above the median annual salary $114,000 for a management consultant in Boston. The company, which employs nearly 5,000 consultants in 75 offices in 42 countries, consults top management at companies in virtually every sector. With nearly $4 billion in revenue in 2013, BCG is one of the richest management consultants in the world. In addition to a comparably lucrative salary, the firm offers employees a variety of benefits that most companies do not give, according to Workforce Magazine. BCG picks up the full tab on health care premiums for its employees, and it pays its consultants to engage in nonprofit work.

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3. Booz & Company
> Median salary: $140,000
> Number of employees: 3,000+
> Sector: Business services
> Headquartered: New York City, N.Y.

Booz & Company, a global management consulting firm, has been recognized around the world as one of the best firms both for its performance and its treatment of its employees. While the company did not fare well on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list this year, employees seem very pleased, citing numerous opportunities for advancement and competitive salaries on Glassdoor. While senior business consultants in New York City earn slightly more than $100,000 a year, they are paid some $140,000 a year at Booz & Co. PricewaterhouseCoopers recently completed a deal to purchase Booz & Co., although whether the business will continue as a standalone brand or adopt the PwC moniker has not yet been announced.

4. A.T. Kearney
> Median salary: $135,000
> Number of employees: 3,200
> Sector: Business services
> Headquartered: Chicago, Ill.

Management consulting firm A.T. Kearney was among the companies where the most business school graduates wanted to work, according to Fortune. One of the likely reasons for this is the pay — the median annual salary at the Chicago firm is $135,000. Comparably, the median annual salary for management consultants in Chicago is $110,365. Generous compensation, however, is not the company’s only draw. The company was also named as one of the Best Places for Diverse and Women Managers to Work by Diversity MBA magazine and Fortune’s “100 Top MBA Employers” in 2013.

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5. Juniper Networks
> Median salary: $134,218
> Number of employees: 9,483
> Sector: Information technology
> Headquartered: Sunnyvale, CA

Unlike many of the best-paying companies in Silicon Valley, Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) is not a consumer electronics, software or social media company. The networking equipment company sells its services and products — including its Junos network operating system — to carriers, cable companies and Internet service providers, among others. Employees working in similar companies may often be well compensated — the median pay for computer network architects in 2012 was $91,000. Juniper is certainly no slouch where pay is concerned. Software and systems engineers at Juniper were paid well more than $100,000 per year.

6. Visa Inc.
> Median salary: $130,000 (tied for 6th highest)
> Number of employees: 9,500
> Sector: Finance
> Headquartered: Foster City, Calif.

Based on the relatively low employee satisfaction score on Glassdoor, many employees find Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) a difficult place to work. However, the company makes up for it by paying higher salaries than its two closest competitors. The average salary for a number of positions at Visa is well over $100,000 a year. By contrast, neither of Visa’s chief rivals, American Express and MasterCard, was listed among the top-paying companies by Glassdoor. Visa also offers perks to employees beyond the typical benefits package. Those include free group exercise classes and benefits to workers who commute via public transportation, walking or bike riding.

7. LinkedIn
> Median salary: $130,000 (tied for 6th highest)
> Number of employees: 5045
> Sector: Information technology
> Headquartered: Mountain View, Calif.

LinkedIn Corp. (NYSE: LNKD) is the highest-paying social network to work for, with salaries that outpace those of both Twitter and Facebook. The company pays software engineers and data scientists salaries that can frequently exceed $150,000 per year. Also, like its competitors, LinkedIn ranks as one of the top companies to work for, according to Glassdoor. Employees noted in their reviews that “this company has an amazing culture!” and that the company “truly cares about its employees, providing opportunities for professional growth and career transformation.”

8. Autodesk
> Median salary: $128,000
> Number of employees: 7,300
> Sector: Business services
> Headquartered: San Francisco, Calif.

Autodesk Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) is one of the highest-paying companies in the area of software engineering. The company, which specializes in cloud servicing software, is located in San Francisco and had revenue of $2.31 billion in 2013. While the median salary of a software engineer in the United States was $87,100 in 2012, the average salary of a software engineer at Autodesk is $106,959 a year. In addition to generous health and retirement benefits, the company offers employees six weeks paid sabbaticals for every four years of employment, as well as the week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day. One of its unusual benefits is to offer employees assistance in the costs of adopting a child.

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9. Walmart eCommerce
> Median salary: $125,000 (tied for 9th highest)
> Number of employees: 2,000,000 (1,500 in Walmart eCommerce)
> Sector: Retail
> Headquartered: San Bruno, CA

While Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) has been frequently criticized for the low pay of its retail employees, the company is by no means afraid to pay for talent. The company continues to invest aggressively in its online business, with the hopes of catching up to online retail giant Amazon.com. To do so, the world’s largest retailer has had to pay for workers in software development, where the national median salary was $87,100 in 2012. This was far higher than the median earnings of the company’s retail sales workers of slightly less than $20,000 annually. And Walmart eCommerce doesn’t just pay these engineers the national median but far above it. At $125,000 per year, the pay of engineers at Walmart is comparable to pay at tech companies such as Google and Twitter.

10. Google
> Median salary: $125,000 (tied for 9th highest)
> Number of employees: 47,756
> Sector: Information technology
> Headquartered: Mountain View, Calif.

Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) is one of the world’s most valuable companies as measured by market cap, and employees often reap the rewards. Software engineers, product managers and research scientists often earn salaries running well above $100,000 per year, according to Glassdoor. Google is well-known for not sparing any expense to recruit the best talent available. Employees receive a wide range of perks, including on-site medical care and its famous “20% time” — in which employees can work on whatever projects they want. An added perk for some employees is the opportunity to work with a number of the world’s leading thinkers, including chief economist Hal Varian and director of engineering Ray Kurzweil. It is hardly any wonder the company was ranked eighth on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work.

For the rest of the list, click here.

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