The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published a mixed bag of news week before last. While the unemployment rate fell from 8.5% in December to 8.3% in January, the number of mass layoff events in January grew by 50 over the previous month. (A mass layoff event involves at least 50 workers from a single employer.) The total number of employees involved in these events, however, was reduced month-over-month by 15,728. So while more employers were downsizing in January, fewer employees were impacted. Good news, right? Maybe…
Looking at the trend lines in the chart below, HR professionals may scratch their heads and wonder what is different in January 2012 from April 2008? The number of initial claims are similar: 128,643 in April 2008 vs 129,920 in January 20102. But the unemployment rate is significanttly dissimilar: 5% unemployment in April 2008 vs. 8.3% unemployment in January 2012. What’s going on?
Clearly, the lagging effects of the economic downturn which began to gather steam in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2008 are still being felt. The resulting embedded base of unemployed workers continues to weigh heavily on the U.S. economy and the unemployment rate despite the falling numbers of layoff events and impacted workers.
So how is this data useful for HR professionals? Simple. Putting the long-time unemployed back to work has to be job #1 in our organizations and our communities. As your organization plans to grow its employee base — whether with contract, temporary or full-time employees — what are your plans to target the long-term unemployed for inclusion in the talent pipeline?