Jobless Claims Reflect Pre-Recession Levels

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New signs of a sustained improvement in labor market conditions are apparent after the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week. According to the Labor Department, initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 298,000 for the week ended Aug. 16.

Claims for the week prior were revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported. A Labor Department analyst also stated that there were no special factors influencing the state level data.  Economists who were polled by Reuters initially forecasted claims slipping to 300,000 last week.

The four-week average of claims, which is considered a better measure of labor market trends, rose 4,750 to 300,750. Even at that level, it remains consistent with solid job growth and claims that reflect pre-recession levels.

The claims report covered the duration of time in which the government surveyed employers for August’s nonfarm payrolls data. The four-week average of claims fell 8.500 between the July and August survey periods, suggesting another month of strong job gains.

Finally, the jobless claims report also showed that the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 49,000 to 2.50 million in the week ended Aug.9. The number reflects the lowest level since June 2007. For the sixth consecutive week, the unemployment rate for people receiving jobless benefits was 1.9 percent.

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Employee Satisfaction Experiences Increase

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According to a new Gallup Poll, 58 percent of full- or part-time workers are completely satisfied with their job security. Since the Great Recession, Americans are feeling more secure in their jobs than before the financial crisis.

The overall satisfaction of workers increased between 2013 and 2014 in several different aspects of their jobs, including vacation time and their boss. Last year, 54 percent of workers reported that they were completely satisfied with the amount of vacation time they receive. The number increased 5 percentage points to 59 percent in 2014.

Additionally, in 2013, 56 percent were satisfied with their boss or immediate supervisor. Sixty percent of workers are satisfied on the same factor in 2014, demonstrating a four-point increase.

Some other factors that were measured in the survey included relations with coworkers, flexibility, job security, work recognition, chances for promotion and health insurance benefits. Of the 13 factors, only 2 saw a decrease in worker satisfaction. Workers were each 1 percentage point less satisfied with the flexibility of hours and the amount of on-the-job stress in the job than they were in 2013.

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Middle-Class Jobs Are On The Rise

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Despite the fact that the recession has now been “over” for the past five years, many workers are still experiencing the ongoing frustrations of unemployment or underemployment. However, things could change very soon for the working class. In fact, The Washington Post notes, with recent figures released, the recession may begin to feel more over for working class individuals.

High-paying jobs, or jobs that pay $20 or a more per hour, are reporting increases in hiring. Additionally, “middle class jobs” such as construction, transportation and manufacturing jobs are creating a majority of the new hires. Forty percent of the jobs that have been created during the past six months have been in the $20+ per hour careers, a number up from 25% during the last half of 2013.

For the overqualified workforce in low-paying sectors and the unemployed, this is good news. During the recession, food service and retail jobs were the first to recover and they now have 2.3 million more employees than they had in 2007. Because of this, the industry could stand to lose some of the workforce to find work that is more aligned with their desired work. This would then allow unemployed workers to take over in the low-paying positions, easing their woes.

Although there is plenty of reason to be optimistic, international labor forces are offering low cost, skilled work and technology replacing jobs cast some doubt. Workers must continue to pay attention the economic trends and pay close attention to what happens next.

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Less Workers Take Time Off

A vacation week marked on a calendar.

According to a new survey released Tuesday by the U.S. Travel Association and GfK, a market research firm, about 40 percent of us don’t plan to take all of our paid time off this year. The survey polled 1,303 workers, including 235 senior business leaders.

During the survey, the two most common reasons respondents cited for not taking a break was that workers dreaded the pile of work awaiting them when they return, and that no one else can do what they do in the office.

Additionally, more than 20 percent of workers said one of the main reasons they aren’t taking all of their vacation days is because they don’t want to appear replaceable.

Michael Leiter, a psychology professor at Acadia University states, “Fundamentally what’s going on there is fear.” He goes on to say “People are afraid if they’re not present and they are not continually churning stuff out that bad things are going to happen.”

The numbers of American workers taking vacation is is at a historic low. In the 1970s, about 80 percent of workers took a weeklong vacation every year, according to a recent analysis. That share has dropped to a little bit more than half.

The study found that one way to push workers to take time off is to implement a “use or lose it” policy, which means that vacation days don’t roll over from year to year.

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Fewer Americans Are Saving For Retirement

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According to a new survey, more than a third of people in the United States have no retirement savings at all. Bankrate.com commissioned the survey and found that 14% of Americans ages 65 and older are without a nest egg. Additionally, the survey found that just 26% of people in the age group 50-to-64 have one, and 33% of those aged 30 to 49 have nothing put aside.

Overall, 36% of Americans haven’t set aside any money for retirement. The survey revealed that young Americans are the least prepared among the different age groups. In fact, 69% of the 18-to-29 age group have no retirement savings.

According to Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com, “The key to a successful retirement is to save early and aggressively.” Many Americans are following his advice. The survey found that 32% of people ages 30 to 49 began saving for retirement in their 20s, and 16% started in their 30s.

 

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Young Workers Are Finding Jobs

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the July unemployment rate for ages 16 to 24 was the best in six years. Presently, young people across the country are finding it easier to find employment than they have had at any point since the recession.

This past July, the unemployment rate for the age group ranging from 16 to 24 hit 13.6%. The number is almost as low as it was during the summer of 2008, just before the financial crisis hit. Additionally, the percentage is down significantly from last year’s unemployment rate of 15.5% for the same group.

Despite the numbers appearing to be better, teen unemployment is much higher than the 6.2% rate for all Americans. Due to a smaller number of skills, young people have always had a more difficult time breaking into the job market, leading to a gap in unemployment rates that is presently wider than it was before the downturn.

Many companies are striving to continue to help improve employment for young workers. Organizations such as The Philadelphia Youth Network are on the front lines of the job hunt for young professionals. Currently, the non-profit helps to place teens into jobs. This year the center had 7,600 slots for more than 15,000 applicants, a fairly similar scenario in recent years. Although there are far more applicants than there are slots, the employment positions are becoming more stable as businesses have better financial footing.

Overall, young workers should be optimistic moving forward. Organizations continue to strive to help young candidates find work in order to begin to develop professional skills that are essential to long and healthy careers.

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New Jobs Come With Low Wages

Fast-Food Strikes in 50 U.S. Cities Seeking $15 Per Hour

Despite the fact that jobs are recovering, it appears that wages are not.  In fact, a new study from the US Conference of Mayors and UHS Global Insight revealed that job-losses that occurred during 2008 and 2009 in high-wage industries were replaced in lower wage sectors. So why are high paying jobs being replaced with low paying ones? There are three specific economic trends that are causing wages to remain low even with the creation of new jobs:

1. There is a lower demand for employers to hire more people
When hiring becomes an absolute necessity and employers can no longer avoid it, they tend to seek out the best way to save money: outsourcing.  According to oDesk, an outsourcing market place, the number of employers using outsourced contractors on their site rose by more than 900 percent between 2009 and 2013. Companies are finding it more efficient to hire free lancers than to incur the costs of hiring a full-time employee. At the same time, contracted employees are earning less than they would if they were in a full-time role.

2. Better technology to make people more productive
Although we are certainly years away from having robots take over every role we work in, there is no denying that technology has improved worker productivity, reducing the need for a higher number of staff. There is technology today that did not exist a decade ago, reducing the amount of people that companies must employ. Internet resources, mobile devices, financial services and more have made it easier for workers to get more done in a day further reducing the need for new workers and the necessity to create competitive wages.

3. Industries that are growing are doing so with low wage positions
According to a recent New York Times report, a study from The National Employer Law Project “… found especially strong growth in restaurants and food services, administrative and waste services and retail trades.” The industries listed in the report, are industries that often pay wages at the federal minimum, and account for about 40 percent of the increase in private sector employment over the past four years. Industries that are traditionally known for higher wages are not adding new positions, again reducing wages.

The three economic trends listed above outline the cause for many newly created work positions actually resulting in lower wages. Due to the reduced need for workers, the popularity of contracting, and job growth in traditionally low-paying industries, compensation continues to remain low despite the fact that new jobs are being created. Do you agree with this current economic trend?

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Nearly Half of the Country Feels Underemployed

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According to a new report from PayScale titled Underemployment: Overeducated, Underpaid, and Underworked, 40 percent of workers feel underemployed and eight in 10 of these workers say that being underpaid is the most common reason. Nearly half of the country currently feels that way and despite the fact that the economy is said to be turning around, the types of jobs and the rates that they pay are dependent upon the industry.

According to Katie Bardaro, Lead Economist with PayScale, “Underemployment is a real concern for today’s job seekers as the economic recovery continues to be sluggish.” She goes on to state that “Hiring in many industries remains below expectations and unless you are in certain high-demand fields like technology or health care, well-paying job opportunities are simply not plentiful.”

The report revealed that Gen Y, or workers born between 1982 and 2002 are the most underemployed generation, at 45 percent, however they are the least likely to say that it is because they are underpaid. Additionally, the report determined that Liberal Arts, Psychology and English Language & Literature are the three majors with the highest percentage of workers who claim to be underemployed because they are not using their education / training.

Bardaro adds, “Underemployment is clearly a broader issue than the strict definition by the Bureau of Labor Statistics which defines it as settling for part-time work when seeking full-time work.”

Utilizing it’s report, PayScale put together an infographic that outlines underemployment and the various workers who are experiencing the problem.

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5 Morning Steps For a More Productive Day

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Most working professionals are at the office for 40-60 hours within any given week. Despite our dedication and long-drawn out days, we are still subject to the various distractions offered by online entertainment, office snacking habits and bad time management. In order to get the most out of your day, follow the five practical steps to complete in the morning in order to optimize your time at the office and maintain productivity all day long:

1. Seven minutes of exercise
Seven minutes of exercise is all it takes in the morning to get a healthy kick start. It is a short enough duration of time that it won’t impact the rest of the morning, while still long enough to shake off any morning sluggishness. Find a quick, and easy fitness routine to get into the habit of completing in order to start your morning out on the right foot.

2. Start your day out green
Although a bagel, bowl of cereal, egg sandwich or cup of yogurt can certainly get your metabolism going, a green smoothie can actually give you an even bigger morning lift. Finding a quick and easy green smoothie recipe is cheap, easy and energizing.

3. Pick three wins for the day
Another great way to kick start you morning is to strategize for the day by selecting three things that you would like to accomplish within the next 12 hours. Select items that will make you feel like the day is a success and realize that everyday might not be an epic win.

4. Block your calendar
Instead of creating a to-do list, make a time-bound, effective project list. For each big item on your list, block off the amount of time on your calendar that you estimate the task will likely take, and add 33% more time just to be sure. Utilizing this method will hold you accountable and immediately help you refocus on the tasks that you have prioritized.

5. Power up after lunch
After eating your lunch, take 15 minutes to refocus on the day. Step away from your computer and determine the items that you have to complete for the rest of the day. The 15 minutes will help you identify if you have been derailed, allow you to recognize any distractions, and provide you with an opportunity to rediscover how to get back on track.

Boost your workday productivity by following the five steps provided above each morning. Kick starting your day with high energy and a set list of plans will allow you to accomplish more and feel motivated throughout the day.

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7 Reasons to Volunteer

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It’s no secret that building a resume, networking and responding to an advertised job position are critical elements in a job search. But often, job seekers fail to recognize a less obvious job search tactic that can be beneficial: volunteering for an organization, group or cause for which you believe in. Take a look at the seven reasons job seekers should volunteer and how it can help your job search and career:

1. Volunteering increases networking opportunities
Volunteering provides you will the opportunity to come into contact with people that you have never met. As you volunteer and build relationships, you will be given the chance to share information about your circumstances and aspirations. Volunteer relationships allow you to help each other in your networking efforts.

2. Volunteering provides opportunities for you to use and gain skills
Aligning your volunteer activities with the things that you normally do in the workplace allows you to apply your talents in new areas. If you are unemployed, volunteering is a great way to continue to use and sharpen your skills, while also taking on new challenges and gaining new skills and experience.

3. Volunteering builds your resume
If you are currently employed, add a section to your resume titled “Volunteer Activities” and add details of your volunteer work. If you are unemployed and have provided a reasonable number of hours per week or month volunteering for an organization, then add it to a “Professional Experience” section at the top of your resume. Be sure that the job title includes the word “volunteer” to make it clear that you did not receive compensation.

4. Volunteering defeats the sense of isolation
Isolation can often accompany a long, drawn out job search. If you are new to a community, volunteering provides you with an opportunity to get out and to spend your time on other activities aside from job searching all day long. Volunteering gives you a place to go and an opportunity to cast off your sense of overwhelming isolation.

5. Volunteering says something positive about you
Volunteering allows others to see you as a person who gives back to your community, profession or cause, in addition to being someone who goes above and beyond what is required of you. As an unemployed job seeker, your volunteer activities can show that you aren’t just laying around all day waiting for a job to fall into your lap. Volunteering provides you with an excellent answer to the to the question, “What have you been doing since you lost your job?”

6. Volunteering allows you to make a difference
Volunteering provides you with the opportunity to impact the lives of others who are benefited by the group that you serve. It also provides you with the opportunity to further the work of the organizations or cause that you care about.

7. Volunteering can lead to full time work
Volunteering with a company of your interest allows you to get to know who is who and what is what. You are able to establish relationships with the leaders and staff and later be considered for paid opportunities as they arise.

Before volunteering, consider how you can align your volunteer work with your “real” work activities. Explore the various volunteer opportunities that are avaible to you in order to boost your resume, job seeking efforts, and overall career success.

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