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Robert Half International Posts 72% Higher Profit

Associated Press (01/26/12)

Staffing firm Robert Half International Inc. reported its fourth-quarter profit jumped 72% to $42.6 million, or 30 cents a share, from $24.8 million, or 17 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 31 rose 14% to $973.5 million from $851.6 million. Rising demand for its placement services fueled the sharp increase in revenue. The results fell short of analysts’ consensus forecast, which called for earnings of 31 cents a share on $986.2 million in revenue, according to FactSet.

Robert Half officials note the company is seeing strong demand for skilled talent, particularly in the technology and accounting sectors. Revenue in the company’s largest division, Accountemps, increased 14% to $363.8 million, and all its segments posted higher revenue for the quarter.

“Our specialized staffing divisions and Protiviti reported solid results in the fourth quarter. This marks the sixth consecutive quarter of double-digit, year-over-year revenue growth for the company,” says Harold Messmer Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Robert Half. “Additionally, growth rates in net income and earnings per share have significantly exceeded revenue growth rates during this period.”

Is High, Single-Digit Unemployment the ‘New Normal?’

Wall Street Journal Online (01/27/12) Neal Lipschutz

ManpowerGroup chairman and chief executive Jeff Joerres agrees with the proposition that there is a “new normal” of higher-than-desired unemployment in the U.S. “There’s no reason to suspect any time in the next three years we will find ourselves under 7% unemployment,” says Joerres, noting that would mean “almost eight years of high, single-digit” unemployment. Joerres predicts that demand will remain the bottom line for hiring and will trump all the structural issues afflicting the ability of so many people to find and keep jobs.

Joerres says those now out of work for a long time are actually worse off than during the Great Depression because now a long-term unemployed worker finds a job market and skill demands that essentially are in constant flux. Some of these trends play well to the fortunes of ManpowerGroup, especially the increasing numbers of companies looking for more “flexible” work forces, Joerres notes.

Leading Economic Indicators Rise 0.4% in December

MarketWatch (01/26/12) Ruth Mantell

The Conference Board reports that its index of leading economic indicators grew 0.4% in December, led by the interest-rate spread and jobless claims, compared with growth of 0.2% in November. “Looking ahead, the big question remains whether cooling conditions elsewhere will limit domestic growth or, conversely, growth in the U.S. will lend some economic support to the rest of the globe,” says Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein. Economists had expected a December gain of 0.9%.

U.S. GDP Rises 2.8%

Dow Jones Newswires (01/27/12) Josh Mitchell

The U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace in more than a year and a half in the final three months of 2011, signaling a stronger recovery took hold despite troubles in other parts of the world. The U.S. economy grew 2.8% in the final three months of 2011, propelled by increases in consumer spending and business inventories, according to data from the U.S. Commerce Department. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected 3.0% growth.

Fed’s Lacker Says Economy May Warrant Earlier Rate Increase

Bloomberg Business Week (01/27/12) Joshua Zumbrun

U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond president Jeffrey Lacker says interest rates may need to rise before late 2014 to prevent an increase in inflation, dissenting from the central bank’s Jan. 25 decision to pledge keeping its benchmark interest rate near zero “at least through late 2014.” Lacker says economic conditions are not likely “to warrant an exceptionally low federal funds rate for so long. I expect that as economic expansion continues, even if only at a moderate pace, the federal funds rate will need to rise in order to prevent the emergence of inflationary pressures,” he adds.

Understand How to Investigate Harassment Claims—ASAPro Webinar Tuesday

Tuesday, Jan. 31, 3–4 p.m. Eastern time, attend the ASAPro Webinar “Conducting Harassment Investigations With Clients” and find out about staffing firms’ and clients’ legal obligations when it comes to investigating harassment claims. This Webinar is presented by Gerald L. Maatman Jr., Esq., a partner in the Chicago and New York offices of Seyfarth Shaw LLP. It’s free for ASA members ($295 for nonmembers).

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

Labor Board Chief to Push Union Organizing Rules

Associated Press (01/26/12)

U.S. National Labor Relations Board chairman Mark Pearce is calling for new rules that would give unions help in organizing members, despite complaints from Republicans and business groups who say the board is going too far. Now that the board has a full component of five members—due to three vacancies being filled by President Obama earlier this month—Pearce wants the board to propose the rules soon.

Pearce is pushing to require businesses to hand over lists of employee phone numbers and e-mail addresses to union leaders before an election, and also wants the board to consider other rule changes such as the use of electronic filings and quicker timetables for certain procedures. Business groups say the latest push confirms their fears that the new board will approve even more rules that make it easier for unions to organize new members. “If they’re going to go forward on that basis, I think that removes any pretense at all that they are not in the back pocket of the union movement,” says Randel Johnson, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vice president on labor issues.

Both Sides in Labor Fight Point to Oklahoma Right-to-Work Law

Wall Street Journal (01/27/12) Melanie Trottman

Indiana is expected to soon adopt a right-to-work law, and both sides in the debate are examining the experience of Oklahoma, the last state to ease union-dues requirements under a similar law. Both supporters and opponents of the measure have cited Oklahoma as the test case for whether adopting a right-to-work law sends jobs to a state. After passing its right-to-work law in 2001, Oklahoma’s economy has held up better than the national economy. The state’s unemployment rate was 6.1% in December, compared with the national rate of 8.5%. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce says the state’s employment growth is third-highest in the nation.

However, many economists say it is not possible to determine precisely how much, if at all, the law improved Oklahoma’s jobs picture. Some observers say the evidence suggests that the change has neither been the panacea proponents promised nor the destructive force on wages and quality jobs that opponents warned it would be. A study on right-to-work laws between 2001 and 2006 found the economies of these states grew an average of 3.4%, compared with 2.6% for states without the laws.

Employer Liable for $156,000 in Back Wages to H-1B Employee Who Never Worked for the Company

Lexology (01/23/12) Eliot Norman

The U.S. Department of Labor administrative law judge held in Matter of Ganze & Co. that failure to notify U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of termination of an H-1B can cost thousands of dollars. Ganze terminated the worker six weeks before he was to start work in Oct. 1, 2008, but never did the three things every H-1B employer must do: mail notice to the worker; mail notice to USCIS so that the I-129 Petition can be cancelled; and pay for his flight home. The company did not comply until long after the worker returned at his own expense to Indonesia. The judge held that as a result he was never legally terminated, and Ganze has to pay him $156,000 in wages for work never performed, legal fees, and pre-judgment and post-judgment interest.

H-1B employees often request that employers not terminate the H-1B to facilitate their search for new jobs. Human resource managers should consider carefully their obligations to the worker and to USCIS.

‘Small’ IT Market Attracts Big Companies

Wall Street Journal (01/26/12) Sarah Needleman

With the use of external information technology support among small businesses growing dramatically, large companies like Apple Inc. and Best Buy Co. are getting into the market, providing new competition to independent consultants who typically handle such needs. U.S. businesses with fewer than 500 employees spent approximately $23.5 billion on IT services in 2011, and are projected to spend $27.2 billion on IT services by 2015, according to the research firm IDC.

Many small businesses and start-ups are reluctant to hire new employees, but spending on technology and IT services can help a company operate more efficiently, or make it possible for an owner who travels to manage his or her business from a remote location. The advent of cloud computing has dramatically increased the options now available to small businesses to include such services as analytics, software customization, disaster recovery, and video conferencing.

OfficeTeam Survey: Work/Life Balance, Learning Opportunities Have Greatest Impact on Job Satisfaction

MarketWatch (01/26/12)

OfficeTeam, a division of Robert Half International Inc., reports professionals it interviewed identified work/life balance (28%) and opportunities to learn and grow (27%) as the top contributors to their job satisfaction. The results are in line with those from a similar survey in which managers were asked about the factors most tied to employee morale.

“Professional priorities change over time,” says Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Because there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for encouraging job satisfaction, supervisors should get to know their team members individually to better understand what motivates and inspires each of them.”