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U.S. Jobless Rate Falls to Three-Year Low, Report Shows

New York Times (02/03/12) Motoko Rich

The U.S. economy added 243,000 jobs in January, gaining momentum with a second straight month of better-than-expected gains, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday. The unemployment rate slipped to 8.3%. The private sector remained the engine of new job gains, with private sector companies adding 257,000 jobs in January. Manufacturing, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality were the industries with the biggest increases.

Some Big Firms Are Hiring Big Numbers

United Press International (02/02/12)

ASA corporate partner CareerBuilder says at least a dozen U.S. corporations plan to add more than 500 workers to their payrolls, amounting to an aggregate 38,000 new jobs. “While unemployment remains high, the increasing number of companies with many openings means job seekers have a wider variety of industries and job types from which to choose,” says Matt Ferguson, chief executive at CareerBuilder.

Worker Productivity Rose at a Slower Pace in the 4th Quarter as Hiring, Work Week Increased

Associated Press (02/02/12)

U.S. productivity rose 0.7% in the final three months of 2011, according to a preliminary reading by the U.S. Labor Department. Slower productivity growth can be a good sign for hiring if economic growth picks up. Labor costs rose 1.2% in the final three months of last year, as wages and salaries grew at a faster pace than productivity. Still, inflation-adjusted wages fell 1.2% in all of 2011, the steepest annual drop since 1989.

Small Business Hiring Flat in January: Poll

Reuters (02/03/12) Emily Kaiser

A survey of 2,155 small businesses by the National Federation of Independent Business reveals that hiring was flat in January and that the percentage of small business owners with hard-to-fill job openings rose to a more than three-year high of 18%. According to the poll, 11% of small businesses added jobs at the same time that 11% eliminated jobs. The percentage of small business owners expecting to generate new jobs fell for the third straight month to 5%.

Learn About Locum Tenens Trends—ASAPro Webinar Next Week

Tuesday, Feb. 7, 3–4 p.m. Eastern time, attend the ASAPro Webinar “Have Stethoscope, Will Travel—The Growing Use of Locum Tenens,” presented by Kurt Mosley of AMN Healthcare. He’ll offer practical guidelines about the use of locum tenens physicians.

ASAPro Webinars are free for ASA members ($295 for nonmembers) and qualify for continuing education hours toward ASA certification renewal. Register online at

ASA Members: Get Free ASAPro Webinars and Archived Courses

ASA introduced a new and exciting benefit for its members in 2012: Free ASAPro Webinars and more than 150 free archived courses for their entire staff. ASAPro Webinars qualify for continuing education hours toward ASA certification renewal.

For more information about this new ASA member benefit, ASA membership, or any of the ASAPro Webinars, contact ASA at 703-253-2020 or

EEOC Announces Enforcement Statistics and Priorities

Lexology (01/30/12) Paul Monsees

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently released its latest enforcement statistics and issued a draft strategic plan highlighting a particular emphasis on pursuing systemic bias cases. The statistics reflect an increase in the number of employment discrimination charges received by the EEOC to 99,947, with retaliation the most frequently asserted complaint. The EEOC filed 300 lawsuits in fiscal year 2011, an increase of more than 10% over the prior year, but reduced the number of case filings from five years ago by more than 100.

In its draft Strategic Plan for 2012-16, EEOC announced that it will emphasize pursuit of systemic discrimination, which it describes as a “pattern or practice, policy and/or class cases where the alleged discrimination has a broad impact on an industry, profession, company, or geographic area.” EEOC statistics indicate that 23 systemic discrimination cases were filed in FY 2011 and that nearly 600 investigations were underway. Employers should continually examine their policies and practices to ensure that there is no disproportionate impact on any protected group.

Minimum Wage Rates May Climb This Year

USA Today (02/03/12) Paul Davidson

The number of states that have increased or could increase the minimum wage this year has reached a six-year high. In eight states that index the minimum wage to cost-of-living increases—Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington—the minimum wage automatically increased in January. New York and Connecticut are considering legislation that would boost the minimum wage and index further increases to inflation, and legislation that would implement basic wage increases is under consideration in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, and New Jersey.

Is It Time to Settle Employee Vs. Independent Contractor Issues?

Greater Lansing Business Monthly (Michigan) (02/02/12) Dennis Theis

Worker misclassification can result in substantial exposure to tax liabilities. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service recently announced the Voluntary Classification Settlement Program for companies that have misclassified their employees as independent contractors or other nonemployees. This may be a good time for companies to analyze how they have classified their employees and write a check to the IRS if necessary to put to rest previous classification problems.

Behavioral control, financial control, and the relationship of employer and worker are typically the primary factors to weigh, although no one factor will determine the classification. Criteria that may indicate the individual is an employee include providing instructions on where, when, and how to do the work; mandating or providing specific tools, equipment, or assistants to be used; and providing training about how the work is to be performed. Criteria that may indicate the individual is an independent contractor include substantial financial investment in the work performed; opportunity for profit or loss on the work; and significant unreimbursed expenses.

Retaliation Leads the Way in Workplace Discrimination (01/31/12) Joan S. Farrell

Over the past few years, more laws prohibiting retaliation in the workplace have been added to the books at both the state and local level. In addition, decisions by courts and regulatory agencies have broadened the scope of existing laws. Federal laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act prohibit retaliation by employers when a worker complains about workplace discrimination or engages in a “protected activity” like being a witness in an investigation or filing a workplace discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Several other laws (whistleblower laws, state workers’ compensation laws, and laws governing jury service, for example) contain retaliatory prohibitions as well.

To avoid retaliation claims companies should have a written policy prohibiting retaliation; train supervisors and managers about what constitutes retaliation and how to avoid it; refrain from firing workers out of anger; and apply policies and practices consistently.

Dissecting the DCCC’s ‘Red to Blue’ Districts

The Cook Political Report (02/02/12)

The Democratic Party has unveiled an initial list of 36 U.S. congressional districts currently held by Republicans but targeted for takeover by the Democrats. The list—promoted as “Red to Blue”—will have to be made longer for Democrats to have a legitimate chance of capturing the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, since they will probably need to win between 35 to 45 newly created and Republican-held seats. Anticipating the need to expand the playing field, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added a list of 18 “emerging races,” most of which will inevitably be added to “Red to Blue” when candidates meet certain fundraising and/or polling benchmarks.

Survey Has Encouraging Information About Jobs in Massachusetts (02/01/12)

A survey by Professional Staffing Group, the largest staffing firm in Massachusetts, finds that over the next three months, the percentage of employers expecting to increase staffing has gone from 18% to 25%. Three times as many companies plan to hire in the next three months as plan to reduce jobs.

ASA chairman Aaron Green, founder and president of Professional Staffing Group, says that when the economic downturn hit, “companies did three things to reduce their labor costs. First they eliminated the use of temporary employees. Then they laid some employees off. Then they cut back on their full-time staff in terms of hours and in some cases their wages. What we are seeing is sort of a reverse of that effect.” With spending on training and continuing education down, Green says employers are looking for employees “to invest more in their own future.”