TIME Economy

Job Market Dropouts May Be Rejoining the Workforce

People who had given up on looking for a job may be re-entering the the job market, an encouraging sign for the recovery.

Even as unemployment rates have inched towards pre-recession levels, recovery skeptics have pointed to the high number of people who have given up looking for a job and are, as a result, left out of official employment numbers.

Now, there’s some evidence to show even that trend is reversing, Reuters reports.

The share of people who have a job or are looking for one rose in a majority of U.S. states in the six months leading up to April of this year, according to a Reuters analysis of government data, marking the first upswing in those numbers in six years.

The rising participation rate likely means that people who had given up on looking are now confident enough to re-enter the job market, an encouraging sign for the economic recovery.

The data is not conclusive, according to Reuters. But participation rates appeared to have risen in a diverse set of states, including Texas, Florida and West Virginia. The 32 states where the figures rose also represent a majority of the U.S. population.


TIME Careers & Workplace

These Are the Jobs Employers Are Desperate to Fill

Are you a skilled tradesperson? A teacher? Even a waiter or waitress? If so, you’re in luck: These all came up on ManpowerGroup’s newest annual Talent Shortage Survey as occupations employers around the country are scrambling to fill.

Overall, 40% of U.S. companies responding to ManpowerGroup’s survey saying they’re having trouble filling positions, just one percentage point more than last year.

There are some notable differences, though: The biggest reason companies cite is a lack of technical skills, but the percentage of companies who say that’s a culprit has dropped a little bit since last year. Meanwhile, employers are more likely to say this year that they can’t fill positions because workers want more money than they’re willing to pay, they can’t find people with the right experience or there’s a lack of applicants entirely.

“Talent shortage is clearly having a negative impact on employers’ abilities to drive value for their customers,” says Rebekah Kowalski, principal consultant with Right Management, a ManpowerGroup company.

This is pushing some companies to reevaluate how much they’re willing to pay for good workers, she says. “Employers are looking at salaries and making adjustments. I regularly talk with employers that are looking at their pay and workforce models and making strategic modifications,” she says.

Comparatively, American businesses are having a tougher time filling jobs than their overseas counterparts; globally, only 36% of companies say they’re struggling to fill open positions.

Here is ManpowerGroup’s complete rundown of the most hard-to-fill jobs in the United States, in order:

-skilled trade workers
-restaurant and hotel workers
-sales reps
-accounting and finance professionals
-IT Staff

Tellingly, this year’s top 10 is not dominated by highly technical jobs; although fields like accounting and IT are still struggling with a shortage of good workers, companies in a much broader array of industries are looking for workers today.

“Restaurant and hotel positions are in demand and this is the first time these positions have been on our top 10 hardest jobs to fill list since 2010,” Kowalski says. “We view this demand as a good sign — consumers are spending more on entertainment, travel and dining.”

And Kowalski says that talent gap companies find when they try to fill those math and tech jobs is fueling demand for teachers, a job that jumped up six spots on this year’s top 10 list from last year. “It’s not a surprise there is an increase in demand for teachers; it reflects the need to develop bigger pipelines of qualified talent,” she says.

TIME Careers & Workplace

47% of Unemployed Americans Have Just Stopped Looking for Work

Job Fair Held At Sun Life Stadium In Miami
People looking for work stand in line to apply for a job during a job fair at the Miami Dolphins Sun Life stadium on May 2, 2013 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

New survey finds the unemployed are losing hope

Nearly half of unemployed Americans have “completely given up” looking for a job, a new survey has found.

Pollsters for job staffing company Express Employment Professionals asked 1,500 unemployed American adults how they were faring in their job hunts. A startling number were, in a word, fed up.

Source: Express Employment Professionals

83% expressed a willingness to accept a job that would pay less than their previous position, and 45% blamed the economy for producing what feels to them like a jobless recovery.

“After searching for four years and being unsuccessful, I am tired of trying,” one respondent said, according to the surveyors.

Despite the troubling numbers, 91% agreed with the statement “I’m hopeful that I will find a job I really want in the next six months,” indicating that they still held out hope that they could land a job, even if the search felt beyond their control.

TIME South Africa

South Africa Goes to the Polls Amid Protests and Unemployment

Voters queue to cast their ballots in Bekkersdal near Johannesburg
Voters queue to cast their ballots in the election in Bekkersdal near Johannesburg on May 7, 2014. Mike Hutchings—Reuters

The governing ANC party is expected to maintain its two-thirds majority, but dissatisfaction with the jobless rate and recent corruption scandals may cause it to lose ground, especially among young voters

Voting has begun in South Africa’s fifth general election since apartheid ended two decades ago, and the first in which the generation born after the end of apartheid casts its ballots.

Though the governing African National Congress is expected to maintain its nearly two-thirds majority and grant Jacob Zuma another five years as President, the party is also expected to lose voters, BBC reports.

Polls have shown that many South Africans are dissatisfied with the government over a series of corruption scandals and ongoing high unemployment, which is currently about 25%.

Protests over the failure of local officials to deliver on basic services are also steadily worsening. A University of Johannesburg report recorded 470 such demonstrations in 2012, compared with just 13 in 2004.

Results of the voting are expected on May 10.


TIME Economy

Girl Hands Michelle Obama Her Dad’s Resume During Q&A

The first lady was spending time with the children of executive branch employees at the White House's Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day


Michelle Obama was reportedly “taken aback” when a 10-year-old girl handed the first lady her father’s resume Thursday during a question and answer session with children.

“My dad’s been out of a job for three years and I wanted to give you his resume,” the girl seated in the front row said as she handed Obama a folded piece of paper. Obama hugged the girl and told the others gathered, some of whom may not have heard the exchange, that the matter was “a little private” but the girl was “doing something for her dad.”

Michelle Obama was spending time with the children of executive branch employees on Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day at the White House, the Associated Press reports.


TIME Food and Beverage Industry

How Breakfast Became the Most Important Meal of the Day

It's not just Taco Bell and McDonald's who are duking it out to win over America's early diners. Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, Jack in the Box, Hardee's and Carl's Jr. have all stepped up to the plate recently with new marketing campaigns or menu items

Fast food chains generate the vast majority of their revenues during the lunch and dinner hours. So why does it seem all the industry’s biggest players care about lately is breakfast?

It’s been a nasty couple of weeks in the fast food world. Not due to any new “pink slime” type scandals, but thanks to an increasingly aggressive, in-your-face ad and social media showdown between Taco Bell and McDonald’s. The war is all about breakfast, and it kicked off when Taco Bell featured Ronald McDonald—actually, a whole bunch of guys really named Ronald McDonald, not the McDonald spokesclown—in a commercial giving Taco Bell over-the-top endorsements for its new breakfast.

McDonald’s countered by enticing the morning crowd with a promise of free coffee for a couple of weeks, followed up more recently by the launch of the McGriddle as a tempting new pancake-wrapped alternative to Taco Bell’s waffle-wrapped breakfast taco. The battles have continued on with braggy Tweets and more ads, and while plenty of smack has been talked, there’s something contrived about all of the bickering. Both of the combatants involved, of course, are well aware that they both stand to benefit thanks to the attention showered upon them.

What’s somewhat overlooked amid this colorful smackdown is that the players are fighting about a meal that has traditionally been something of an afterthought for fast food—but that has taken on enormous importance lately.

(MORE: Why Fast Food Chains Wish the Dollar Menu Would Disappear)

It’s not just Taco Bell and McDonald’s duking it out over breakfast. As Nation’s Restaurant News summed up earlier this year, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Jack in the Box, and sister chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. have all stepped up their breakfast game recently, rolling out new marketing campaigns and introducing new menu items. Likewise, Businessweek took note of White Castle’s new Belgian Waffle breakfast sandwich, which is available not only in the morning like you’d guess, but after midnight for the chain’s celebrated late-night munchers.

Why does it seem like breakfast has become the most important meal of the day among fast-food competitors? Why is it that the traditional marquee battlegrounds, lunch and dinner, seem to have taken a step back in terms of fast food priorities?

The answer is simply that throughout the fast food world, lunch and dinner sales have been flat for years, while breakfast sales have climbed steadily—up 4.8% annually from 2007 to 2012, according to The Motley Fool. Meanwhile, the food and beverage research firm Technomic just reported that fast food “burger chains have finally reached maturity” in the U.S., with minimal or nonexistent growth it terms of both sales and number of locations.

When it seems impossible for fast food outlets to increase sales during lunch and dinner, and it also seems impossible or at least infeasible to create more fast food franchise locations, there’s still one way to boost sales—and that’s to pull in more customers into existing restaurants at times other than the usual lunch and dinner periods. These other “dayparts,” as they call them in the business, include the post-dinner time, which has gotten a push with late-night menus and greasy “craver” snacks, and, of course, breakfast.

(MORE: Drinkers, Stoners, Insomniacs Wanted: Fast Food Expands Late-Night Menus)

“This decade, visits to restaurants have slowed, and especially during the recession they declined for two years—but the morning meal was the bright spot,” said Bonnie Riggs, a restaurant analyst for NPD, which released a study earlier this year indicating breakfast sales increased 3% in 2013 across the entire restaurant industry, according to QSR Magazine. “It continues to grow strongly while the other dayparts are not.”

And why has breakfast been the anomaly? The frantic, on-the-go, no-time-to-cook nature of modern life is one reason. The Egg McMuffin-unemployment connection offers another explanation, showing a correlation between fast food breakfast sales and the jobs market. Basically, the theory holds that more people swing by the drive-thru in the morning when they actually have jobs to drive to—and when they’re jobless, there’s less reason to get out of bed, let alone feel compelled (or financially able) to fork over cash for a prepared morning meal.

What’s interesting is that the post-recession era has been notable in that the unemployment rate has declined, and that a disproportionate number of the jobs created lately have been low-paying gigs. Both of these factors actually bode well for restaurant breakfast sales because 1) when people have jobs, they’re more likely to eat breakfast out of the house on the way to work (see above); and 2) breakfast is the most affordable meal to eat at a restaurant, so it’s more within reach of today’s typical low-wage worker.

“It’s the cheapest meal you can get at a restaurant outside of a snack,” said the NPD’s Riggs. Among consumers, demand is high and rising for a fast, inexpensive restaurant breakfast, so it’s understandable that so many players in fast food want to win the battle for this growing, increasingly important time of day. “Those who are best able to meet consumers’ wants and needs at that daypart are the ones that will win market share.”

TIME Economy

Jobless Claims Drop to Lowest Level Since 2007

Construction worker installs storm water drain pipes at a hydrolysis wastewater treatment project in Washington, D.C., March 18, 2014.
Construction worker installs storm water drain pipes at a hydrolysis wastewater treatment project in Washington, D.C., March 18, 2014. Evelyn Hockstein—Polaris

Newly released figures show 300,000 people filed for unemployment claims last week, the lowest level since before the recession, suggesting employers are dismissing fewer workers. But if the job market is going to continue bouncing back, they'll have to start hiring more

The number of people filing for unemployment claims dropped to the lowest level in nearly 7 years last week, as the job market shows signs of rebounding after the recession.

Jobless claims last week fell to 300,000, down 32,000 from a week earlier and the lowest since May 12, 2007, before the onset of the recession, the Labor Department said Friday. The four-week average—a more stable indicator of labor market conditions—was down to 316,250, a drop from 321,00 the week before.

The drop in jobless claims, which surpassed estimates from all 52 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, indicates companies dismissed fewer people and suggests employers that are expecting growth are holding onto workers.

The Labor Department said last week that employers added 192,000 jobs in March, and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.7%.

TIME Congress

Senate Passes Unemployment Benefits Extension

President Obama has praised the bill that extends long-term unemployment benefits for five months, but its future in the House looks bleak

The Senate approved a bill extending long-term unemployment benefits for five months. Six Republicans joined Senate Democrats in extending unemployment insurance with a vote of 59-38. The measure is expected to be dead on arrival in the House.

The bill has faced trouble since the bipartisan deal was struck in mid-March, after Republican attempts to filibuster had failed. In a speech on the Senate floor on Monday, Senate majority leader Harry Reid blamed billionaire brothers and political contributors Charles and David Koch for Republicans’ unwillingness to extend unemployment insurance.

“Americans need a fair shot at getting back on their feet and finding work, but Koch-backed groups are actively opposing the extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat, before calling Republicans who “bear the logo of the Koch brothers” to announce their affiliation on the floor of the Senate.

President Barack Obama praised the Senate’s passage of the bill in a statement released on Monday and urged Washington to “put politics aside and help these hardworking, responsible Americans make ends meet and support their families as they look for a job.” He added, “Each week Congress fails to act on this crucial issue, roughly 70,000 long-term-unemployed Americans lose their vital economic lifeline. I urge House Republicans to stop blocking a bipartisan compromise that would stem this tide, take up the bill without delay and send it to my desk.”

But the future of the bill looks bleak given Speaker of the House John Boehner’s reticence to back it. He will only take up the bill if it will spur job growth. As Boehner spokesman Michael Steel noted, “As the Speaker said months ago, we are willing to look at extending emergency unemployment insurance as long as it includes provisions to help create more private-sector jobs — but, last week, Senate Democratic leaders ruled out adding any jobs measures at all.” He added, “The American people are still asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’ and House Republicans are focused on our jobs agenda for families and small businesses.”

[Roll Call]


Long-Term Unemployed Face 1 in 10 Odds of Getting Hired Each Year

Getty Images

A new Princeton study reveals that 1 in 10 people who have been unemployed for six months or longer are hired annually, which underscores the struggles of those seeking to re-enter the job market after being laid off

Only one in 10 long-term people who have been unemployed for six months or more are hired every year, according to a Princeton study that affirms the bleak outlook for many long-term job seekers.

With the unemployment rate near five-year lows amid a post-recession recovery, the long-term unemployed are still struggling to find jobs. Even in regions with the strongest job markets, the rate of hiring for the long-term jobless is no better.

Alan Krueger, lead researcher and a former chief White House economic advisor, told CNBC that long-term job seekers are prone to becoming discouraged and putting less effort into finding a job. Meanwhile, employers can be skeptical of potential hires who have not worked for six months.

“A concerted effort will be needed to raise the employment prospects of the long-term unemployed, especially as they are likely to withdraw from the job market at an increasing rate,” Kreuger wrote in the paper.


TIME Unemployment

House Conservatives Skeptical of Senate’s Unemployment Benefits Deal

Jim Jordan
House subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation, and Regulatory Affairs Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio presides over the subcommittee's hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 6, 2014. Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP

An agreement struck by a bipartisan group of 10 senators would retroactively restore for five months emergency unemployment insurance that expired in December—but senior Republican representatives aren't sold

House conservatives moved quickly Thursday to condemn an agreement struck by a bipartisan group of 10 senators to retroactively restore for 5 months emergency unemployment insurance that expired in December.

The proposal from senators representing some of the most economically distraught states would be paid for through changes to single-employer pension plans and extending fees on U.S. customs users through 2024. The extension would not be restored for the tiny fraction of millionaires who receive unemployment insurance. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I), who led the negotiations with Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), called it a “bipartisan breakthrough.”

But the reaction from influential House conservatives who had yet to hear of the plan ranged from skeptical to outright opposition, suggesting the bill will struggle to get beyond the Senate.

“I haven’t seen it, but no,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told TIME. “We need to be focused on policies that create jobs, not focusing on extending unemployment [insurance] forever,” added Jordan, noting that the President has extended unemployment benefits numerous times before. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), the House conference’s chief deputy whip, said there would be a “high level of scrutiny on the level of the pay-for.”

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), an influential conservative who, like Jordan, once served as Republican Study Committee chairman, left the opportunity for reconciliation open, but indicated that the issue was already over. “The extended unemployment benefits by the Administration were to be in place until unemployment came down,” said Price. “Unemployment is down.”

The issue of unemployment insurance has been a Democratic messaging point ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, and a successful bipartisan bill might have been expected to blunt that line of attack. That’s one reason some Democratic strategists are confident House Republicans will end up passing the bill. “I’ve got $7—but not $10—that it passes the House, that the Speaker gets his folks to back off in the end,” said longtime former Senate aide Jim Manley. “They’re on a glide path to get as little done by the end of the year as possible and getting this out of the way helps. And it takes away a Democratic talking point.”

The senate proposal is supported by eight co-sponsors: Sens Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill).

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