Unemployment Benefits Hits Another All-Time Low

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For the first time in eight years, the number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell to an all-time low last week. Weekly applications for unemployment aid dropped 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 284,000, according to the Department of Labor. The number marks the lowest reading since February 2006, nearly two years before the Great Recession began. For the past three months, claims for jobless aid have been decreasing. Recent reports have coincided with the temporary summer shutdowns of auto plants, yet the impact of those closures is addressed through seasonal adjustments.

Applications are a representation for layoffs. When employers hold onto their workers, it’s a sign of potential income gains, increased hiring and confidence that the economy will grow. The recent drop-off in unemployment benefit applications points to a substantial number of jobs added in July, raising expectations for the monthly employment report to be released in the beginning of August. The decline in people applying for benefits reinforces other reports that the economy is improving.

Employers added 288,000 jobs in June, the fifth straight month of job gains above 200,000. The continuous gains are make up the first such stretch since the height of the dot-com boom in 1999. The unemployment rate has fallen to 6.1%, the lowest since September 2008. In a separate report, the government stated that total layoffs in May dropped below pre-recession levels. Job openings are at their highest level in seven years, while more workers are quitting their jobs. Workers usually quit when they have an offer for a better position or confidence that they can find another one. Despite the positive news regarding jobless claims, added jobs and the unemployment rate, the job growth has done little to significantly lift wages. During the economic recovery, wage growth has barely matched inflation.

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The Rise of Independent Contract Work

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A few months back, in April 2014, the Career Advisory Board, established by DeVry University, partnered with MBO Partners, to conduct a survey, titled The Future of Work: Preparing for Independence. The survey was designed to identify the traits of successful contract workers in the United States. From the information, MBO Partners now projects that by the year 2020, 1 in 2 Americans will either move to independent work or spend at least part of their working hours as self-employed professionals. The study demonstrated the reasoning that many employees may want to embrace contract work:

Despite the fact that independent contractors must pay their own taxes and health benefits, most earn an average pay of approximately $87,000 or more a year. In addition to excellent pay, many contract workers work less than full time schedules, meaning that the pay rate is actually far better than their full-time employed colleagues.

Contract work also offers a more desirable work arrangement for many modern professionals. As career goals continue to adapt, self-employment allows workers to control what type of work assignments to pursue, provides greater flexibility and a better work-life balance, and provides professionals with the opportunity to follow their passions.  For many of the contract workers who had been surveyed, most were over the age of 35 and had taken skills that they learned as full-time employee in order to market themselves independently.

For individuals whoare interested in exploring independent contracting opportunities, there are three tips that can help in the transitional process:

  1. Make it a priority to network. According to the study, 82% of respondents said that word-of-mouth was the main way they received work income. Especially, for women who said 57% of their contract assignments came from former employers.
  2. It helps to have a specialty. Having relevant technical skills and a specialty within the industry helped 90% of respondents land more contracts.
  3. Be very self-motivated. Over 90% of respondents said you must be a self-starter, self-motivated, and be able to cope with an unpredictable revenue stream to succeed. Many of the respondents have been successful independent contractors for over 9 years and said it gets easier with time.

Being a one-man-show has its perks, but as you know nothing comes easy. Similar to running a larger business, you must portray certain qualities to succeed. As an aspiring independent contractor, keep your reputation and communication skills strong and practice exhibiting flexibility and solid organizational skills.

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Argument For Raising Minimum Wage Strengthens

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Over the past several months, a large debate has initiated over whether or not the minimum wage should rise. One of the largest arguments against an increase in pay related to the potential impact on job growth. Many business groups are making the argument that employers won’t be able to hire more people if they can’t offer lower wages. Recent data from the Department of Labor shows that this might not be the case, however. So far, 12 of the 13 states that have raised their minimum wage since the beginning of the year have experienced more job growth than lower-wage states.

According to The Associated Press, 13 states raised their minimum wages at the beginning of 2014. Nine of the thirteen states, increased their minimum wages automatically, in line with inflation:

-          Arizona
-          Colorado
-          Florida
-          Missouri
-          Montana
-          Ohio
-          Oregon
-          Vermont
-          Washington

The other four states approved legislation that mandates an increase:

-          Connecticut
-          New Jersey
-          New York
-          Rhode Island

Thus far, of the 13 states, Vermont is the only one that has had job growth remain flat, while the other 12 have experienced an increased job growth.

As President Obama continues to strive towards an increase in the federal minimum wage, he cited the new data recently while speaking in Denver, stating that raising the wage will allow workers to continue climbing the ladder, keep them working  hard and will improve the economy overall.

While some economists are arguing that six months work of data is not enough to draw conclusions, others are remaining optimistic. There are several different variables that are at work in the different states, however the trend is difficult to ignore. Overall, it appears as though that the locations where employees are being offered closer to a living wage, job growth is increasing, pointing to good news for the American worker.

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Wages Are Expected to Rise

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Workers have some good news to rejoice about: Economists reported that their companies are granting more pay raises this year. In a survey by the National Association for Business Economics (NABE), 43 percent of economists said that their firms have increased wages in the last three months. The number is up from last years, when only 19% of economists reported wage gains.

Although not every worker will benefit from a pay wage, trends indicate that the tide of cutting wages might be done. In the survey, no one reported pay cuts at their firm, and 57% reported that wages were flat. Looking forward, 35% of economists anticipate that their firms will raise wages in the next three months with others expecting wages to stay the same.

Although the survey is certainly encouraging, other day demonstrates that wages are rising but not enough to keep up with rising prices. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when inflation is factored into the equation, the “real wages” were actually 0.1% lower in May, than they were a year earlier. The data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is more comprehensive than NABE’s survey, including about 144,000 businesses and government agencies nationwide.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen recently stated that she would like to see wages rise faster than inflation this year so that households will be able to experience a legitimate increase in their take-home pay. At a press conference in June, she was quoted saying, “If we were to fail to see that, frankly, I would worry about downside risk to consumer spending.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is scheduled to release more information and data on inflation and earnings sometime today.

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The 5 Signs it’s Time to Make a Career Change

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Have you been debating whether or not it is time to move on from your current job? Most people hate change and fear the unknown, and because of this fear they tend to stick with familiar things even if they are no longer a good fit. The situation is especially familiar when it comes to career changes. People end up feeling stuck in their careers, feeling unhappy and unwilling to make a change for fear of lack of experience, power or comparable compensation. If you are feeling particularly frustrated at work lately, it may be time to determine whether or not a major change is in order. Take a look at the 5 crystal-clear signs it is time for a career change, and how you can go about achieving them:

1. You go to sleep and wake up dreading the day
It is natural to go through phases in our work life that are particularly stressful. But when the stress of work is on your mind when you go to bed, and present the moment you wake up, then it may be time to rethink your role. If you dread Monday’s, and don’t look forward to any part of your job, then it is time for a change.

2. You only work for the money
Money is rarely fulfilling it in’s own right. Yes, money can do great things and on the opposite spectrum, a lack of money creates its own stresses. But ultimately, most people want job satisfaction from creating value, camaraderie, and self-growth. If you find very little satisfaction in the activities of your day, then change your career path. Remove the money pressures in your life by scaling back on your lifestyle and positioning yourself to be able to make a change.

3. Every email you read sounds sarcastic or condescending
Do your work emails make you cringe? If you have lost perspective in company communication, then it is likely time to move on. Email is a great barometer because it doesn’t transmit emotion and tone, and often reflects your own positive or negative feelings when you read it. Try to read everything with a positive manner and see if communication improves. If you still pick up on a negative tone, then find a place where you can work with people that you like.

4. You have little good to say
Pay attention and try to spot your own negativity in meetings, on the phone, and even in the break room. Take a notepad and mark down every time you communicate something negatively. If you begin to realize that you are running out of paper, then it may be time to adjust your situation. If you sound angry, bitter or resigned, and would like to be more positive then look into making a career change.

5. You don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel
What do you see when you look to the future of your career? Are you optimistic about the path that you are going down? Or do you see a boring path that offers very little benefit? If you are concerned that you are set on a path of drudgery, then make a quick turn and begin to reassess your career goals.

Take control of your situation internally and assess whether or not it may be time for you to make a career change. Instead of settling for a mundane work life, full of negativity, make a career change and get back to enjoying your work and professional life.

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Microsoft Announces 18,000 Job Cuts

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After several days of speculation, Microsoft announced that the company will cut up to 18,000 jobs or 14 percent of its staff as it works to cut down on management layers and integrate the Nokia cellphone business that was purchased in April. The cuts will be the biggest layoffs in history for the company.

Despite the job cuts being expected, the amount and extent of the cuts have surprised many. Many believe that the cuts are the boldest move by CEO Satya Nadella since he took over for Steve Ballmer in February. Nadella stated in a public email to employees on Thursday that the changes were needed for the company to “become more agile and move faster.”

Out of the 18,000 jobs that will be cut, about 12,500 professional and factory jobs will be eliminated. Microsoft anticipates charges of $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion over the next four quarters, which includes $750 million to $800 million for severance and related benefit costs.

Daniel Ives, a FBR Capital Markets analyst, stated that the cuts were about double what Wall Street was expecting. However, he believes that the cuts are necessary to streamline operations and help to revamp the management structure.

The most recent round of Microsoft cut’s of about 5,800 jobs in 2009 has been dwarfed by the estimated number announced by Microsoft. The 2009 cuts were the company’s first ever widespread layoff.

It has been evident that Microsoft is shifting its focus from traditional PC software to cloud computing and cloud-based products. After it’s $7.3 billion acquisition of Nokia’s cellphone business, Microsoft has been attempting to meld its software and hardware business into a cohesive unit. The company hopes to drive sales of its Windows Phone by targeting the lower-price smartphone market with its Lumia devices and developing more products for the higher-end smartphone segment.

Nadella indicated that he would provide more details regarding the cuts when the Redmond, Washington based Microsoft would report its fiscal 2014 results on Tuesday.

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Best Paying Jobs for Young Professionals

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New grads fresh out of college are often looking for that “perfect job”- something that is line with their interests, major and more importantly something that will help out with those student loans. Business Insider and Payscale recently put together a report of the 15 best-paying jobs for young professionals with a bachelor’s degree. Many of the positions could be available to you with the right college classes or post-grad training.  View the list of the top 10 jobs that made the list of the highest paying jobs for young professionals:

10 Best Paying Jobs for Recent Graduates:

1. Electrical Engineer, $61,400
Electrical engineers design, test and oversee the manufacturing of electrical equipment. Candidates with electrical engineering degrees qualify for the position.

2. Software Developer, $59,800
Even if you don’t have a computer science degree, there are plenty of courses and boot camps available that can help teach you the skills you need to land a job as a Software Developer. As more and more of our daily functions move online, companies are seeking software developers to help build apps and programs.

3. Mechanical Engineer, $58,000
Mechanical Engineers make up one of the broadest engineering gigs, and combine a knowledge of chemistry, physics, math, and other engineering disciplines to design and create everything from industrial equipment to medical devices.

4. Business Analyst, IT, $54,400
Business Analysts dig into data to see how companies and departments can function more efficiently. Presently IT is one of the fastest growing fields today, offering a plethora of great opportunities.

5. Supply Chain Analyst, $51,300
Supply chain analysts and managers spearhead the process that develops products and places them on store’s shelves.

6. Civil Engineer, $51,000
Civil engineers build roads, buildings, airports, transportation systems, and more. Most candidates require a bachelor’s degree in the field to get hired, and typically require a master’s to advance further.

7. Financial Analyst, $50,600
Financial Analysts make investment decisions that help generate value. Individuals interested in this position should focus on courses related to math, business, economics, and accounting.

8. Auditor, $50,000
Auditors are crucial members of accounting teams and dig into data, records, and financial statements to make sure that a company’s finances are in order and done by the books. In order to land this gig, job seekers should take accounting courses.

9. Operations Manager, $47,200
Operations Managers help to build a strong working backbone for businesses by completing tasks such as helping a large company’s department run more efficiently or tackling important customer issues for a startup.

10. Data Analyst, $47,000
Data analysts dig into numbers and data to unearth interesting financial and customer insights that can help the business move forward.

If you are interested in any of the positions above, visit Gigats.com to begin your customized search for the positions and others like it. Gigats allows jobs seekers to stop searching and start working.

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Moving Towards Women’s Equal Pay

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A recent report released on Monday from Oxfam covered the state of gender equality around the world. The report found that if the gap between men’s and women’s earnings keeps closing at its current rate, women won’t earn equal pay for equal work for another 75 years.

Although the gender gap in education has been closing around the world, gaps in pay, employment and political participation have stagnated and in some cases even widened. According to a March analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, progress in closing the pay gap has stagnated in recent years after decades of steadily narrowing in the U.S.

There are several possible reasons why the gap is closing so slowly. Unfortunately, in some circumstance out-and-out discrimination still plays a role. Additionally, women tend to be concentrated in low-wage industries or in undervalued sectors like health care and education. In addition to those problems, Oxfam cites that one of the biggest reasons for a persistent gap is that women are more likely than men to do unpaid care work like taking care of children or the elderly. This trend makes it more difficult for them to join the paid labor force. In fact, women around the world basically donate two to five hours of unpaid work per day, on average, to the global economy, according to Oxfam.

Because of the fact that women spend hours of the day providing unpaid work, many are more likely to be employed part-time or in precarious or unprotected job. Shawna Wakefield, the head of gender policy at Oxfam, who wrote the report, stated “Because women are less likely to be employed in full-time positions they are often discriminated against in the workplace and given the crummiest jobs.”

Wakefield believes that in order to improve the gender wage gap, policy makers should begin to start thinking of unpaid care work as having a broad economic benefits, instead of just as a “women’s issue.” If the work were recognized, it would boost gross domestic product by 9 percent in the U.S. alone. “Unpaid care work is what sustains families, what sustains communities and what sustains economies,” Wakefield said. “It’s basically a subsidy for the economy that’s not recognized.” Shifting our attitudes about unpaid care work may encourage policy makers to find ways for women to find work and get paid well at the same time.

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Sneaky Stress and How to Handle it

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Sometimes, even after completing our daily yoga, meditating, or splurging on our own form of therapy, we continue to feel agitated or overwhelmed. According to the American Psychological Association, getting to the bottom of the sources of stress in your life can improve the function of your body and mind. A constant state of tension can put you at greater risk for chronic pain, fertility issues, heart disease and Type Two diabetes. If you are constantly stressed and can’t seem to figure out why, read the list of the six surprising ways that stress can sneak up on you and work to eliminate the problems from your life:

1. Cluttered space
Without even realizing it, you add unnecessary tension to your life when the space you live or work in is cluttered. Because of the way our brain processes visual information, a cluttered space is automatically registered as chaos, according to research from the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute published in the Journal of Neuroscience. The visual interpretation of disarray will hurt your ability to focus, make you more distracted, and can even slow down your knack for interpreting information.  To fix the stress caused by clutter, carve out time to reorganize your space, minimize the clutter and perfect your workspace.

2. Your co-workers are high-strung
The simple action of being around high-strung people can make you feel more stressed. According to a team of German researchers from Leipzig and Dresden, seeing someone become unglued can actually trigger the same physical response in you. The phenomenon is labeled as “empathetic stress,” and it can cause your body to produce higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as if you are the one under pressure. It may not be practical to avoid your stressed-out colleagues altogether, but try to implement a buffer. Reconfigure your office so that your computer, phone and chair all face away from the stress-inducing person. Or invest in a plant: Norwegian environmental psychologists found that plotted plants reduce stress for everyone in the workplace.

3. Too much social media
A dependence on social media sites can sometimes undermine your well-being. In fact in one study, in which subjects ramped up the social media usage during a 14-day period, researchers found the participants’ state of happiness decreased quickly as their usage increased. Researchers believe that it is possible that the computer deters actual physical interaction, “which has cognitive and emotional replenishing effects,” while triggering “damaging social comparisons.” In order to prevent stress from social media, balance your usage to a narrow window of time once or twice a day.

4. You’re too composed
In a new study from USC Marshall School of Business, sharing your feelings of anxiety or stress with colleagues, even superiors, who have had similar experiences can improve your mood and relations with your peers and bosses. Keeping to yourself can wreck havoc on your emotional well-being, so instead reach out to co-workers and establish effective connections.

5. You are too serious
On the surface it may seem like staying focused will keep you ahead of feeling stressed or overwhelmed, but in reality taking a break from work is the key to keeping tension at a minimum. To alleviate stress, grab a cup of coffee with a friend or just take a quick walk through the office. Removing yourself from your work briefly can help to clear your mind and reduce pressure.

6. You Work in an Open-Space Floor Plan
The stress you feel every day may not be related to your project manager, your personality or your co-workers, it could be the fault of your work-space design. Someone who works in an open-floor plan is more likely to feel more stressed than those who work in private spaces, according to a recent study by Australian researchers. If the stress of the open-floor plan is becoming too much, then try to convince your superiors to let you work from home.

Eliminating the stress in your work can help you to live a healthier more productive life. Avoid the sneaky causes of stress above by quickly fixing the problems and focusing on improving your overall attitude at work.

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Employers Struggle to Fill Vacancies

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Recent news of a declining unemployment rate, now at 6.1 percent, has many believing that employers are now filling their vacancies. However, according to a survey by franchise staffing firm Express Employment Professionals, many companies say that they are having a harder time filling open positions this year than last year.

The report found that 83% of the company’s 115 franchises surveyed said it was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to fill a job opening this year. The number is up from 78% in 2013. Fifty-two percent of the companies cited a lack of available candidates as the reason that they were unable to fill their roles easily. Blaming the skills gap between job seekers and open positions, the businesses continue to struggle to find new workers. Bob Funk, CEO of Express stated “This was surprising to me as I thought the number of companies having difficulties would be lower this year.”

According to Rebecca Smith, deputy director of the National Employment Law Projects, another reason for the inability to fill vacancies, may be related to the low pay that is often offered. “Except for those at the top, wages have consistently declined over the past few years,” she said.

Despite employers difficulty in finding new candidates, there are many great new openings available around the country. Visit Gigats.com to start your job search and learn how to position yourself as a valuable job candidate for any postition.

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