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Jobless Claims Fall Again

Wall Street Journal (02/09/12) Jeff Bater

U.S. jobless claims fell by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 358,000 in the week ended Feb. 4, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday. The unexpected decrease that gave further indication the jobs market is improving. The previous week’s figures were revised up, to 373,000 from 367,000. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had expected claims to climb by 3,000 to 370,000. The four-week moving average of new jobless claims decreased by 11,000 to 366,250, coming in at its lowest number since April 2008.

Obama Advisers Offer Rosier Jobs Outlook

New York Times (02/09/12) Jackie Calmes

Economic advisers to President Obama have updated their forecasts in recent days and now project that the economy will create two million jobs this year if stimulus measures are extended, which could reduce the unemployment rate to about 8% by the end of 2012. Alan Krueger, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, says the forecast was updated because the projection that will be published in the president’s annual budget is already “stale and out of date.”

The budget will project an average unemployment rate of 8.9% for 2012 and 8.6% for next year, based on economic conditions that prevailed in mid-November. Krueger notes the unemployment rate has declined “by an impressive 0.8 of a percentage point over the last six months and other job market indicators have improved” since November. “Private sector forecasters have shaved about half a percentage point from their 2012 unemployment rate forecast in response to the improvement in the job market since we made our forecast,” he states. Kreuger says the administration’s new outlook depends on the passage of Obama’s economic stimulus proposals, chiefly an extension through the year of a temporary payroll-tax cut and assistance for the long-term unemployed.

Accounting Firms Are Hiring

FINS (02/08/2012) Julie Steinberg

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the accounting profession will grow by 22% between 2008 and 2018, with as many as 500,000 jobs opening up. In a recent survey of finance professionals conducted by staffing firm Accounting Principals, half of all respondents indicated they expect their company to hire in 2012. Of the accountants surveyed, 74% said they are confident their firms will win new business this year, which would lead to more work and jobs.

Increased corporate revenue and profits are among the reasons for the positive trend. “More results means more transactions, more transactions means more accountants to oversee them,” says Brett Good, senior district president with Robert Half. Also, regulatory changes such as the Dodd-Frank financial reform regulation have resulted in a demand for accountants to verify transactions, notes Brendan Courtney, president of Mergis Group, a Florida-based recruiting firm.

Unemployment Decline Masks U.S. Labor Force Drop: Economy

BusinessWeek (02/08/12) Alex Kowalski

Although the U.S. unemployment rate fell to a three-year low of 8.3% in January, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that the number of working-age people in the labor force hit a 29-year low. The working-age population rose 1.51 million, but 83% of those people were not in the work force. The work force participation rate tumbled to 63.7% in January, as 88 million people age 16 and up were unemployed and not seeking work.

Even so, some U.S. Federal Reserve officials, including James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, view the economic data as favorable, and staffing firms have reported growth since the end of 2009. Carl Camden, president and chief executive of the staffing firm Kelly Services Inc., says, “The ongoing economic uncertainty will help create a greater awareness of temporary staffing benefits and a secular shift in demand for temporary workers.”

IT Employment Hits All-Time High

Workforce (02/08/12)

The number of U.S. information technology jobs is on the rise, increasing by 13,300 in January to more than 4.1 million, a record high. The previous record was set in September 2008, when IT employment topped 4.08 million. On a yearly basis, IT jobs rose 3.4% in 2011, more than double the growth rate seen the previous year.

Small Businesses Planning to Hire in 2012: Wells Fargo Report

eWeek (02/08/12) Nathan Eddy

The Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey for Jan. 9-13 indicates that small business optimism has hit its highest level since July 2008. The index rose to positive 15 from minus three in October, and its measure of future expectations climbed 13 points from October to 21. Of the small business owners polled, 22% plan to hire new employees during the next 12 months, while just 8% plan to eliminate employees. The hiring/firing differential was 14 percentage points, marking a four-year high.

The survey shows that 52% of small business owners hired workers during the past 12 months. While 65% hired as many workers as needed, up from 48% in November, 29% hired fewer than needed, down from 42%. About 15% are seeking new workers, but 21% find it difficult and 32% somewhat difficult to find qualified workers.

Limited Benefit Plans Serve a Distinct Need in the Marketplace

In yesterday’s issue of Staffing Today, ASA reported on a story in the March issue of Consumer Reports that was critical of “mini-med” and other limited benefit plans.

Limited benefit plans serve an important need for millions of individuals, especially hourly employees in the retail, restaurant, and staffing industries who work on a part-time, seasonal, or temporary basis. For those workers, limited benefit plans offer coverage of basic medical expenses at an affordable cost.

These plans typically provide defined dollar amounts of coverage for doctors’ office visits, primary care and specialists, X-rays, lab tests, prescription drugs, outpatient surgery, chiropractic treatments, and preventive care. Limited benefits plans generally have no waiting periods and no pre-existing condition limitations.

All insurance plans, including limited benefit plans, are regulated by all state departments of insurance and by the federal government. By law, limited benefit plans are required to prominently disclose to enrollees that they are not major medical health insurance plans.

The key for staffing firms looking to offer health care coverage to their temporary and contract employees is to find out as much as they can about the products for their workers and, in the case of limited benefit plans, to ensure that employees understand exactly what the plans cover and what they don’t. Specifically, employees need to know that limited benefits plans do not cover major medical or catastrophic health expenses.

As the Consumer Reports story suggests, when looking for health benefits coverage, it is important deal with a reputable, nationally known health insurance carrier that has experience in the staffing industry—such as Aetna, Allstate Workplace Division, BCS Insurance (Blue Cross and Blue Shield), Cigna, or Transamerica.

ASA corporate partners First Staff Benefits and Essential StaffCARE offer benefit plans that were designed specifically for the staffing industry.

Get a Model Contract for Search and Placement Staffing

Do you feel pressured to accept clients’ contracts? Are your clients asking to be indemnified against various types of liability?

ASA and the National Association of Personnel Services have jointly developed the first authoritative, professional template for firms that provide recruiting, search, and placement services to use as a model in preparing client agreements.

The model contract offers recruiting firms a basic agreement plus extensive optional provisions—along with detailed explanations as to their purpose and use—to afford great flexibility in tailoring the document to particular client circumstances. The model contract includes language dealing with alternative fee calculations, volume discounts, retainer and engagement fees, and various guarantee clauses, such as replacements, refunds, and credits. The model contract also lists provisions best avoided.

The model contract for search and placement staffing is available to ASA members at The document provides suggested language but is not intended as legal advice.

E-Verify Adds Self-Check in Florida, Nationwide

Orlando Sentinel (Florida) (02/09/12) Laura Newberry

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has expanded its E-Verify program’s “Self Check” service to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. In states with large immigrant populations, like Arizona, California, and Texas, the service has been in use since March 2011. The self-check feature enables prospective employees to immediately determine whether government agency databases accurately reflect their employment eligibility. Alejandro Mayorkas, director of USCIS, says, “It reduces the burden on the employer. The likelihood of verification is accomplished well beforehand.”

Payroll Conferees May Meet Privately

Roll Call (02/09/12) Daniel Newhauser

Members of Congress on the payroll tax cut conference committee say that negotiations might have to go behind closed doors for any real work to get done. Most of the contentious issues surrounding the extension of a payroll tax holiday remain unsettled. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) says, “We haven’t had any progress with [talks] being in public, so maybe if we do one private meeting, we can actually make some progress.”

Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman (D-CA) agrees that with an end-of-month deadline, conferees might have to meet privately to hash out a deal. “The meetings have been productive, but it’s time to move now to another stage,” he says. “Now that we’ve stated our positions clearly, albeit sometimes with passion, we have to recognize that we have to reach common ground and get this legislation passed.”

Taxing Time

Healthcare Traveler (02/12) Joseph Smith

Before taking an assignment, health care travelers must understand the concept of a tax home or tax residence. Generally, a tax home/residence is where they earn most of their income, and when they have more than one job concurrently, it is the location of their primary, full-time job.

When health care travelers are negotiating with a staffing firm, tax-free allowances, stipends, per diems, and other reimbursements must be discussed because they become taxable compensation if the health care traveler lacks a tax home. These tax-free payments are intended as reimbursements for lodgings, meals, and transportation, and staffing firms must perform due diligence to determine whether the traveler has a tax home. Firms often will require them to complete a tax residence statement before taking an assignment. When auditing staffing firms, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service often uncovers discrepancies at the traveler level, increasing the likelihood that more individual travelers will be audited as well.

America’s 10 Fastest-Growing (and Fastest-Shrinking) Jobs

The Atlantic (02/07/12) Jordan Weissmann

Registered nurses are at the top of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list of 30 occupations likely to record the biggest net job-growth through 2020, with another 711,900 to be hired as the nation’s population ages. The health care sector accounts for eight of the top 30 occupations, with more than three million jobs to be added over the next decade. Service industries also will add numerous jobs, with opportunities for college graduates in education, accounting, and corporate sales and for retail workers, waiters and waitresses, and janitors. Overall, BLS says 20.4 million jobs will be added by 2020.

However, advances in technology will make certain occupations irrelevant. Postal workers, typists, switchboard operators, file clerks, and agricultural workers are among the top 30 shrinking occupations. In the manufacturing sector, jobs in apparel, semiconductors, paper goods, and electronics will be eliminated due to competition from cheap overseas labor. Jobs requiring a high school diploma or less also will decline.