MONEY

Jobless Claims Surge by Highest Number Since 2013

Unemployment filings jumped by 31,000 last week, taking many economists by surprise.

Initial jobless claims last week increased by the highest amount in roughly two years, according to the latest data from the Department of Labor. The numbers, released Thursday, show those filing for unemployment last week jumped by 31,000 compared with a week earlier, pushing up the total number of individuals reporting to 313,000 from 282,000.

The news comes as unemployment is broadly improving. The U.S. economy added 257,000 jobs in January, continuing a 12-month streak in which employers hired more than 200,000 workers a month. As a result, a sharp rise in jobless claims seemed to take economists by surprise. A Bloomberg survey of 49 economists predicted jobless claims would rise by only 8,000.

However, as the Associated Press notes, more unemployment filings probably isn’t a cause for alarm. Short-term surveys of the employment market can be uneven, and the 4-week moving average showed an increase of just 11,500 jobless claims, significantly less than the week-by-week numbers. Other employment indicators, like wage growth and gross domestic product, have also been increasingly positive, suggesting the job market will continue to broadly improve.

TIME Business

These Are the 25 Best Places to Be an Intern in 2015

Based on an analysis by job review site Glassdoor

Glassdoor, a website that allows employees to post anonymous office reviews, has released its 2015 list of the best places to intern in the U.S. Facebook leads the ranking, which is based on the highest-rated reviews of each company. Tech dominates the list more than any other sector, with 12 companies represented.

The round-up is a promotion for the site’s new Glassdoor Students, a job search resource specifically tailored to college students.

GD-Highest-Rated-Companies-for-Internships-2015

 

LIST: 5 of the Best Companies for Working Moms

LIST: Best Places to Live 2014

Read next: The 25 Absolute Best Workplaces in the World

MONEY Earnings

The 3 Best Ways to Boost Your Earnings This Year

hand holding dumbbell with coin at the end
Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Getty Images(2)

To pump up your salary, switch up your career routine.

Welcome to Day 8 of MONEY’s 10-day Financial Fitness program. By now you’ve seen what shape you’re in, bulked up your savings, and cut the fat from your budget. Today, add some muscle to your paycheck.

When you hit a fitness plateau, taking a new class or picking up a sport can be the key to breaking through to the next level. The same concept applies to your career. Landing a new job will likely result in a salary 18% to 20% higher than what you’d get via an internal promotion, according to a study by Wharton professor Matthew Bidwell.

Thanks to a rapidly rebounding job market, this is the best year since the recession to get a new gig. More than one-third of employers expect to add full-time employees in 2015, according to CareerBuilder’s annual job forecast, up from one in four last year. Here’s how to stand out.

1. Get the Inside Scoop

Employee referrals generate a full 40% of new hires, according to the JobVite 2014 Recruiting Survey. So rather than scouring the job boards, talk to people you know and ask about openings at their firms. Love a certain company but don’t know anyone there? Reach out to your personal network or tap your LinkedIn contacts to see if anyone can connect you to an employee.

2. Make Yourself Poachable

Employers are increasingly courting passive job seekers, says John Hollon, editor of TLNT.com, which covers HR trends: “These are employed workers who may be willing to switch jobs but aren’t actively searching.” Recruiters like these candidates because they’re successful and valued at their current jobs. Interested? Get on hiring managers’ radar by peppering your LinkedIn profile with keywords related to the type of job you want. You can also sign up with the website Poachable, and get the Poacht app. List your dream job and resume for recruiters to browse.

3. Be Bold

That said, maybe you love your job or just can’t move right now. That doesn’t mean settling for a middling raise. While the biggest bumps do go to top performers, simply asking goes a long way. A new study from Payscale found that 75% of employees who requested an increase got one, with 44% landing the exact figure they asked for. The odds of receiving your requested amount are even better if you’re already a high earner: Those with a salary of $150,000 or more had a success rate of 70%. Before you ask, get a sense of the budget. You have more influence when you show you see the boss’s side, says career coach Lee Miller.

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MONEY Workplace

Wage Equality Takes Center Stage at the Oscars

Patricia Arquette's acceptance speech at the Academy Awards put the gender wage gap at the forefront of discussion.

MONEY Social Security

Why a Better Job Market Can Mean a Social Security Bonus

Getting back to work for even a few years before you retire can make a big difference to your income.

More Americans over 55 are finally getting back to work after the long recession. The strong national employment report for January released last week confirmed that. The unemployment rate for those over 55 was just 4.1% in January, down from 4.5% a year ago and well below the national jobless rate. The 55-plus labor force participation rate inched up to 40% from 39.9%.

That is good news for patching up household balance sheets damaged by years of lost employment and savings, and also for boosting future Social Security benefits.

Social Security is a benefit you earn through work and payroll tax contributions. One widely known way to boost your monthly benefit amount is to work longer and delay your claiming date. But simply getting back into the job market can help.

Your Social Security benefit is calculated using a little-understood formula called the primary insurance amount (PIA). The PIA is determined by averaging together the 35 highest-earning years of your career. Those lifetime earnings are then wage-indexed to make them comparable with what workers are earning in the year you turn 60, using a formula called average indexed monthly earnings (AIME); finally, a progressivity formula is applied that returns greater amounts to lower-income workers (called “bend points”).

But what if you are getting close to retirement age and have less than 35 years of earnings due to joblessness during the recession?

The Social Security Administration still calculates your best 35 years. It just means that five of those years will be zeros, reducing the average wage used to calculate your PIA.

By going back to work in any capacity, you start to replace those zeros with years of earnings. That helps bring your average wage figure up a bit, even if you are earning less than in your last job, or working part time.

“Any earnings you have in a given year have the opportunity to go into your high 35,” notes Stephen C. Goss, Social Security’s chief actuary.

I ran the numbers for a an average worker (2014 income: $49,000) born in 1953, comparing PIA levels following 40 years of full employment with the benefit level assuming a layoff in 2009. The fully employed worker enters retirement at age 66 (the full retirement age) with an annual PIA of $20,148; the laid-off worker’s PIA is reduced by $924 (4.6%). Getting back into the labor force in 2014, and working through 2015, would restore $720 of that loss.

That might not sound like much, but it would total nearly $25,000 in lifetime Social Security benefits for a female worker who lives to age 88, assuming a 3% annual rate of inflation. And for higher income workers, the differences would be greater.

You also can continue “backfilling” your earnings if you work past 60, Goss notes. “You get credit all the way along the way. If you happen to work up to age 70 or even beyond, we recalculate your benefit if you have had more earnings.”

The timing of your filing also is critical. You’re eligible to file for a retirement benefit as early as age 62, but that would reduce your PIA 25 percent, a cut that would persist for the rest of your life. Waiting until after full retirement age allows you to earn delayed filing credits, which works out to 8% for each 12-month period you delay. Waiting one extra year beyond normal retirement age would get you 108% of your PIA; delaying a second year would get you 116%, and so on. You can earn those credits up until the year when you turn 70, and you also will receive any cost-of-living adjustment awarded during the intervening years when you finally file.

Getting back to work will be a tonic for many older Americans, but what they might not realize is that it is also a great path to filling their retirement gap with more robust Social Security checks.

MONEY Jon Stewart

3 Ways to Be More Like Jon Stewart

The comedian demonstrates how to execute a job departure at the top of your game.

As you’ve probably heard, Jon Stewart, the beloved host of Comedy Central’s “Daily Show,” announced this week that he’ll soon leave the show after 17 years.

It seems clear from his own words—and the desperation of his employer to find a bankable replacement—that Stewart is departing of his own accord and on his own terms. And yet, unlike his former acolyte and fellow late-night star Stephen Colbert (who will take over David Letterman’s chair on CBS in the fall), Stewart will apparently leave his perch without a planned landing.

His reasons? “I don’t know that there will ever be anything that I will ever be as well suited for as this show,” he told NPR’s Terry Gross last year. “That being said, I think there are moments when you realize that that’s not enough anymore, or that maybe it’s time for some discomfort.”

It’s a sentiment that many of us can identify with, even if directing feature films or a future in national politics aren’t likely to figure into our own second acts. The fact is, countless mid- and late-career professionals feel restless in their jobs, find that they have nowhere left to go at their organizations, or simply feel burned out.

Whether or not that description fits you, there’s a great deal that almost anyone can learn from the funnyman’s gracefully planned exit.

1. Know when it’s time to say goodbye

Do you constantly complain about work? Do your achievements go unrecognized? Do you end each week frustrated and dread Mondays? Do you see no professional path ahead? “Yes” answers to any or all of these are probably a good sign that you may have gotten all you can out of your job and it’s time to consider other professional options, because chances are those feelings are having a negative impact on your work.

By most accounts, Stewart is still at or near the top of his game; according to the Wall Street Journal, “The Daily Show” was number one among younger viewers by a wide margin as recently as last season. Follow his example and recognize your lack of focus before your audience, your boss, or your subordinates do.

“You have to choose the right moment,” says career coach Roy Cohen. “Ideally it’s when the stars seem to align, whether that’s the company offering a buyout or right after you have wound down a successful project.”

That way you’ll be able to go out on your own timetable, with financial stability, and heading in your desired direction.

2. Lay the groundwork for your second act before ending your first

Stewart isn’t leaving “The Daily Show” on a whim. He took a three-month break during summer 2013 to direct Rosewater, a critically acclaimed film about an Iranian journalist and political prisoner. This sabbatical appears to have given Stewart a chance to do a test-run of life outside his comfort zone, and it certainly proved that he could hold his own doing something very different.

Cohen says doing that kind of thinking ahead of time is key for anyone considering a career move.

“First, engage in an assessment of your biggest goals,” he advises. “Ask yourself honestly: What do I like? What don’t I like? Where have I succeeded? Where have I failed?”

He also advises those considering an exit to start planning early and do a reality check on how long the transition will take. “I’ve had clients who didn’t carefully plan their exit and then felt they had shortchanged themselves in their second acts,” Cohen warns.

For some people, careful planning will mean searching for and landing another job before leaving their current one. (Call it the Stephen Colbert approach.) For others, it’s taking classes that will expand your skill set, or just saving up enough money to give yourself the time to figure things out and set off in the next direction.

Or there might be an in-between approach that involves a part-time or consulting arrangement to help your former employer through the transition—and sustain your bank account—while also carving out enough time to get a fresh degree or otherwise establishing your bona fides in a new field.

3. Make your people into stars

Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, John Oliver, and Ed Helms are just a few of the once-obscure, now well-known comics that Jon Stewart helped launch and move onto bigger things. You can be sure they’ll ardently support him in any next endeavor, and probably spend a good deal of social, political, or financial capital to do so.

Of course, mentoring and otherwise helping others advance their careers is part of the job description of most managers. But taking this role seriously can have reciprocal benefits down the road when it’s time to explore new professional avenues.

If you’ve been generous with your time, accolades, and connections, your former employees will likely do the same when you are looking to start your next chapter. They’ll become an active network of supporters, able to bridge you into new industries and professional communities; clue you in on and recommend you for exciting opportunities; and may even give you your next dream job.

MONEY Jobs

Why We Should Be Happy With a Higher Unemployment Rate

woman holding "Hire Me" sign
Catherine Lane—Getty Images

A higher unemployment rate in an improving economy means more people are beginning to look for work again.

For the most part, Friday’s jobs report is clearly reason to cheer. The economy added 257,000, making January the the 12th consecutive month employers hired over 200,000 workers. The Labor Department even revised earlier figures, announcing 147,000 more jobs were created in November and December than previously thought.

But in spite of all this great news, one number seemed to stick out: the unemployment rate actually went up, jumping from 5.6 to 5.7 percent.

That’s not a big change but it doesn’t seem to jibe with everything else happening in the economy. How could the unemployment rate still be increasing when hiring seems to be at a post-recession high?

The answer is the official unemployment rate, at least by itself, doesn’t actually measure the economic recovery very well. This metric, also known as U3, is one of six different ways the Department of Labor measures unemployment, and it only includes people who are unemployed and actively looking for work. That means people who are unemployed but too discouraged to look for a job aren’t included in the unemployed population.

This quirk is what Gallup CEO Jim Clifton was talking about when he called the unemployment rate a “big lie,” but it’s actually telling the truth if you know what to look for. When hiring increases, as it has over the past year, people who previously gave up searching for work will once again start trying to find employment. This is obviously a good thing, but for the moment an influx of new job hunters is pushing up unemployment numbers because those who just began searching for work after a long break are essentially treated as newly unemployed.

“I don’t think [Friday’s unemployment bump] is a big deal,” says Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank. “I think that is mostly due to people coming back into the labor force—some of them finding jobs, some of them not finding jobs.”

In fact, as the economy continues to recover, it’s likely the unemployment rate will likely stay the same or even increase. “If had to project the unemployment rate, I would expect it would hold steady and could move a little up, but I don’t think we’re going to see it going down,” explains Gould. “As the economy gets stronger more people will enter the labor force and that will move the unemployment rate, potentially in the wrong direction.”

All this sounds nice in theory, but do we really know more people are entering the job market? The most accurate metric we have to answer that question is the labor force participation rate, which includes everyone who is working or looking for work. Unfortunately, that number can be misleading since many older Americans are leaving the market at the same time job-seekers are re-entering it, leading to a long-term downward trend.

Luckily, today’s report shows enough people started looking for work in January to push the labor force participation rate up a tick. It wasn’t much—less than a percentage point—but even a small increase is meaningful when the demographic tide is flowing the other way.

At least for once, a higher unemployment rate isn’t so bad.

MONEY Jobs

Employers Hired 257,000 Workers in January

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Datacraft Co Ltd/Getty Images

The economic picture continues to mend, but workers still looking for better wages.

The U.S. economy added 257,000 jobs in January, the 12th consecutive month employers hired more than 200,000 workers. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate rose slightly to 5.7%.

Employers also added more employees in the end of 2014 than originally thought. The Labor Department revised November’s employment change to 423,000, compared to 353,000, and December’s to 329,000, from 252,000.

The positive monthly employment report is another sign of a building economic recovery. The four-week moving average initial jobless claims recently fell by 6,500 to 292,750 The employment cost index, which measures salary and benefits, increased by 2.3% in the last three months of 2014. And the gross domestic product grew by 2.6% in the last quarter of 2014 after climbing by 5%. This good news, along with cheap energy prices, has also pushed up economic confidence.

The economy still is not back to a pre-2008 definition of normal, however. The headline unemployment rate measures only people who are looking for work. Since the post-crisis recession, however, many people dropped out of the work force, and they have been slow to come back in. Today’s report shows the labor-force participation rate at 62.9%, a marginal increase from a month ago, but still in line with a long-term decline. The rate is five points lower than it was at the turn of the century.

Another sign that the job market recovery remains soft: Average hourly wages in January were only up 2.2% compared to a year earlier. (While that’s an improvement over last month, wages grew around 4% per year prior to the Great Recession.) Long-term unemployment is also still at elevated levels.

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Modest wage growth helps to explain why inflation has remained low, even after stripping out the effect of falling prices at the gas pump. Core inflation, which strips away volatile energy and food prices, was up 1.6% year-over-year in December. That’s well below the 2% the Federal Reserve says it is targeting in deciding whether or not to raise key interest rates.

The Fed has been holding short-term rates near zero since the crisis, and is widely expected to begin raising rates this year as the economy improves. But they’ll have to weigh the encouraging signs from the new unemployment numbers against continued low inflation and wage growth, as well as the mounting economic troubles in Europe.

Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities, shares the Fed’s belief that the labor market and economy are repairing, and thinks more hiring will push down the unemployment rate in the months to come, which will result in more money in worker’s paychecks. Eventually.

“Overall, we’re looking at an economy that’s improving,” says Bullard. “The one missing piece is a pickup in wage growth.”

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