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U.S. Employers Expect Health Care Costs to Rise 4% in 2015

August 21, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Employers Expect Health Care Costs to Rise 4% in 2015
Source: Towers Watson

U.S. employers expect a 4% increase in 2015 health care costs for active employees after plan design changes, according to global professional services company Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW). If no adjustments are made, employers project a 5.2% growth rate, putting absolute cost per person for health care benefits at an all-time high. Despite this cost trend, most (83%) employers consider health benefits an important element of their employee value proposition, and plan to continue subsidizing and managing them for both full-time and part-time active employees, according to the 2014 Towers Watson Health Care Changes Ahead Survey. They are, however, continuing to rethink company subsidies for spouses and dependents.

Of particular concern on the cost front is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s excise tax,* which goes into effect in 2018. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of employers said they are somewhat or very concerned they will trigger the tax based on their current plans and cost trajectory. More than four in 10 (43%) said avoiding the tax is the top priority for their health care strategies in 2015. As a result of the excise tax and other provisions of the health care reform law, CEOs and CFOs are more actively engaged in strategy discussions.

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2014 Retirement Confidence Survey of the State and Local Government Workforce

August 21, 2014 Comments off

2014 Retirement Confidence Survey of the State and Local Government Workforce
Source: TIAA-CREF

This report analyzes data from a recent survey initiative that examined the employment and retirement planning and saving experiences of state and local government workers, as well as their confidence in their retirement income prospects. One-third of public sector employees have been with their current employer for less than 10 years and one-third for 20 years or longer. When considering the future, two-thirds do not expect to leave their current employer anytime soon. Respondents ranked job security, health insurance, retirement benefits, and salary as the most important job elements they would consider in deciding whether to switch employers. The vast majority of state and local employees are covered by a primary defined benefit pension plan and expect to receive retiree health care benefits; one-quarter of these workers reported changes to these benefits over the past two years and one-quarter expect (more) changes in the next two years.

Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2013

August 21, 2014 Comments off

Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2013 (PDF)
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

In 2013, the overall unemployment rate for the United States was 7.4 percent; however, the rate varied across race and ethnicity groups. The rates were highest for Blacks (13.1 percent) and for American Indians and Alaska Natives (12.8 percent) and lowest for Asians (5.2 percent) and for Whites (6.5 percent). The jobless rate was 9.1 percent for Hispanics, 10.2 percent for Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, and 11.0 percent for people of Two or More Races.

Labor market differences among the race and ethnicity groups are associated with many factors, not all of which are measurable. These factors include variations across the groups in educational attainment; the occupations and industries in which the groups work; the geographic areas of the country in which the groups are concentrated, including whether they tend to reside in urban or rural settings; and the degree of discrimination encountered in the workplace.

Economic Characteristics of Households in the United States: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Quarters 2012

August 20, 2014 Comments off

Economic Characteristics of Households in the United States: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Quarters 2012
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

This collection of seven tables for each quarter comes from the Survey of Income and Program Participation. The tables that examine the role of government-sponsored benefit programs and the labor market among the nation’s people and households within the economic climate of each quarter of 2012. Specifically, the tables present statistics on average monthly income, participation in government-sponsored social welfare or social insurance programs, and labor force activity during each period.

Prevalence of Coronary Heart Disease or Stroke Among Workers Aged <55 Years — United States, 2008–2012

August 20, 2014 Comments off

Prevalence of Coronary Heart Disease or Stroke Among Workers Aged <55 Years — United States, 2008–2012
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

Cardiovascular disease accounts for one in three deaths in the United States each year, and coronary heart disease and stroke account for most of those deaths (1). To try to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the Million Hearts initiative, promoting proven and effective interventions in communities and clinical settings. In workplace settings, cardiovascular disease can be addressed through a Total Worker Health program, which integrates occupational safety and health protection with health promotion. To identify workers likely to benefit from such a program, CDC analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) for the period 2008–2012 to estimate the prevalence of a history of coronary heart disease or stroke (CHD/stroke) among adults aged <55 years by selected characteristics, employment status, occupation category, and industry of employment. The results of that analysis showed that 1.9% of employed adults aged <55 years reported a history of CHD/stroke, compared with 2.5% of unemployed adults looking for work, and 6.3% of adults not in the labor force (e.g., unemployed adults who stopped looking for work, homemakers, students, retired persons, and disabled persons). Workers employed in service and blue collar occupations were more likely than those in white collar occupations to report a history of CHD/stroke. Two industry groups also had significantly higher adjusted prevalence ratios (aPRs) for CHD/stroke: Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services* and Accommodation and Food Service.† Workers in these occupation and industry groups might especially benefit from a Total Worker Health approach to reducing the risk for CHD/stroke.

In-work poverty in the EU

August 19, 2014 Comments off

In-work poverty in the EU
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

Having a job yet still being unable to make a living: In-work poverty is a phenomenon that affected 9,1 percent of the working age EU population in 2012. The rate of those in work and at risk of poverty has been on the rise since 2005. It applies to those with an income below 60% of the national median. In the aftermath of the crisis, wage polarisation and an increase of part-time work have led to higher rates of in-work poverty in Europe. At the same time, nearly a quarter of the overall EU population is facing the risk of poverty or exclusion.

Employment does not always protect from poverty. Whether a person is becoming “working poor” is decided by working status and household income. Analysts often see a combination of low pay, high needs and weak ties to the labour market as root causes. In general the risk is higher for single households (sole earners, especially women with dependent children), young workers and temporarily employed people as well as those with low levels of education. Paradoxically, men face a higher risk than women, even though women are more often in part-time employment with a lower salary. Yet women are more often secondary earners, meaning that the household income does not depend only on them.

CRS — Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08): Status of Benefits Prior to Expiration (August 11, 2014)

August 18, 2014 Comments off

Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08): Status of Benefits Prior to Expiration (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Until its expiration at the end of December 2013, the temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) program provided additional federal unemployment insurance benefits to eligible individuals who had exhausted all available benefits from their state Unemployment Compensation (UC) programs. Congress created the EUC08 program in 2008 and amended the original, authorizing law (P.L. 110-252) 11 times. No EUC08 benefits are currently available.

The last extension of EUC08 under P.L. 112-240, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, authorized EUC08 benefits until the week ending on or before January 1, 2014 (i.e., December 28, 2013; or December 29, 2013, in New York State). Prior to program expiration, the potential duration of EUC08 benefits available to eligible individuals depended on state unemployment rates. Figure A-1 provides the sequence, availability, and total maximum duration of all unemployment benefits prior to the expiration of EUC08.

This report summarizes the structure of EUC08 benefits available prior to program expiration at the end of calendar year 2013. It also provides the legislative history of the EUC08 program.

CRS — Compensated Work Sharing Arrangements (Short-Time Compensation) as an Alternative to Layoffs (August 8, 2014)

August 18, 2014 Comments off

Compensated Work Sharing Arrangements (Short-Time Compensation) as an Alternative to Layoffs (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists

Short-time compensation (STC) is a program within the federal-state unemployment insurance system. In states that have STC programs, workers whose hours are reduced under a formal work sharing plan may be compensated with STC, which is a regular unemployment benefit that has been pro-rated for the partial work reduction.

Although the terms work sharing and short-time compensation are sometimes used interchangeably, work sharing refers to any arrangement under which workers’ hours are reduced in lieu of a layoff. Under a work sharing arrangement, a firm faced with the need to downsize temporarily chooses to reduce work hours across the board for all workers instead of laying off a smaller number of workers. For example, an employer might reduce the work hours of the entire workforce by 20%, from five to four days a week, in lieu of laying off 20% of the workforce.

15th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey

August 18, 2014 Comments off

15th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey
Source: Transamerica

Results from the 15th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey show retirement expectations and readiness across generations. The initial report, “Three Unique Generations with Very Different Retirements Ahead of Them: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials,” offers comparisons among the three generations. The second report, “Millennial Workers: An Emerging Generation of Super Savers,” explores the youngest group of workers and spotlights their strides toward retirement readiness.

CRS — Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms: Economic, Program, and Policy Issues (August 4, 2014)

August 15, 2014 Comments off

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms: Economic, Program, and Policy Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs were authorized by Congress in the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to help workers and firms adjust to import competition and dislocation caused by trade liberalization. Trade liberalization, which is widely held to increase the economic welfare of all trade partners, can also cause adjustment problems for import-competing firms and workers. TAA has long been justified on grounds that TAA may be the least disruptive option for offsetting policy-driven trade liberalization. The TAA programs for workers, firms, and farmers represent an alternative to policies that would restrict imports, and so provides assistance while bolstering freer trade and diminishing prospects for potentially costly tension (retaliation) among trade partners.

Moving Beyond Marketing: Generating Social Business Value across the Enterprise

August 15, 2014 Comments off

Moving Beyond Marketing: Generating Social Business Value across the Enterprise
Source: Deloitte

The third annual research study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte probes executives’ views of the social business opportunity and how companies are harnessing its value. The report is based on responses from 4,803 business executives across 26 industries and 109 countries, and incorporates interviews with more than 20 executives and subject matter specialists.

This year’s research indicates that a company’s social business maturity – the breadth and sophistication of its initiatives – is a good predictor of the value derived from social business initiatives. We detail the drivers of that maturity and how companies are using social business beyond the marketing function to transform their organizations and reap greater gains.

Highlights from the 2014 report include:

  • Social business is perceived as important both today and in the future
  • Employees want to work for companies that excel at social business
  • Measurement sophistication is starting to prove the value
  • Social business maturity is related to the level of results companies achieve
  • Companies can fuel social business maturity by focusing on its three primary drivers:
    • Using social business data in decisions
    • Having a leadership vision premised on the belief that social can fundamentally change the business
    • Moving social business beyond marketing to realize that vision

The Human-Capital Needs of Tech City, London

August 15, 2014 Comments off

The Human-Capital Needs of Tech City, London
Source: Migration Policy Institute

Cities are important sites of entrepreneurship and innovation, especially for the tech industry, and skilled migrants can play critical roles in economic development in high-tech clusters such as London’s Tech City (also known as Silicon Roundabout). In the United Kingdom, an undersupply of skilled native-born developers encourages recruiters to look afield, but visa restrictions make hiring the right workers difficult. Evidence that firms are having trouble making the most of immigration point to a number of areas for policy action, as this report outlines.

A raft of policies were introduced to grow the Tech City cluster, but while the United Kingdom is reforming policies to attract and retain skilled migrant workers and migrant entrepreneurs, getting the design of these programs right has proved especially difficult. Policymakers’ control over cluster development is limited: policies that seek to map clusters and maximize their growth rarely deliver expected benefits. However, policies that are not cluster specific—such as human-capital interventions aimed at improving the international supply of workers through migration or the local supply of workers through skills training—are likely to have indirect effects that help clusters grow.

This report analyzes the importance of human capital to the development of Tech City and sets this discussion in a broader framework linking cities, digital sectors, and highly skilled immigration.

The report is part of a series from MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration focused on how policymakers at all levels can work together to help cities and regions get more out of immigration. The reports were commissioned for the Council’s eleventh plenary meeting, “Cities and Regions: Reaping Migration’s Local Dividends.”

Fatal injuries and nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving insects, arachnids, and mites

August 14, 2014 Comments off

Fatal injuries and nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving insects, arachnids, and mites
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Although not often associated with injuries and deaths at the workplace, insects, arachnids, and mites were involved in 83 fatal occupational injuries from 2003 to 2010. The majority of these workplace deaths were due to bee stings. Annual nonfatal work-related injury and illness case counts involving insects, arachnids, and mites that led to days away from work ranged from 4,930 to 6,870 between 2008 and 2010. Most of these nonfatal cases were due to stings or bites, some venomous and some nonvenomous.

This issue of Beyond the Numbers article examines fatal and nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses related to insects, arachnids, and mites using data from two Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) sources: the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) and the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII). CFOI data used here are from 2003 to 2010 and aggregated to support extended analysis. SOII data are from 2008 to 2010. BLS began publishing national SOII estimates for state and local government in 2008, so that period was chosen to keep the coverage of CFOI and SOII data in this study as comparable as possible. For this article, the term “insects” refers to the entire category, for short.

See also: Workplace Safety & Health Topics – Insects and Scorpions (CDC)

Commuter Mode Choice and Free Car Parking, Public Transportation Benefits, Showers/Lockers, and Bike Parking at Work: Evidence from the Washington, DC Region

August 13, 2014 Comments off

Commuter Mode Choice and Free Car Parking, Public Transportation Benefits, Showers/Lockers, and Bike Parking at Work: Evidence from the Washington, DC Region (PDF)
Source: Journal of Public Transportation

Municipalities and employers in the U.S. attempt to reduce commuting by automobile through commuter benefits for riding public transportation, walking, or cycling. Many employers provide a combination of benefits, often including free car parking alongside benefits for public transportation, walking, and cycling. This study evaluates the relationship between commuter benefits and mode choice for the commute to work using revealed preference data on 4,630 regular commuters, including information about free car parking, public transportation benefits, showers/lockers, and bike parking at work in the Washington, DC region. Multinomial logistic regression results show that free car parking at work is related to more driving. Commuters offered either public transportation benefits, showers/lockers, or bike parking, but no free car parking, are more likely to either ride public transportation, walk, or cycle to work. The joint provision of benefits for public transportation, walking, and cycling is related to an increased likelihood to commute by all three of these modes and a decreased likelihood of driving. However, the inclusion of free car parking in benefit packages alongside benefits for public transportation, walking, and cycling, seems to offset the effect of these incentives. Benefits for public transportation, walking, and cycling, seem to work best when car parking is not free.

Paychecks or Promises? Lessons from the Death Spiral of Detroit

August 12, 2014 Comments off

Paychecks or Promises? Lessons from the Death Spiral of Detroit
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Pay-with-promises compensation plans accumulate liability for future employee benefits, such as retiree health insurance. A simple economic model demonstrates that such plans can exacerbate fiscal crises faced by cities that experience external economic shocks, such as the departure of a major employer. City leaders often raise taxes and/or reduce public services to pay off legacy employee debts, and such steps encourage residents to move out, reducing the tax base and raising fiscal stress. Pay-as-you-go compensation plans are more prudent; they settle liabilities to employees paycheck by paycheck.

More Americans May Be Adequately Prepared for Retirement Than Previously Thought

August 12, 2014 Comments off

More Americans May Be Adequately Prepared for Retirement Than Previously Thought
Source: RAND Corporation

While many believe that Americans are in terrible shape when it comes to being financially prepared for their “golden years,” new evidence indicates that the news may not be as dire as previously thought. Moving away from previous studies that focused on income replacement rates, a recent report from the RAND Corporation looks instead at consumption in retirement to gain a better understanding of what is needed for adequate preparation. This focus on consumption reflects the fact that spending during retirement is not flat; instead, it tends to decline with age for the vast majority of people, who spend less money on travel or other leisure activities, as well as less on transportation, clothes, and other regular expenses.

Using a rich data-focused approach, RAND researchers came to the conclusion that, overall, about 71 percent of individuals ages 66–69 are adequately economically prepared to retire, given expected consumption. Other key findings — with consequences for both individuals and policymakers — indicate large disparities across subsets of the population and highlight the significant contribution of Social Security to seniors’ financial preparation for retirement.

The Silicon Valley Wage Premium

August 11, 2014 Comments off

The Silicon Valley Wage Premium
Source: Brookings Institution

Software application developers earn large salaries in the United States, $96,260 a year on average. But in metropolitan San Jose they earn $131,270, the highest in the country. There are many partial explanations for this—local cost of living, differences in education levels, experience, and industry—but none of them quite account for it. It turns out that developers living in San Jose have acquired the specific skills most valued by employers.

As the map below shows, there is a huge amount of variation in earnings for software application developers across regional labor markets. In large metropolitan areas like New York, they earn $105,000, but in Louisville, they earn just $72,000.

Workplace Stress in the United States: Issues and Policies

August 11, 2014 Comments off

Workplace Stress in the United States: Issues and Policies
Source: OECD

Despite relative affluence, workplace stress is a prominent feature of the US labour market. To the extent that job stress causes poor health outcomes – either directly through increased blood pressure, fatigue, muscle pain, etc. or indirectly through increased rates of cigarette smoking – policy to lessen job stress may be appropriate. Focusing predominantly on the United States, this report reviews the literature on a variety of economic concerns related to job stress and health. Areas in which economists may provide valuable insights regarding job stress include empirical selection concerns in identifying the effect of stress on health; measurement error with respect to stress; the existence and magnitude of compensating differentials for stress; and the unique “job lock” effect in the United States created by a system of employer-provided health insurance. This report concludes with a brief discussion of US policies related to job stress.

Top US Industries for Women

August 11, 2014 Comments off

Top US Industries for Women
Source: IBISWorld

It is undoubtedly a good time to be a female professional in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) most recent databook on women in the labor force, the unemployment rate for women was lower in 2012 than it was for men, and 38.0% of employed women aged 25 to 64 earned college degrees that year, up from just 11.0% in 1970. Data from the US Department of Education illustrates this achievement gap: in 2013, more than half of all associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees were awarded to women. The growing female share of college degrees has benefited women in the workforce; in 2011, 28.1% of wives in dual-income families made more than their husbands, marking an increase of more than 10.0% since 1987 (latest available data).

However, workplace conditions have not been entirely rosy for women. The BLS notes that women continue to represent a minority in wage and salary worker unions, and 8.3% of all female military veterans were unemployed in 2012, compared with just 6.9% of male veterans. Employed women work fewer hours per week than men, and more working women than working men live below the poverty line. Even female entrepreneurs and higher-paid working women contend with significant disadvantages in the business world; across all professions, women are estimated to earn only 82.0% of what men earn. In highly paid professions, the gap is even more egregious. For instance, female physicians and surgeons earned an estimated 28.3% less than their male counterparts in 2013.

Nevertheless, women have more opportunities today than ever before. Using its database of more than 700 industry reports, in conjunction with BLS employment statistics, IBISWorld has narrowed down six industries that offer unique employment advantages for women. These industries are characterized by strong growth in revenue and employment, particularly in the number of female workers.

Federal Reserve Board issues Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households

August 8, 2014 Comments off

Federal Reserve Board issues Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households
Source: Federal Reserve Board

In its new Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households, the Federal Reserve Board provides a snapshot of the self-perceived financial and economic well-being of U.S. households and the issues they face, based on responses to the Board’s 2013 Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking. The report provides insight into numerous topics of current relevance to household finances, including: housing and living arrangements; credit access and behavior; education and student loan debt; savings; retirement; and health expenses.

Overall, the survey found that as of September 2013 many households were faring well, but that sizable fractions of the population were at the same time displaying signs of financial stress. Over 60 percent of respondents reported that their families were either “doing okay” or “living comfortably” financially; although one-fourth said that they were “just getting by” financially and another 13 percent said they were struggling to do so. The effects of the recession also continued to be felt by many households, with 34 percent reporting that they were somewhat worse off or much worse off financially than they had been five years earlier in 2008 and 34 percent reporting that they were about the same.

As of September 2013, education debt of some kind was held by 24 percent of the population, with 16 percent having acquired debt for their own education, 7 percent for their spouse/partner’s education, and 6 percent for their child’s education.

The survey results suggest that many households are not adequately prepared for retirement. Thirty-one percent of non-retired respondents reported having no retirement savings or pension, including 19 percent of those ages 55 to 64.

The Great Recession pushed back the planned date of retirement for two-fifths of those ages 45 and over who had not yet retired, and 15 percent of those who had retired since 2008 reported that they retired earlier than planned due to the recession. Among those ages 55 to 64 who had not yet retired, only 18 percent plan to follow the traditional retirement model of working full time until a set date and then stop working altogether, while 24 percent expected to keep working as long as possible, 18 percent expected to retire and then work a part-time job, and 9 percent expected to retire and then become self-employed.

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