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Interesting News About Jobs and Work

There is always something going on in the fields of work and employment. You will find below our summary of articles on jobs, job growth, work-life balance, careers, human resource management, interviewing skills … you name it. In short, these are a selection of news items about work that we found interesting. The images are from the original articles and are linked directly to the source material. Enjoy!

Written by: Elise Gould
September 9, 2015
While some in the markets cheered a record job openings report today, the good folks at EPI threw a bit of cold water on the celebration. With 5.75 million jobs open, the job market has to be hopping, right? Well, only if there are reasons for some to want those jobs, and only if employers are really serious about filling them.

The EPI research linked here does a great job of drilling down below the surface of the employment picture in the U.S. First, Gould points to a continuing gap between the number of people looking for jobs and job openings themselves. The message: there still is a large gap, though narrowing, between potential workers and job opportunities. Secondly, layoff rates have remained below recession levels, but quits have also leveled off, a sign of insecurity on the part of workers. Third, and most troubling, is the persistent overhang of job seekers relative to job openings in all sectors of the U.S. economy (most notably in construction).

The sobering message is that there may be a lot of jobs out there, but not enough of the quality sufficient to tease out increases in quality (desirable and sufficiently paid work) jobs to tease out more workers. Absent mobility out of existing jobs for better pay/opportunity, and some pressure on wages, we will continue to struggle with slack in the labor market.

Good stuff here, and counter-intuitive stuff relative to the “strong” job openings report. You should read this if you want a better understanding of good jobs, or the lack thereof, in America today.

Written by: Walter McFarland
June 17, 2015
Employee engagement is a hot topic among HR managers and professionals, and this article adds some gas to the fire by bringing technology into the fray. And it is a worthy effort. McFarland’s article poses a compelling question: does a digital workplace allow workers to be more engaged?

Employee engagement has grown up as a bit of a buzzword, and is often used interchangeably with, or as a proxy for, employee motivation. However, these are two distinct, yet related, constructs. Motivation speaks, as Robbins & Judge suggest, to the individual’s drive and intensity to accomplish goals. Employee engagement, on the other hand, is described as the workers involvement and satisfaction with, and enthusiasm for, the work that they perform.

McFarland’s article is written around the Gallup organization’s 2013 Global Workforce Study. This study identified a stunning global disengagement with work: 13% of workers worldwide reportedly not engaged with their work, and nearly 25% reported being actively disengaged from their work. Can you ever hope to get the best work form someone who is actively distancing themselves from the product of their effort?

Thankfully, the article provides a strong list of practitioner-based suggestions for managers on how to improve workplace engagement. My biggest compliment on the article is that one of the suggestions hones in on the concept of engagement being a personal issue, one rooted in the employees relationship with their supervisor (not the CEO). In a younger, more relationship oriented workforce, this issue requires, as the article suggests, a front-line effort on the part of management, not just a CEO-suite pronouncement. The solution to this problem will require some “fingers in the dirt” work on the part of management.

My only problem with the article is that the list of managerial action steps to improve engagement departs from a discussion of workplace motivation, in a minor way continuing the conflating of engagement and motivation. It’s a trivial point, so I’ll stop being an academician. This is a good and useful article for managers. McFarland puts good context to a hot contemporary issue, and offers some solid starting points for re-establishing engagement in seemingly more decoupled workplace.

Written by: Victoria Stillwell
June 18, 2015
After the scorched earth of post-2008 employment, this is a pretty good lead, right? “Fewer Americans than forecast filed for unemployment benefits last week, a sign labor market momentum continues to strengthen.”

There is no question that the pace of firings and layoffs has declined, and that more people are finding jobs. And those are unquestionably good things. Still, there is some unease out there. Hirings have increased but wage growth has not yet followed on, thereby sustaining hollow demand from a nervous middle class.

This uncertainty no doubt contributed to the Fed’s decision yesterday to leave interest rates unchanged. Chairwoman Yellen alluded to this uncertainty, describing signs of wage growth in the economy as “tentative.” This has no doubt contributed to a sense of caution among the general workforce, manifest as a languishing propensity to spend their grudging wages, choosing the safer bet of increasing savings. Lacking the willingness to spend, producers continue to struggle to implement price increases, and continue to tread cautiously with new orders.

What’s the bottom line? It’s a good time to find work, no doubt about it. However, continuing slack in the labor market continues to restrain what companies will pay for new workers … more jobs out there, just not more pay yet. So, dust off the resume, but stay nimble. If economic activity picks up, you want to be ready to move … the first job back may not be the best job for your pay check.

Check out our blog entry on this subject here.

Written by: Jenny Che
June 16, 2015
Who would have thought it? Here I thought I had to have a big ol’ resume, and it ends up I only needed 140 characters. Give or take a tweet or two. From job talks to tweets, it looks like Twitter may be a fertile ground for job search.

Jenny Che has written a great article that hi-lites how job seekers need to think beyond traditional boxes if they want to score that big job. The days of printing up 200 copies of your resume at Kinkos and sending them to everyone you know are long gone. Now, social media lets us “network” in ever more efficient ways, and puts our best self in front of employers.

Engaging individuals via Twitter offers you a way to interact personally with members inside the organization. Che’s article hi-lites Sarah Alvarez, who describes her Twitter foot in the door like this:

“Because of the way I reached out, they took a look at my social media profile,” said Alvarez, now an account executive at the communications agency Bite. “I interviewed with the person who had written the blog post, and she was very excited that I’d been engaging with her content.”

There’s obviously a fine line here between professional engagement with a prospective employer vs. creepy internet stalking. Still, the article offers a great insight into how you can use Twitter to 1) show particular interest in the things that matter to the person that can hire you (digital flattery gets you everywhere), and 2) provides evidence that you “get” what the company is all about. Pretty neat story, pretty good job search tool.

Written by: unattributed
June 5, 2015
It’s hard not to get excited about a headline like that … 1 million new jobs in less than half a year. And, indeed, the May jobs report was chock full of good news: 286,000 new jobs were added (well above expectations), while hourly earnings increased 2.3% along with the job growth (below Fed plans, but the largest gain in two years). Even the slight uptick in the unemployment rate was sort of good news … it happened because more people were coming back to seek jobs. About the only bad news in the report is that it probably hastens a Fed interest rate increase, contributing to the global rout in fixed income markets.

But for those buffeted by the winds of a slow recovery, bond prices be damned. Even with protracted weakness in the extractive industries, including oil fields, May was a very strong jobs month, and April was revised up, too. Perhaps the best news is that this may start to take up some of the slack in the lower levels of the job market as previously underemployed individuals “trade up” to higher paying jobs.This should start to free up openings for the staggering numbers of unemployed youth, and begin to put some upward pressure on wages. As mentioned in the CNN article: “Employers recognize that in order to attract skilled workers, they need to increase wages.”

So, a solid jobs report all around. Here’s hoping 1) it continues, 2) it expands, 3) it begins to loosen up the entry level jobs so needed for new grads, and 4) the labor sees some badly needed wage growth.

Written by: Fatima Hussein
May 24, 2015
Workers have been struggling with a tectonic shift beneath their economic lives … a shift in the fundamental relationship they have with the wellspring of their economic lives, their social contract. The Atlantic describes the social contract as “the basic bargain most of us can expect from the economy throughout our lives.” Over the past few decades, America has witnessed the evolution of a contract denominated principally in wages and benefits to one predicated upon lower wages, lower prices, and stepped-up government assistance. In a sense, the relationship between work and employers has been disinter mediated to the coldness of a highly competitive market, backstopped by a grudgingly supportive government.

To be sure, the other party to this contract, the employer, has struggled with this evolution as well. The benefit of lower wage scales does wonders for a bottom line, but makes it increasingly difficult to attract and retain qualified workers. In a edition, the hollowing out of employment has left employers to face a widening skills gap … work for which there is no longer requisite skills. Just how can an organization bridge this gap while remaining cost-competitive?

Hussein’s article offers a great discussion of one approach … paid educational assistance. Using the firm Fives Cincinnati as the backdrop, she paints a picture of an organization willing to invest in their employees’ education as a non-cash inducement to attract and retain labor. Offered on a no-cost basis to employees, the program covers tuition, fees and books. And Fives Cincinnati isn;t alone. Hussein hi-lites similar efforts from firms like Starbucks and Chrysler.

This article hits a great line in the debate of wage/non-wage benefits and organizational productivity. The firm makes a significant investment in its human capital, hoping for a more productive worker and a “better” motivated worker. After all, the workers have basically self-selected themselves as more interested in advancement than cash on the barrelhead. In return, the organization makes a big bet that their investment in the worker (estimated to be $220,000 per apprentice at Fives Cincinnati) will have a chance to pay-off, i.e. the worker will hang around a while and not bolt to your competitor. There’s not much worse than investing in training your competitors’ workforce, I guess.

A good and timely read given the debate about a “recovery” characterized by slow wage growth.

Written by: Julie Verhage
May 19, 2015
Forget the big cities, mid-size is where it’s at. At least, when it comes to finding a job in a place where you can actually live on your earnings. That’s the essence of this intriguing piece by Verhage and Drawing on a well-done study by Glassdoor, Verhage lays out a summary of 10 top cities to search for a job that you can value. As Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, Chief Economist at Glassdoor, explains, “The cities that stand out offer job seekers what they really want: a stable career that they’re happy with, and the feeling that they can ‘get ahead” and eventually own a home.”

If you are a new graduate, or a mobile career changer, I highly comment this article. Glassdoor and present a really intelligent way for you to think about starting, adjusting, or reinvigorating your career … go not just where the jobs are plentiful, but where they can lead to a meaningful existence.

Two quick points. First, St. Louis isn’t one of the Top 10. But it’s the Gateway City, right? Hence the somewhat misleading image. Second, Raleigh, Kansas City, Austin, and Louisville all populate the Top 10 for jobs … bonus on the BBQ front.

Written by: Francesca Levy and Jonathan Rodkin
Graphics: Christopher Cannon, Jeremy Scott Diamond, Adam Pearce, and Blacki Migliozzi
May 14, 2015
Business schools continue to recruit students by promising to help them to develop the knowledge and skills they’ll need to find attract the attention of corporate recruiters. Yet this innovative presentation by suggests that a good number of B-schools may be missing the mark: “Business schools are supposed to produce graduates who have the abilities companies need most. But corporate recruiters say some highly sought-after skills are in short supply among newly minted MBAs.”

The article uses survey data from a broad range of corporate recruiters in a number of industries. In essence, the recruiters were asked which skills they treasure the most/least, and which skills they find most/least common among MBAs. The data is presented in a 2 x 2 scheme, allowing the reader to visualize the skills gap recruiters perceive among MBA candidates, searchable both by industry and by MBA program.

Having taught a number of newly minted MBAs, I am a bit sensitive to this data, as it presents a case of B-schools having a good aim at some targets, just not the most important targets. For the aspiring candidate, though, the overall message is clear. If you want to distinguish yourself by providing the skills most demanded, but hardest to find, you better brush up on your communication skills, your creative problem-solving skills, your leadership skills, and your strategic thinking. All that entrepreneurship and global stuff … not so much.

Really informative, well designed, useful, and graphically engaging … worth a look by all job candidates (and their faculty!).
graphics at

by Natalie Kitroeff
April 27, 2015
You will always be well served in your job search by constructing a good-looking resume. So, with a tag line like “Using Times New Roman is the typeface equivalent of wearing sweatpants to an interview,” you’ve just got to read an article that identifies the font “which should never, ever be seen by an employer,” right? I mean, I thought the only font-centric disaster we faced these days was a universal ban on the public use of Comic Sans.

I wish I had read this article much earlier in life. I have apparently gone through life twice cursed: I use Times New Roman for formal writing and Comic Sans on many of my class Powerpoint presentations. No wonder no one pays attention to me.

It appears I should have been using Helvetica all along. Helvetica rules for resumes, in seems, because it is more “business-y.” It is indeed a classy font face, and very easy to read, but is it really that much better than Times New Roman? I get it, it’s “sans serif,” (no feet, to the uninitiated), but is that really going to swing the day on behalf of your resume? Seems this is a bit too picky for resume building … if they’re checking the font on my resume, it may be just a bit too anal of a work culture for me.

On the other hand, if choosing the right resume font is too stressful, I could just forget the job and apply to “clown college.” Apparently, Comic Sans is really good for that. Maybe go with Times New Roman on the cover letter, too … that’s the ticket!
Photographer: Sawayasu Tsuji/Getty Images

by Michelle Jamrisko and Catarina Saraiva
Jan 13, 2015
“The bigger wage gains that have so far eluded American workers probably will begin to materialize this year as the job market tightens” is about all many workers have been waiting to hear. Jamrisko and Saraiva do a good job in this article of telling you why those words are likely to ring true this year.

This is a great article, presenting a comprehensive summary of many of the forces that are gathering to put upward pressure on wages. At its source, the confluence of these pressures arises from decreasing slack in the labor force. Workers are being added to payrolls quite rapidly now, leading many in the workforce (nearly half, according to the article) to believe that it’s a good time to find a quality job.

And quality is the issue here … not just a job, but a job with the potential to offer better conditions and more pay. As more and more workers come off the rolls of the unemployed, it provides a foundation for the under/marginally employed to move up. As this occurs, it becomes more difficult for employers to hold down wages, leading to a good type of inflation right now … wage inflation. This article points to some good indicators of that brew of wage inflation beginning to simmer below the surface. A well written summary and a great primer for those interested in the state of wage growth today.

by David Segal
Jan 12, 2015
It seems a bit crass to lament the passing of a brand of peanut butter when its production facility closes. After all, “some 425 workers will lose their jobs” when ConAgra shutters the Fredonia, NY production line of Red Wing peanut butter this coming February. Surely, the human impact is far greater than the loss of a brand of peanut butter.

Still, if you never had Red Wing peanut butter, you missed something great. I’m not sure what made it, but the taste was fresh; not overly sweet with a smooth mouth feel. No other way to describe it … delicious.

True, the Red Wing taste won’t disappear. According to the article, ConAgra will continue to produce private label versions of Red Wing, using the same recipe, for sale at outlets such as Wegmans, Tops, Our Family, and Price Chopper.

Peanut butter aside, what interests me is the intersection of the demise of a brand developed with the loss of a dedicated group of workers. Seal’s article helps us feel the influence of the then-CEO Douglas Manly, as the company nurtured its brands. Gathering input from the company’s workers, Manly oversaw an effort to collectively develop and produce a distinctive offering in a seemingly undifferentiated product space. This is a great, if bittersweet, story of how collective organizational commitment can lead to innovation and brand success.

I’m sure not all of the 425 workers who will soon be out of work participated in the development of the brand, but they surely helped improve and sustain it. One wonders the cost to a company like ConAgra when the nurturing climate of a group of workers is severed from the product … will the brand ever taste as fresh?

by Joanne Lipman
December 12, 2014
This Wall Street Journal essay by Ms. Lipman should be required reading for all men and women in the workforce. Having managed and worked for women throughout my career, and having taught innumerable undergraduate and graduate business majors, I continue to be amazed by our collective inability to understand and acknowledge the differences between genders in the workplace. Because that is the issue … striving to be equal does not mean we have to be the same, it means we have to recognize, develop, and appreciate the different ways men and women work toward the same outcome.

Ms. Lipman’s essay is steeped in practical experience and wrapped in practicality. In the end, the ability to better understand how men and women work together is more than an ethical nod to our inherent differences, it is a matter of competitive advantage:

“The business case for this is compelling. Companies with more women in leadership posts simply perform better. Fortune 500 firms with the most female board members outperform those with the least by 26% on return on invested capital and 16% on return on sales, according to a 2011 Catalyst study. Yet the number of women at the top is barely budging: some 5% of Fortune 500 chief executive officers and 17% of board members. Numbers in law and finance are dismal too.”

I can’t recommend this article (and the accompanying wsj interview) more strongly for any worker or manager who wants to better understand their peers, subordinates, and superiors, and to find a way to better their experience working with them. Read this piece … it will make it a better day’s work.

by David Leonhardt
December 11, 2014
“The decline of work is one of the defining - and most distressing - economic developments of recent decades. It’s also one of the least understood.”

These are the opening lines of an introduction to a fascinating series on the evolution, if not revolution, in the nature of work. As we approach the midpoint of the second decade of this century, the relationship of individuals and their work has undergone rapid, and sometimes violent, change. This series presents views into the very fabric of work, how it has been ended and restitched into patterns unrecognizable.

It’s hard to know whether this is a change in social life roles with respect to work, or an outgrowth of new patterns of labor management … probably a mix of both. In either event, you owe it to yourself to understand how work roles are changing, and what it could mean to you and your work. With follow-on discussions of the decline in female workers in the U.S. and the lost generation of male workers, this is a must read for anyone contemplating their work and career.

by Maria Antanasov
December 7, 2014
This article is almost hard to believe … hard to believe that a boss would actually give “bonuses” like this. Take your pick: a holiday ham for your Jewish workers, or perhaps the coupon for a free lunch to the cafeteria you cook for (where you get your meals free), or maybe it’s the picture of the holiday turkey you got last year … that’s right, a picture of a bonus.

I guess we should never look a gift horse in the mouth, but what were these people thinking? Good for you, bosses, for trying to show your workers that they matter, but with a single packet of seeds for a bonus? If you want to motivate your workers, always remember that the reward has to have valence … your workers actually have to find value in the bonus. Come on, now … a picture of the turkey?

by Rebecca Stillwell
December 5, 2014
No denying it, this was a great jobs report, with job growth far exceeding analysts’ estimates, and solid growth in wages to boot. As Princeton University Professor of Economics Alan Krueger stated in the great highly informative video that accompanied the article: “Wow - this is a terrific report.”

There was nothing but good news throughout this report. As mentioned, not only was last month’s top-line growth of 321,000 jobs in employment extraordinarily strong, average hourly earnings rose 0.4%, the highest level of growth in the last year and a half.

The key take-away for all workers from this article: “Persistent job growth that’s generating income growth and stoking demand increases the likelihood of employment opportunities for even more Americans.” (emphasis added)

Read this article and watch the accompanying video a couple of times (I admittedly geeked out on the trading and currency talk in the middle); you can’t help but come away with a good feeling about job growth in the U.S. after watching the video.
Persistent job growth generating income and stoking demand.

Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

December 3, 2014
A “maybe good news, no bad news report.” This month’s ADP report shows job growth maintaining a relatively steady trajectory, evidencing “solid job growth above 200,000,” according to Carlos Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of ADP. While this number is below last month’s reading of 233,000 jobs added, it does point to continued strengthening in labor markets. The “maybe good news” part: Mark Zandy of Moodys Analytics suggested that “The tightening in the job market will soon prompt acceleration in wage growth.” So, you can apparently soon take that to the bank.
Changes in Non-farm Private Employment

Change in Non-farm Private Employmnet (000’s)
as displayed in ADP report here.

by Justin Parkinson & Luke Jones
November 20, 2014
This is a trick question, right? Did someone actually research this in relation to the alternative … does free food lead to a sadder office? I mean, do we expect anyone to say that free food doesn’t make them happier? All jesting aside, though, this article from the online version of the BBC News Magazine does offer some insight into an interesting trend … free meals for employees. I think you’ll really like this article.

According to Parkinson & Jones, there really is a strong motivation for firms to offer this “perk” to their employees. Far from an altruistic initiative, though, these firms hope to foster not just a happier workplace for their employees, but to generate more and longer interaction among their employees. Dan Cobley of Google UK and Ireland Managing Director coined a great phrase for this objective … “serendipitous interaction.”

When I first started work on a Wall Street trading desk, I was pleased to find that I could order great lunches from a surprising collection of delis. I quickly learned that the free meals didn’t spring from the warm spot the firm held for its employees, though … it was just that the world of securities trading didn’t take a time-out for lunch. The free lunches kept us at our desks while the markets whirled around us. Likewise, the other firms in the article may offer a “free” lunch, but they clearly hope to get a productivity or innovation boost in return. And, I guess that’s a fair trade in the end.

Getty Images: Free Food at Work

Getty Images as displayed in article here.

by Doug Carroll
November 26, 2014
A classic bit of bad news, maybe not so bad news scenario. As mentioned in this USA Today article, weekly jobless claims rose unexpectedly to 313,000 in the most recent week. The good news, however, while the number was a bit high, the level of claims was well below last year’s number, and according to Carroll well below the levels seen prior to the 2007 recession. Perhaps more indicative is the four-week moving average of jobless claims, which allows one to smooth out reports that may be subject to volatile changes from week to week. As mentioned by Carroll, this average continues to be consistent with an improving job market. So, there’s that to be thankful for this holiday season.

Feel free to geek out on the graph to the right, provided by the great economists at the Federal Reserve of St. Louis (“FRED”). You’ll note that while 313,00 seems a big number (especially if you’re one of the 313,000), it’s far below the 671,000 levels at the height of the last recession.
Historical Level of Weekly Unemployment Claims
The St. Louis Fed provides a great interactive historical presentation of unemployment claims here.

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