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The U.S. Labor Department released its November job report today showing that the U.S. economy added 146,000 last month and the unemployment rate dropped from the previous rate of 7.9% to 7.7% which is the lowest unemployment has been since December 2008.

Unfortunately, the decline in the unemployment rate has more to do with the fact that 350,000 Americans stopped looking for work in November.  Also, Friday’s report said that the job growth in September and October was less than originally reported — 49,000 fewer jobs were created in those months combined. Last month’s jobs report suggested that the economy had added 148,000 jobs in September and 171,000 jobs in October. That’s now been revised downward to 132,000 and 138,000, respectively.

Since July, the economy has added an average of 158,000 jobs a month, a decent increase from  the 146,000 monthly average in the first six months of the year. Retailers added 53,000 jobs while temporary help companies added 18,000 and education and health care also gained 18,000.

Auto manufacturers added nearly 10,000 jobs. On the other hand, overall manufacturing jobs fell by 7,000.  This was down because of the loss of 12,000 jobs in food manufacturing that is weighted by the layoff of workers at Hostess.

Still, overall manufacturing jobs fell 7,000. That was pushed down by a loss of 12,000 jobs in food manufacturing that likely reflects the layoff of workers at Hostess.

The U.S. grew at a solid 2.7 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter. But many economists say growth is slowing to a 1.5 percent rate in the October-December quarter, largely because of Hurricane Sandy and threat of the fiscal cliff. That’s not
enough growth to lower the unemployment rate. The recession is five years old this month, and the U.S. has only recovered half of the 8 million jobs lost during the recession. At the pace of growth of the past three months, it will take two and a half more years simply to get back to pre-recession employment.  12.07.2012

HRM Partners would like to announce its new office in the Chicago, IL area.  Information for our new office is as follows:

1901 N. Roselle Rd., Suite 800; Schaumburg, IL  60195.  If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Munero Ueda, HRM Partners, Inc. at 310-962-8287.

Happy New Year from HRM Partners, Inc.

With Christmas and New Year’s falling on Tuesdays in 2012-2013, the year-end holiday calendar will be much kinder to employees than in the previous two years, according to Bloomberg BNA’s survey of employers’ year-end holiday plans.

Following two straight years in which Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 fell on the weekend (Sundays in 2011-2012 and Saturdays in 2010-2011), this year’s calendar will yield an extra paid day off for many U.S. workers. Almost three-fifths of surveyed employers have scheduled at least three paid days off for the 2012-2013 holiday season, compared with about two out of five establishments responding for the 2011-2012 and 2010-2011 surveys. The survey also suggests some recovery in holiday gifts, bonuses, and
party-giving from levels observed around the end of the recession.

The survey, based on responses from 628 human resources professionals and executives representing a broad cross-section of U.S. employers, revealed the following:

Nearly six in 10 surveyed employers (58 percent) have scheduled at least three paid days off for the 2012-2013
holiday season,
up from 42 percent a year ago and 36 percent in 2010-2011, when the national holidays fell on the weekend.
Despite this year’s favorable calendar, roughly two in five establishments will award no more than an extra half-day with pay. Only a small minority of firms (5 percent) reported fewer than two paid year-end holidays.

A long Christmas weekend is on tap for many U.S. workers this year, as 51 percent of responding employers have slated Monday, Dec. 24, as a paid day off.

Some workers will have to postpone their holiday dinners and gatherings, as nearly four out of 10 surveyed establishments will require at least a few employees to work Dec. 25, Jan. 1, or both. Christmas work shifts have been scheduled by 34 percent of the employers, while a few more (38 percent) will have workers on duty for New Year’s Day.

Employees who work on the national holidays typically get something extra in their paychecks, leave balances, or both. Among those requiring holiday work in 2012-2013, well over half will award extra pay to those who toil either
Christmas or New Year’s Day. Forty-nine percent will pay time-and-one-half or double time, and 8 percent plan to give holiday workers a combination of additional pay and compensatory time off.

Holiday gifts and bonuses have seen some resurgence in the past several years. Forty-five percent of surveyed organizations will distribute gifts or bonuses to some or all employees in 2012-2013, virtually unchanged from a year ago (46
percent) but well above the record low of 33 percent in 2009, when the recession came to its official close. Management and non-management are equally likely to receive holiday cash or gifts from employers, and money still trumps merchandise as a year-end expression of company gratitude.

Gifts from clients and business associates are restricted or prohibited by the vast majority of U.S. employers. More than three out of four responding organizations (77 percent) impose formal rules on gift acceptance, including 25 percent that ban gifts entirely.

Holiday celebrations are on the slate at roughly three out of four surveyed organizations (74 percent), somewhat improved from 2009, when just 67 percent sponsored any late-year festivities. Companywide events are planned by more than half of the responding employers (55 percent), virtually unchanged from a year ago (56 percent) and up a bit from 2009 (50 percent).

Most employers will pay the entire cost of their companywide parties. Among employers sponsoring events for the entire workforce, 86 percent will foot the entire bill. Just a few companies (4 percent) will contribute a set amount and ask employees to pick up the rest. Nearly seven in 10 companywide parties (68 percent) will be held away from the worksite, and alcohol will be served at nearly two out of three events (63 percent).

Charitable activities around the holidays will be sponsored by more than three-fifths of surveyed employers (63
percent)
, most of which will participate in multiple programs and activities. Toy collections and food drives remain the
most common philanthropic endeavors.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recovered a record-high $365.4 million for private-sector discrimination claimants through its administrative enforcement program in fiscal year 2012, the agency said in announcing its latest performance and accountability report. The total includes amounts recovered through mediation, settlements, withdrawals with benefits, and conciliation, EEOC said. Roughly $36 million, or 10 percent, came from “systemic discrimination” cases involving allegations of companywide or industry-wide practices affecting a large number of employees. EEOC also reported that it received 99,412 private-sector discrimination charges in fiscal 2012, just shy of the previous year’s record 99,947 charges.  12.05.2012

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has determined that retailer, Wet Seal, Inc. discriminated against a former African American store manager.

With the recent concluding of a three year investigation, the EEOC found that Nicole Cogdell, a former manager of a Wet Seal store in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, was subjected to hostile work environment due to her race. The evidence produced included that Wet Seal corporate managers openly stated that to be profitable the retailer had to retain workers with “the Armani look” – meaning thin, blond and blue-eyed and that one high-level manager sent an email to subordinates in 2009 pointing out that the dominance of African American workers was a “huge issue.” The EEOC also determined that managers at Wet Seal
were being instructed to make employment decisions based on race.

Cogdell had filed a racial discrimination charge against the company with the EEOC in March. She filed a lawsuit against the company in July, along with two other former Wet Seal employees. The lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, alleges that African-American employees were targeted for termination from the company and in some cases denied pay or promotions at Wet Seal and Arden B stores.

Wet Seal said it cooperated with the investigation and had voluntarily collaborated with the agency on “an extensive program” to promote diversity. That included an ethics hotline, which workers can use to report incidents that violate the retailer’s anti-discrimination policy. 12.05.2012

Although the new health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (“PPACA”), is still a full year away from almost full implementation, many small companies are beginning to show concern. With the Presidential elections behind us now almost a month, it’s solidly understood that the PPACA is here to stay which means it’s time for “Plan B” for lots of people who may have been thinking the new law would be trashed with a Romney presidential win.  However, we all know that didn’t happen and the PPACA will be so strongly established within a few years that anyone trying to disengage it in the future will have a slim to no chance of doing so.

In most cases, the biggest concerns and complaints about the PPACA are coming from low wage industries that include retail and hospitality which may not be offering any healthcare coverage to their workers. Actually, most employers, even small ones, already offer health insurance to their workers, and the PPACA is not expected to have a significant impact on what they do from 2014 onward. However, business that rely heavily on low-wage workers are now forced to rethink their business models.

According to recent surveys, almost half of retail and hospitality  employers do not offer coverage to all of their full-time workers. Thus, with PPACA implementation, these industries will need to rethink how to deploy their costs or push the costs to the customer. With the average cost of health insurance premiums at $6,000 per year for an indivudual plan and about $15,000 per year for family (data from Kaiser Family Foundation), adding insurance costs will be quite considerable for businesses that typically pay workers $12/hour or less.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s most recent survey of health insurance, about 28% of companies that employ large numbers of low-income workers offer health benefits.

From 2014, any business with 50 or more full-time employees will be expected to offer a set health insurance coverage. Failing to do so brings a penalty of $2,000 per worker, excluding the initial 30 employees.  The recent potential response to getting around the law has been to consider converting some full-time employees to part-time status to reduce their hours below 30 hours per week which is the PPACA’s threshold for the definition of a full-time worker.

Despite all the complaints and rhetoric from employers, there is still quite a bit of confusion concerning many of the more critical aspects of the PPACA such as how the government will determine whether an employee meets the 30-hour threshold and what is the set of benefits that an employer must provide.  The answers to these questions should start to be flushed out as we move into 2013.    12.05.2012