In October 2014, the United States economy added 214,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 5.8 percent, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Since the start of the year, employers have added more than 220,000 workers on average each month. The workforce participation rate remained unchained from a year ago at 62.8 percent.
The biggest gains were in leisure and hospitality with 52,000 new jobs, followed by education and health services with 41,000 jobs added. Other industry job leaders included professional and business services with 37,000 jobs added, of which 15,100 were in temporary help services. Retail trade, ahead of the holiday rush, added 27,100 jobs. The only industry that lost jobs was information, which includes broadcasting and publishing, which lost 4,000 workers.
According to a national employment report by the Society for Human Resource Management, hiring activity will reach a four-year high in November 2014 for manufacturing and service sectors in the United States. Average hourly earnings remained unchained, but the length of the workweek at 34.6 hours is at its highest since May 2008.
Retailers are getting ready for the 2014 holiday hiring season. Seven of the country’s largest retailers will together add nearly 400,000 jobs this winter. Macy’s leads the nation with an expected 86,000 seasonal jobs. Videogame retailer Game Stop has announced plans to hire 25,000 seasonal workers, up from 17,000 in 2013. J.C. Penny will hire approximately 35,000 seasonal workers, and Toys “R” Us will add 45,000 workers. Wal-mart has announced plans to hire 60,000 workers, a 10 percent increase from the company’s seasonal hiring last year. And Target expects to hire 70,000 seasonal workers this year.
The Hardest Positions to Fill
According to The American Staffing Association’s Skill Gap Index, occupational therapist is the hardest occupation to fill in the United States. The index, which tracks the number of hardest-to-fill occupations in the country, identified 207 positions as hard to fill. The top 10 are:
Truck drivers (heavy and tractor-trailer)
Occupational therapist assistants
Merchandise displayers and window trimmers
Physical therapist assistants
Nursing instructors and teachers (post-secondary)
Computer software engineers (applications)
Employees Know They’re Lacking Skills
A survey by Udemy of 1,000 Americans found that 61 percent of Americans believe that today’s workforce is plagued by a skills gap. And 54 percent reported that they do not already know everything they need to know in order to do their current jobs. About one third reported that a lack of skills held them back from earning a higher salary, and a third reported that inadequate skills caused them to be passed over for a promotion or to not get a job. The most important skills that employees feel they are missing are computer and technical skills.
The Skills Employees Need, But Don’t Have
Source: Harvard Business Review
A separate survey of 5,400 executives and employees by Oxford Economics found that of the employees surveyed, only 44 percent felt that the leaders at their company were capable of managing their employees. And only 34 percent of executives agreed that their leaders are prepared to lead a diverse workforce. The survey revealed that executives feel that part of the challenge in corporate leadership is that the base of workers is becoming increasingly fragmented. Approximately 83 percent of executives said they would be using more freelance or temporary workers in the next three years.
Skills Needed Today and in the Future
Source: Oxford Economics
Following up on Flexible Work Arrangements
In the September edition of DCR TrendLine, we wrote about the increased popularity of workplace flexibility and the benefits it offers both workers and employers. A new survey released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that more than three-quarters of human resource professionals from organizations that offer flexible work find it is somewhat or very successful.
Of the 39 percent of respondents that offer telecommuting, 26 percent said that it increased productivity and 32 percent said absenteeism rates decreased. Approximately 83 percent of respondents said telecommuting would be more prevalent in the next five years, and 89 percent said other flexible work arrangements would be more prevalent in the next five years.
In a separate survey by SHRM, more than one-half of respondents said that flexibility had a positive impact on attracting and retaining workers, reducing turnover and absenteeism rates, and increasing productivity, quality of work, company culture, worker health, company public image, worker morale, and job satisfaction. When asked what makes flexible arrangements work, HR professionals listed buy-in from top management, commitment from workers, and a supportive organizational culture as the most important.
Funding Worker Misclassification Detection
The U.S. Department of Labor in September 2014 awarded a total of $10,225,183 to 19 states for implementing or improving worker misclassification detection and enforcement indicatives in unemployment insurance programs. Additionally, four states will share $2 million in additional grant funds due to their high performance or most improved performance in detecting employers who misclassify workers.
These funds will be used to increase the ability of state unemployment insurance tax programs to identify cases where employers improperly classify employees as independent contractors or fail to report wages paid to workers.
“This is one of many actions the department is taking to help level the playing field for employers while ensuring workers receive appropriate rights and protections.” ~Thomas E. Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor
“While this is a sign that the economy is slowly moving in the right direction, if you look below the headline numbers, it’s obvious that today’s labor market is still far from normal. The economy may be growing, but not enough for workers to feel the effects in their paychecks.” ~Economic Policy Institute