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Countering Near-Term Pain

Wall Street Journal (01/23/12) John Revill

Staffing company Adecco SA is preparing for another bumpy ride as the chances of another recession in Europe increase. The fortunes of providers of temporary staff such as Adecco, ManpowerGroup, and Randstad Holding NV are tied closely to the economic cycle. “In 2012 we will likely head into a mild recession in Europe,” predicts Adecco chief executive Patrick De Maeseneire, adding that he foresees only a slow recovery in Europe after that, as companies hold back on their hiring plans. However, he adds that “in the mid- and long term we are very optimistic because our industry has high structural growth potential.”

European companies have fewer permanent staff and fill in the peaks with temporary workers, says De Maeseneire. “The only jobs that are being created now are flexible jobs,” he notes. Adecco has been expanding into professional staffing, including white-collar positions such as engineers and doctors. As part of this strategy, earlier this month Adecco bought Japanese professional-staffing company VSN. The firm has also boosted its counter-cyclical out-placement business through the 2011 acquisition of U.S.-based Drake Beam Morin.

Car Makers’ U-Turn Steers Job Gains

Wall Street Journal (01/23/12) Joseph White

Major auto makers and their suppliers are spending billions to expand and retool U.S. factories. The Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, MI, reports that auto-industry employment in the U.S. is predicted to increase to 756,800 in 2015 from 566,400 in 2010, with most of that increase in Michigan. Big major auto companies indicate they expect to increase capital spending in the next few years.

A report from staffing company ManpowerGroup estimates a net 10% of Midwest employers plan to hire in the first quarter, after factoring in companies that will cut jobs. That figure is the strongest result for the region since the third quarter of 2008, and slightly surpasses the national forecast of 9%. “With the global economy continuing to expand and the automotive industry yet to see more gains, there’s medium-term sustainability to this trend,” says William Testa, director of regional research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, of the Midwest hiring outlook.

Too Cheap With Your Valued Staff? Know the Risks

Fiscal Times (01/21/12)

For many in the nation’s work force, compensation remains flat, bonuses are smaller or nonexistent, and perks are being cut. With unemployment at 8.5% and competition for jobs fierce, most workers are staying put. An option growing in popularity is outsourcing work to contractors and avoiding employee benefits entirely. A survey from ASA corporate partner CareerBuilder found that 35% of U.S. companies have smaller staffs than before the recession, and many are turning to staffing and recruiting companies to fill in the gap.

Hudson Legal Prepares Expansion Into Consulting

Law Technology News (01/20/12) Evan Koblentz

Hudson Legal, a division of staffing firm Hudson Highland Group that sells document review and legal staffing services, is expanding into legal technology consulting. The revised group will be treated as its own business unit, says Mark Yacano, executive vice president and global e-discovery team leader. “They will do traditional project management [and] they will also begin to be more consultative in nature,” he adds.

Hudson Legal recently hired Leah Guggenheimer as senior vice president of e-discovery services. Guggenheimer’s position has been open for the past year, says Yacano. “We’ve made the strategic decision that project management is sort of the lynchpin to our forward strategy. … We’ve been taking our time looking.”

More Lockouts as Companies Battle Unions

New York Times (01/23/12) Steven Greenhouse

Employers are increasingly turning to lockouts to press their unionized workers to grant concessions after contract negotiations deadlock. “This is a sign of increased employer militancy,” says Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University. “Lockouts were once so rare they were almost unheard of. Now, not only are employers increasingly on the offensive and trying to call the shots in bargaining, but they’re backing that up with action—in the form of lockouts.”

The number of strikes has declined to just one-sixth the annual level of two decades ago, largely because labor unions’ ranks have declined and because many workers worry that if they strike they will lose pay and might also lose their jobs to permanent replacement workers. Lockouts, meanwhile, have grown to represent a record percentage of the nation’s work stoppages, according to Bloomberg BNA. In 2011, at least 17 employers imposed lockouts, telling their workers not to show up until they were willing to accept management’s contract offer.

What If U.S. Housing Finally Improves?

Wall Street Journal Online (01/22/12) Simon Constable

Should the housing market continue to shows signs of rebounding , Barry Ritholtz—head of research and asset-management company FusionIQ— says savvy investors will be looking to companies that will prosper from an improved labor market, such as staffing firm Robert Half International, payroll processor ADP, and jobs-listing service Monster Worldwide.

ManpowerGroup’s Joerres Responds to Financial Times Chiding

Milwaukee Business Journal (01/20/12) Rich Rovito

ManpowerGroup chairman and chief executive Jeff Joerres has responded to a Financial Times, column’s chastisement of the firm for describing itself as a company that “creates unique time to value through a comprehensive suite of innovative solutions that help clients win in the Human Age.” In awarding her annual jargon honors, Lucy Kellaway gave ManpowerGroup the Golden Flannel Award for the description. Joerres says he “appreciated” the column but defends the Human Age concept, stating that “if that was the only comment that we had on the Human Age, I’d take it pretty hard. But when it’s on the cover of The Economist that this may be the era of humans two months after we introduced it, that’s not too bad.”

ManpowerGroup management has been touting the Human Age concept, in which it believes people are the real agents of business success. The Human Age concept has “framed up” discussions in the world of work, according to Joerres.

ASA Quarterly Employment and Sales Survey Now Open

The ASA quarterly survey on temporary and contract staffing, which collects data on sales, payroll, and employment, is now open for the fourth quarter of 2011. The Web-based survey takes only about 15 minutes to complete. Participants receive a free exclusive report on the results, which includes payroll data available nowhere else. ASA research partner Inavero, a market research firm, administers the survey to ensure confidentiality of participant data.

Data are due Feb. 6, and results will be released Feb. 20. Register today to take the survey or download a sample questionnaire. For more information, contact Alexandra Karaer, ASA director of research, at 703-253-2048 or akaraer@americanstaffing.net.

Differentiate Your Firm—ASAPro Webinar This Week

This Thursday, Jan. 26, 3–4 p.m. Eastern time, attend the ASAPro Webinar “Gain a Competitive Advantage With ASA Certification” to learn how ASA certification programs can help you differentiate your firm from your competition and protect your firm by avoiding missteps that could result in legal liability.

This Webinar, presented by ASA staff members Stephen Dwyer, Esq., general counsel; Karen Donald, senior manager, certification programs; and Emily Lawson, manager, distance learning, is free for ASA members and nonmembers.

Are you already ASA certified? This ASAPro Webinar qualifies for 0.5 legal and 0.5 active continuing education hours toward ASA certification renewal. Visit americanstaffing.net to register.

Lawsuit Accuses Temporary Firm of Gender Bias, Retaliation

Business Management Daily (01/23/12)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Chicago office has filed a class-action lawsuit against Source One Staffing Inc. for allegedly assigning workers based on gender, explicitly defining some jobs as “men’s work” or “women’s work.” The EEOC lawsuit also claims Source One Staffing knew about sexual harassment occurring at one job site but continued to send women to work there. Two women claim that when they reported the harassment, Source One Staffing retaliated against them.

Employee or Independent Contractor? Get It Right

Business Management Daily (01/23/12) Angela Rud

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service and state agencies have in the last two years penalized an increasing number of employers for using “independent contractors” who should have been classified as employees. The number of Fair Labor Standards Act case filings involving misclassification challenges has nearly quadrupled since the late 1990s, and was up more than 20% in 2010 alone. The IRS plans to audit 6,000 businesses by 2013 to determine whether taxes, fines, and penalties may be due.

The IRS recently unveiled a new Voluntary Classification Settlement Program that allows eligible taxpayer employers to voluntarily reclassify workers as employees for federal employment tax purposes. The program features partial amnesty for past misclassifications, limiting an employer’s liability.

Workers’ Comp Costs at 12-Year Low: Report

Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety (01/20/12)

A new report from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety finds that the overall workers’ compensation cost of all injuries and illnesses has declined to a 12-year low, but costs associated with certain causes of injuries have increased sharply in the same period. The inflation-adjusted direct cost of most disabling injuries was $35.4 billion in 2009—more than a 6% decline from the previous year and the lowest amount since $37.1 billion in 1998.

Meanwhile, the costs for falls on the same level and falls to a lower level —the second and third top causes of disabling injuries in 2009 respectively —have increased 34.2% and 10.2%, respectively, since 1998. Over-exertion, the leading cause of disabling injuries, cost $12.8 billion in 2009, and has fallen by 9.9% over the past 12 years.

‘Tectonic Shifts’ in Employment

Technology Review (02/01/12) David Talbot

While economic output in the U.S. is higher today than it was before the financial crisis, 6.3 million fewer Americans have jobs than was true at the end of 2007. Several factors, including outsourcing, explain the state of the labor market, but fast-advancing, IT-driven automation might be playing the biggest role. New research indicates that advances in workplace automation are being deployed at a faster pace than ever, making it more difficult for workers to adapt and wreaking havoc on such middle-class occupations as clerks, accountants, and production-line workers.

David Autor, an economist at MIT, and David Dorn, an economist at the Center for Monetary and Financial Studies in Madrid, cite the time period of 2000–2005, when job growth occurred mainly at the ends of the spectrum—in lower-paying positions, in areas such as personal care, cleaning services, and security, and in higher-end professional positions for technicians, managers, and the like. For administrative assistants, production workers, and sales representatives, the job market did not grow as fast, or even declined. Subsequent research showed that things got worse after 2007, and during the recession, nearly all the nation’s job losses were in those middle categories—the positions easiest to replace, fully or in part, by technology.

Unless the economy generates new high-quality jobs, the risk is that the people in the middle will face the prospect of menial jobs with declining wages. “Theory says the labor market will ‘clear.’ There are always things for people to do,” Autor says. “But it doesn’t say at what price.” Experts say there currently are not enough people sufficiently educated to exploit the rapid advances in technology.