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U.S. Unemployment Increases in Mid-February

Gallup News Release (02/17/12) Dennis Jacobe

The U.S. unemployment rate, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, is 9.0% in mid-February, up from 8.6% for January. The mid-month reading normally reflects what the U.S. government reports for the entire month, and is up seven-tenths of a percentage point from its mid-January report. The report suggests the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will likely report on March 2 that its seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased in February.

Gallup said seasonal factors—such as job loss by seasonal employees hired over the holidays—could be responsible for the sharp increase it found in unemployment. The organization also found that 10.0% of U.S. employees are working part time but want full-time work, essentially the same as in January.

Tax-Cut Bill Includes Updates to Jobless Benefits System

New York Times (02/21/12) Annie Lowrey

The $140 billion bill that extends unemployment benefits and a temporary cut to payroll taxes also includes a number of provisions designed to modernize the U.S. unemployment insurance system. The bill, which was passed by the Congress on Feb. 17 and President Obama says he will sign, permits states to use unemployment insurance funds for programs that help move the unemployed back into the work force. Work force experts say the current unemployment insurance system does not do much to help people look for jobs, or to think about new industries or acquire new skills, if necessary.

The bill also broadens “work sharing” programs that can help curb layoffs at large companies. Companies would be able to reduce the hours of five employees by 20% each, say, rather than laying off one employee. The company could then use unemployment insurance funds to help supplement the workers’ wages to make up for the lost hours.

ASA Online Supplier Directory—Find Suppliers for Your Firm’s Every Need

Are you looking for business partners to help you strengthen your bottom line, protect your business, or enhance your offerings to clients and employees? Check out the ASA online supplier directory at

The directory includes ASA associate members dedicated to the staffing industry. Some offer special savings and services to ASA members. You can use the directory to shop by company name or by product or service.

For more information, contact Sarah Albritton at 703-253-2042 or

ASAPro Webinar Tomorrow—Learn Best Practices for Drug and Alcohol Testing

Tomorrow, Feb. 23, from 3 to 4 p.m. Eastern time, attend the ASAPro Webinar “Best Practices for Drug and Alcohol Testing—What You Need to Know,” presented by Frederick T. Smith, Esq., partner in the Atlanta office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

During this ASAPro Webinar, you will learn the steps to follow when implementing drug testing, common signs and symptoms of illegal drug use, and much more.

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

Foreign Student Labor Protests at Hershey Co. Center Lead to Citations for Exel, SHS Staffing

PennLive (02/22/12) David Wenner

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Exel Inc. and SHS Staffing Solutions for various violations months after foreign students said they had been exploited while working at a Hershey Co. distribution center. OSHA cited Exel, which operates the distribution center for Hershey, for alleged violations that include neglecting to keep track of work-related injuries and illnesses and neglecting to carry out a sound program to protect workers’ hearing. OSHA also cited SHS, the staffing company that hired the students. SHS could be fined $5,000 for allegedly neglecting to properly train the workers. Exel and SHS have 15 business days to comply with the penalties, contest them, or request additional information.

U.S. Immigration May Soon Make E-3 Visa Program for Professionals Available to Irish (02/21/12)

The U.S. currently offers its E-3 visa only to Australians, but a bill under consideration in the U.S. Senate would add the Republic of Ireland to the E-3 visa program. The bill, sponsored by U.S. Sens. Scott Brown (R-MA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), would allow people from Ireland with a professional-level job and either a bachelor’s degree or 12 years of relevant professional level experience to live and work in the U.S. for two years, with no limit on the number of times the visa can be renewed. Their spouses also could work in the U.S. by applying for an Employment Authorization Document (Form I-765) through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. A larger immigration bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), which has been referred to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, has an Irish immigration provision.

Relying on Concepcion, Pennsylvania District Court Grants Motion to Compel Individual Arbitration on Eve of Class Certification Hearing

Lexology (02/21/12)

In the case Brown v. TrueBlue Inc., two employees of the temporary staffing firm TrueBlue accused the company of violating the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. The case applies the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, which holds that the Federal Arbitration Act pre-empts nearly all state law defenses to the enforcement of arbitration clauses.

The staffing firm filed a motion to compel arbitration 15 months after the plaintiffs’ complaint was filed and three days before a hearing on the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. TrueBlue said that under their employment agreements, the plaintiffs were required to litigate complaints in individual arbitrations. The district court deemed valid an arbitration clause in an employment agreement that prohibited class arbitration and required employees to provide written consent to be represented in a lawsuit filed by another individual. The plaintiffs’ arguments were rejected by the court, and the case was stayed pending the outcome of the arbitrations. The Supreme Court’s decision in Concepcion abrogated the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s ruling in a different case that “[an arbitration clause is unconscionable and unenforceable where it is] contained in an adhesion contract and unfairly favors the drafting party.”

Can We Suspend an Exempt Employee Without Pay?

JDSupra (02/17/2012) Bill Pokorny

The Fair Labor Standards Act permits salary deductions for exempt workers for “unpaid disciplinary suspensions of one or more full days imposed in good faith for infractions of workplace conduct rules … imposed pursuant to a written policy applicable to all employees.” So, for example, a company can suspend without pay an exempt employee for violating a written sexual harassment policy that applies to all employees in the company, and this action likely would not violate the FLSA. However, employers should check their state’s laws as well, because some states’ laws do not follow the U.S. Department of Labor’s rules regarding exempt status.

Where the Jobs Are

Human Resource Executive (02/16/12)

The recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report examining job growth between 2010 and 2020 projects an overall 14% increase in total employment over the course of the decade. The report notes that as the baby boomer generation ages, there will be continued growth in industries and occupations related to caring for that demographic.

Health care, social assistance, personal care, and construction are identified as the industries that will have the fastest job growth over the 10-year period. Meanwhile, the U.S. manufacturing sector is expected to continue to contract. The report also concludes that although job categories that require some type of postsecondary education are expected to grow the fastest, more than two-thirds of all job openings are projected to be for positions that typically do not require any education beyond a high-school diploma—jobs that usually garner lower wages and fewer benefits.

There Are Jobs in Health Care But …

Springfield News-Sun (Ohio) (02/21/12) Ken Mosier

Prior to the economic downturn, there was a shortage of nurses and hospital clinical staff, and the education system responded by increasing the number of graduates in a variety of fields. However, with the recession came plant closings in Dayton, OH, and unemployment there rose. Things are slowly improving in Dayton, but the 500 new job openings at the area’s four hospitals require experience, says Leslie Kahn, RN, BSN, the chief executive officer of health care staffing company Cirrus Consulting. “By the time the client calls me for employees, they want experienced [workers], because they are not going to train someone when they are already paying my fee on top of it. They want them to hit the ground running,” she says. Clients who hire a staffing firm generally are looking for nurses with certification in specialties, such as emergency care or critical care, Kahn says. Her clients also require that all workers have experience with electronic medical records.