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Fed Says U.S. Economic Growth Improves While Hiring Limited

Bloomberg (01/11/12)

The Federal Reserve’s latest report on the nation’s regional economies showed that the pace of activity around the country is picking up, though hiring was limited. The Fed report, dubbed the beige book, will be used for discussions at the Fed’s next policy-setting meeting, Jan. 24-25.

The economy “expanded at a modest to moderate pace” from late November through the end of December on increased holiday retail sales, demand for services, and oil and gas extraction, the report concluded. At the same time, most industries saw “limited permanent hiring,” and the housing market remained “sluggish.” The report may reinforce the views of a majority of Fed officials, who see an economy that’s expanding without being strong enough to reduce joblessness as quickly as they would prefer.

“The reports on balance suggest ongoing improvement in economic conditions in recent months,” the Fed says. “The combination of limited permanent hiring in most sectors and numerous active job seekers has continued to keep a lid on general wage increases.” However, the report noted significant pay increases for workers with specialized skills in certain manufacturing and technology sectors.

U.S. Unemployment Claims Rise Sharply to 399,000

MarketWatch (01/12/12) Bartash, Jeffrey

New applications for unemployment benefits increased last week to the highest level since late November, most likely because of end-of-the-year layoffs following the holiday season. Jobless claims rose by 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 399,000 in the week ended Jan. 7, reports the U.S. Labor Department. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 375,000 from 372,000. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had estimated that claims would rise to a seasonally adjusted 380,000.

Claims usually rise to their highest level of the year, on an unadjusted basis, in the first or second week of January owing to end-of-the year changes in hiring and employment practices. Economists will watch closely over the next few weeks to see if claims resume a recent downward trend or spike higher as they did early in 2011.

Brighter Picture for Manufacturing Employment in the U.S.

Randstad (01/11/12) Summers, Fiona

The manufacturing sector saw 23,000 net new workers take up positions in the U.S. in the final month of 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Approximately 334,000 new jobs have been created in manufacturing since December 2009. On average, those in the manufacturing sector were working 40.5 hours each week in December 2011, which was up from 40.4 hours in November. The National Association of Manufacturers says the December 2011 figures were boosted by the durable goods sector.

The Factory Floor Has a Ceiling on Job Creation

Wall Street Journal (01/12/12) Wessel, David

While manufacturing employment has grown by 334,000 in the past two years, this column asserts that manufacturing alone is not going to put the U.S. back to work. One reason that manufacturing is up lately is because it was pushed down so far during the recession. The 334,000 increase in factory payrolls follows a decline of 2.3 million in the two years before that.

Manufacturing employs 11.8 million workers, accounting for less than 9% of all the jobs in the U.S. today. Lawrence Katz, a Harvard University labor economist, expects U.S. factories to hire more as the economy improves, but adds, “We don’t expect to restore agriculture as our primary source of employment growth. The same is true for manufacturing.” Modern factory jobs often pay well and are secure, but manufacturing employment is not going to be the chief source of jobs for the next quarter-century, and pretending otherwise is “foolish,” the column concludes.

Economists See Europe as Main Threat to U.S. Growth

Wall Street Journal (01/12/12) Izzo, Phil

The uncertainty surrounding Europe remains the biggest risk to growth in the U.S., according to economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal. Forty-eight of 50 economists surveyed say that the euro zone is in a recession now or that one is imminent, though the majority of those who predict a recession expect it to last less than a year. If the downturn in the euro zone proves to be deeper than currently forecast, the hit from exports alone could bring down forecasts for U.S. expansion in 2012.

“Through trade, a severe Europe recession could—directly and indirectly—take the U.S. economy under 2% growth,” says Allen Sinai of Decision Economics. That level would be below current forecasts for 2012, meaning slower job growth.

Reach Your Goals in 2012—ASAPro Webinar Next Week

Next Thursday, Jan. 19, 3–4 p.m. Eastern time, attend the ASAPro Webinar “Focus Now to Make 2012 Your Most Productive Year” and get the tools and knowledge to develop or fine-tune your strategic plan for 2012. This Webinar, presented by John A. Thomas, CSP, CTS, vice president of partner development for Nextaff, is
free for ASA members
($295 for nonmembers).

ASAPro Webinars qualify for continuing education hours toward ASA certification renewal. Visit to register.

Understanding Mandatory Paid Sick Leave

Heritage Foundation Reports (01/12/2012) Sherk, James

The Healthy Families Act and similar legislation before Congress would require employers to provide employees with at least seven days of paid sick leave benefits. James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics in the Center for Data Analysis at the Heritage Foundation, says the HFA would not increase workers’ total compensation because companies respond to mandated benefits by reducing cash wages. Less take-home pay means less savings and less consumption in the economy, which costs jobs, Sherk adds.

OSC Releases Info on Enforcement, Policy, Trends; Launches Webinar

Seyfarth Shaw (12/28/11) Paparelli, Angelo; Mozes, Gabriel; Quill, John

Nov. 6, 2011, marked the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which created the Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices. To mark the occasion, OSC issued a commemorative newsletter featuring OSC’s enforcement, policy, and outreach trends and antidiscrimination efforts.

OSC says its enforcement work has been bolstered by a rise in referrals of potential discrimination from entities such as the U.S. Department of Labor, legal aid bureaus, and immigrant advocacy organizations. Recently, OSC has renewed its dialogue with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and with DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to ensure that appropriate referrals are made in a timely fashion. It has also initiated discussions with DOL’s Wage and Hour Division to identify appropriate cross-agency referrals.

Want a Job? Try Manufacturing

Medill Reports (IL) (01/11/12) Washam, Christie

More than 225,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector continued to go unfilled in the U.S. during November, a 2% decrease from October but a 6.7% increase from November 2010. This, while the nation faces heavy unemployment, prompts the question of why so many manufacturing jobs remain open.

A recent survey of ASA corporate partner listings found openings in hundreds of Illinois-based skilled manufacturing positions. Experts say there is a misconception that jobs in the industry have all been outsourced, when in reality those that have gone overseas are typically low-skilled work, not higher-tech jobs. Part of the issue is also a bad image. Many people still think of manufacturing as “dirty factory work,” says Mark Denzler, the vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, even though the industry has gone through tremendous changes in the past 30 years with new technology throughout the production line.

Ingrid Goncalves, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council, adds that new industry jobs require more education and hands-on training, which can be hard to find because many high schools and community colleges tend to focus on broad liberal arts educations instead. Chicago Renaissance works with local manufacturers and communities to create educational programs for low-income residents to give them the skills necessary to fill the employment gap. Training takes time and with half of the skilled workers in the industry expected to retire in the next decade or so, creating the right educational programs now is more important than ever.