Category Archives: Demographics

Low Employment vs. High Unemployment Around the World

As we prepare to attract, develop and retain skilled workers around the world, who works and who doesn’t work is interesting to me.  So I thought I’d share the following charts that I ran across in a collection of statistics published by the International Labor Comparisons Division of the BLS.  The first shows a comparison of the employment population ratios (proportion of the working-age population that is employed) by sex in 16 countries, adjusted to U.S. concepts.

According to the BLS definitions, employment includes all people who:

  1. worked at least 1 hour as paid employees, working in their own business, profession, or on their own farm, or worked at least 15 hours as unpaid workers in a family-operated enterprise, and
  2. all those who did not work but had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent due to vacation, illness, bad weather, childcare problems, maternity or paternity leave, labor-management disputes, job training, or other family or personal reasons, regardless of whether they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs.

(Actually, I don’t know which is more interesting, the definition of employment above or the chart that follows…)

It’s interesting to note the differences in employment percentages  between men and women. Turkey (40.7),  Mexico (33.4), the Republic of Korea (22.4) and Japan (22) all have differences of 20 points or more between the sexes’ employment rates, and Italy (19.5) is right there as well.  Those are big gaps.

But add this to the mix:  there doesn’t appear to be a strong correlation between these low employment rates of women and the overall national unemployment rates.  See the chart below:

It intuitively makes sense that South Africa with the lowest percentage of women employed in the workforce would also have the highest overall unemployment rate.  However the relationship between these two data points isn’t as consistent as we might assume across other countries.

Look at the data for Mexico, Japan and Korea.  They all report low employment rates for women and low overall unemployment rates.  Not so intuitive.

That’s what I enjoy about people related statistics.  Just when you think you’ve figured it out, the data throw you curve ball.

What do you think the story is here?  Is it fair to try to find a pattern in data like this?  What conclusions can you draw from this?

2 Comments

Filed under Bureau of Labor Statistics, China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Demographics, Employment Data, HR Data, U.S. Department of Labor, Unemployment, Unemployment Rate

Certificates: the New Associate’s Degree?

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has published a new report:  Certificates: Gateway to Gainful Employment and College Degrees. I’m a big fan of a previous report from these authors, Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018 and wrote about it here.

This new report gives a clear look under the hood of one of the staples of our post-secondary education infrastructure: the certificate.

Take a look. It’s not a hard read.

Uniquely American, certificates are widely varied in their positive impacts and largely ignored by private, public and government socioeconomic surveyors. The study’s authors contend that if certificates “with a demonstrated labor market value” were counted in official post-secondary surveys as “credentials” they would improve the U.S.’s post-secondary completion position from 15th to 10th among industrialized nations (OECD countries).

And 1 million certificates were awarded in 2010 – up from 300,000 in 1994.

Interesting data from the report include:

  • Certificates are the fastest growing form of post-secondary credentials in the U.S. increasing from 6% in 1980 to 22% today
  • 20% of certificate holders go on to get two-year degrees
  • 13% of certificate holders go on to complete four-year degrees
  • Workers with certificates earn an average 20% more than workers with just high school degrees

As talent management and HR professionals continue to struggle to find “qualified” workers to fill their openings, perhaps a new look at the experience and credentials they require might open a large segment of fully qualified workers – those with certificates instead of college degrees.

Something to think about.

5 Comments

Filed under Career Planning, Certificates, China Gorman, Demographics, Education Deficit, Employment Data, Post-secondary education, Talent Management, Talent pipeline, Unemployment

Data Point #11: Talent optimism vs. realism

We’re surrounded by all kinds of data points about the talent/skill shortage.  I wrote about it here and here.  Today we have two data points:  one comes from SHRM’s Q2 2012 Jobs Outlook Survey Report and the second comes from the BLS 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook.

SHRM’s Jobs Outlook Survey has some interesting data from a small sample of its 250,000+ members.  (This particular survey was sent to 3,000 randomly selected SHRM members with 336 members responding, for an 11% response rate.)  These quarterly JOS surveys ask HR professionals interesting questions about optimism in job growth, planned changes in total staff levels, categories of workers companies will hire and categories of workers most difficult to hire in the previous quarter.

I was particularly interested in the responses to the question asking which categories of workers were most difficult to hire in the 1st Quarter of this year.  The sample is small (n=246), so the data are directional at best, but do line up with other data sources.

This data is congruent with BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) data relative to education level attainment and the corresponding unemployment rates in April.  The higher the unemployment rate, the lower the difficulty to hire:

  • Less than high school:                                   12.5%
  • High school no college:                                  7.9%
  • Some college or Associate degree:               7.6%
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher:                         4.0%

In other words, it’s more difficult to find skilled professionals and managers in this job market because there are fewer of them unemployed and there are fewer of them overall.  It’s easier to find service workers and unskilled manual workers because more of them are unemployed and there are more of them overall.

But still, as the SHRM report highlights, employers are having difficulty in hiring at all levels.  Which makes me wonder:  are we being unnecessarily restrictive in our job specifications?  Are we hiring people with college degrees when an associate degree would suffice?  Are we requiring associate degrees when a high school degree would be adequate?  I don’t know the answer, but considering the data is interesting.

The Occupation Outlook Handbook, published by the BLS, shows the projected job growth by education category in the 2010-2020 decade:

While the number of jobs created in this decade that will require a Bachelor’s degree or higher is predicted to be nearly 5 million, the number of jobs predicted to be created requiring some college/no degree or less is nearly 13 million.

So if the key to employment (and financial) security for the average worker is a Bachelor’s degree, but the greatest numbers of jobs being created in the next decade won’t require a Bachelor’s degree, how do we reconcile this as employers?

Do we hire college educated workers for jobs that only require a high school diploma?  Are we already doing that now?

Do we work to raise the general level of worker education because we believe it’s the key to global competitiveness?

Do we encourage students to enroll in career and technical education programs in and after high school rather than college because those are the skills needed in the economy?

The data around employers having difficulty finding the talent/skills they need isn’t as simple as it looks.  It’s actually quite challenging.  Under every layer of data is another layer of data.  Solving our talent attraction and acquisition needs won’t be solved with one tactic. But it’s a safe bet that solving our talent challenges will include strengthening relationships between employers and the education infrastructure to produce the skills our economy really needs.

As I look at the data, the optimist in me says we’re covered over in opportunity.  The realist in me says we’ve got a lot of work to do and not a lot of time in which to do it.

7 Comments

Filed under Bureau of Labor Statistics, China Gorman, Demographics, Education Deficit, Employment Data, HR, Post-secondary education, SHRM, Talent Management, Talent pipeline, U.S. Department of Labor, Uncategorized, Unemployment, Unemployment Rate

Data Point # 10: The Unemployment Rate Went Down? Really?

There is no irony in data.  Except if you put two graphs side by side that tell the same but different story.

The April employment data was released on Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor, which, of course, is part of the U.S. Federal Government.  The BLS paired these two graphs together.  Chart 1 shows the civilian labor force unemployment rate from April 2010 through April 2012.  Chart 2 shows the growth (or not) of nonfarm payroll employment in the same time frame.

Given this data, it’s a little hard to understand why  the unemployment rate went down .1 point to 8.1% during a month when far fewer jobs were created than in the previous 6 months.

During the slow crawl out of the Recession, many economists and pundits positioned that for the unemployment rate to hold steady month over month, a minimum of 150,000 new jobs would need to be created in that month.  And yet the data show that in a month when only 115,000 new jobs were created and the number of employed people was down 169,000, the unemployment rate still went down.  How does that math work?

Here’s the chart that makes sense of it all direct from the BLS Employment Situation Report:

The civilian labor force actually decreased from March to April by 342,000; the number of employed people decreased 169,000; the number of unemployed people (still looking for work) dropped by 173,000; and the number of people not in the labor force grew by 522,000.  What we can’t tell is how many of the unemployed became discouraged and stopped looking for work.  They drop out of all calculations.

If we do the math, the lower unemployment rates over the last several months are not the result of job growth, but rather a shrinking civilian labor force and a decrease in the labor force participation rate.

While the numbers of the unemployed – that’s people unemployed and actively looking for work – appear to be shrinking, the numbers of people “not in the labor force” is growing.  And growing rapidly – by nearly 3 million in the last year alone.  We can’t tell from this data whether the rapidly growing number of people not in the labor force are Baby Boomers retiring (that wouldn’t be totally unexpected) or more discouraged unemployed people dropping out of the job search.  But it’s a safe bet that it isn’t entirely people – Boomers or otherwise – voluntarily leaving the workforce.

So.  The number of discouraged unemployed workers grows at the same time the number of participants in the labor force is decreasing.  And that results in a lower unemployment rate.  Maybe data is ironic after all.

How’s this scenario?  What happens when the economy and the job market really improve and the discouraged unemployed workers re-enter the job market?  Under this math, the unemployment rate could very well go up.  The more workers are in the workforce — either employed or actively looking for work — the higher the number of jobs we’ll need to create to keep the unemployment percentage even.

Bottom line:  the lowering unemployment rate isn’t about more workers going back to work at all.  It’s about more workers leaving the economy.  Really.

16 Comments

Filed under Baby Boomers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Demographics, Employment Data, U.S. Department of Labor, Uncategorized, Unemployment, Unemployment Rate

Data Point #9: Employer Loyalty Isn’t Dead? Wait. What?

MetLife published its 10th Annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends on March 19th, 2012.  At 80 pages, it’s a read.  But it’s a fascinating read.

The report shows clearly that the strong role of workplace benefits in driving employee attraction, retention and productivity continues as reported by these MetLife studies during the last 10 years and persists today during the slow economic recovery.  Interestingly, the study correlates satisfaction with benefits to employee job satisfaction, and also shows clearly that employees who are dissatisfied with their benefits are more likely to want to work somewhere else.

The data are fascinating.  And I recommend the investment of 30 minutes to read it through.

The data point that I found most interesting in the study follows:

I haven’t seen anyone discuss employer loyalty to employees in a long time.  I think I assumed, by looking at other trends, that the issue of employer loyalty was long dead.  Building employee loyalty, however, was a whole other discussion:  we call it employee engagement.  And employers are starting to pay attention to this issue because of the rapid shift in workforce demographics coming down on us like a load of bricks. (See my posts on this topic here and here.)

But where has been the focus on employer engagement? Have we all assumed that employer loyalty is dead and gone forever?  That employees “know the score” and don’t expect employers to be loyal to them?  Well, MetLife reports that between 2008 and 2011 employer loyalty scores have increased 5% from 52% to 59%!  Wait.  What?

In the same time period, however, the perception by employees that their employers are loyal to them has decreased 8% from 40% to 32%.  How pitiful is that?  Employers think they’re doing better, but employees aren’t getting the message.  And in fact, more of them aren’t getting the message as time goes on.

I think this is interesting.  Despite all the attention being paid to employee engagement – through salary, through benefits, through recognition, through providing strong ethical cultures, through providing meaningful and interesting work — in fact, the study finds evidence of a widening disconnect between employers and employees.

Job insecurity and expectations that benefits will be cut may well be contributing to employees feeling less important to their employers.  This “loyalty gap” presents an immediate opportunity for HR and C-Suite leaders to really step up communication and feedback about their increased loyalty.  Of course, the proof is in the pudding, and for employees to believe that their employer is growing more loyal to them, they are going to have to see a change in behavior – if they stick around long enough.

6 Comments

Filed under China Gorman, Culture, Demographics, Employee Benefits, Employee Loyalty, Employer Loyalty, Engagement, MetLife, Talent pipeline, Uncategorized

Data Point #8: Risk of talent and skills shortages

I recently came across a fascinating report published by Lloyd’s, the world’s leading market for specialist insurance.  Lloyd’s Risk Index is based on a survey of global business leaders by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and Lloyd’s.  It’s the second of its kind, the first having been published in 2009.  The survey is global and breathtaking in its scope.  It measures the top 50 Priority Risk factors for business – as identified by business leaders – as well as measuring how prepared businesses are to face these identified risks.

The headline for this survey is that business has gone from identifying credit as one of the biggest business risks in 2009 to focusing on talent as one of the biggest risks in 2011 and beyond.

As I read the report (see it here), I am struck that in the top 50 individual risks, as many as 12 have to do with people:  talent shortages, impact of regulation, demographic shifts, population growth, industrial/workplace accidents, changing legislation and others.

The respondent profiles are from more than 500 C-Suite executives (although it doesn’t look like CHROs were included) from large global enterprises.  The survey rated their attitudes regarding risk and their preparedness to face risks across five key categories:

  • Business and strategic risk
  • Economic regulatory and market risk
  • Political, crime and security risk
  • Environmental and health risk
  • Natural hazard risk

As the report explains, anything high on an executive’s risk priority list can be considered in terms of a potential critical point of failure of business.  So we’re talking big risks here.  Identified by board members and C-Suite executives in the largest global businesses in the world.

So of all 50 identified risks, guess what made the number two spot?  Talent and Skills Shortages (Including Succession Risk).  Woah.  Here’s what it looks like:

Talent and Skills Shortages — Priority and Preparedness by Region

The big headline for me is that more than 500 of the business leaders of largest businesses in the world agree that that the talent shortage is real.  That it’s big.  And it’s global.  And it threatens every business.

The second big headline is that this evaluation is being made by business leaders who do not identify themselves as HR Executives.  And that’s big.  If the board members and C-Suite executives of the largest enterprises in the world believe that the second biggest risk to their success is the looming talent shortage, then HR better be prepared with solutions for critical talent acquisition, retention and development.  And they better be prepared today.

9 Comments

Filed under Business Success, Corporate Risk Management, Demographics, Economist Intelligence Unit, Lloyd's, Talent pipeline

HR Rockstar Tour

If you live in Dallas, Chicago, New York, Miami, Los Angeles or San Francisco I’d like to invite you to attend a complimentary seminar that introduces and discusses groundbreaking new research and analysis about Recognition and Rewards.  Sponsored by the good folks at Achievers, this will be great morning with a little breakfast, a little networking, a couple of HRCI credits — and a whole lot of new data about what’s working to engage employees more effectively.  Join me, Josh Bersin and Razor Suleman.  I guarantee that you’ll leave smarter than when you arrived.  It happens to me every time I’m with Josh and Razor.  It can happen for you too.  Just  send an email to Loren Maisels at Achievers asking for an invitation (Loren@achievers.com) or call her at 415-967-7809.  Tell her I invited you.

2 Comments

Filed under Achievers, China Gorman, Demographics, Engagement, Josh Bersin, Razor Suleman, Rewards & Recognition, Uncategorized

Data Point #5: We Can’t Succeed Without Baby Boomers

In earlier Data Point Tuesday posts (here and here) I’ve recommended the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website as a treasure trove of talent management related data.  Another great source of useful information is SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management.

SHRM’s research group works tirelessly to bring relevant, actionable trend and survey information to its members.  And if you aren’t a member (why aren’t you?), the value of SHRM’s research services alone is more than the cost of membership. *

Workplace Visions is part of SHRM’s Workplace Trends and Forecasting program and is published multiple times each year – as new data become available.  The reports are useful signposts for new developments that impact organizations, talent management and HR professionals.

The first such report published this year is “Changes to Retirement Benefits:  What HR Professionals Need to Know in 2012” (member protected).  It’s full of useful observations about changes coming to 401(k) plan rules, Social Security changes to keep an eye on and great data from EBRI (The Employee Benefits Research Institute).

One of the discussion points piqued my interest:  data from EBRI about the reduction in confidence by Baby Boomers that they will have enough money in their retirement years to live comfortably.  See the chart below.  This has big potential impact for employers.

The aha! is that while a steady stream of Americans still plan to retire in their early to mid-60s, many more workers are unsure when they’ll be able to retire – or if they’ll be able to retire.  As you can see from the chart, in 2007 70% of EBRI survey respondents reported some level of confidence in their retirement plans.  That number fell to 49% in 2011.  SHRM also cites data from Towers Watson surveys with similar outcomes.

What does this mean for talent management professionals?  Well, SHRM thinks that providing a stronger hand in retirement planning and financial education for Baby Boomers will help reduce retirement-related anxiety.  I absolutely agree.

Additionally, though, SHRM counsels HR professionals to “weigh the positives and negatives of employing an older workforce.”   They counsel that “older workers are often costlier to keep on board, due to higher salaries and health benefits costs.” Woah.  The  thought that employers will have robust options besides Baby Boomers and other older workers to staff their organizations isn’t supported by the demographic trends.

My take is a little different.  Here’s what the data say:

  • the U.S. population is growing more slowly leading a more slowly growing civilian work force (http://bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecopro.pdf),
  • the Baby Boom generation moves entirely into the 55-years-old+ age group by 2020 and will represent 25.2% of the work force (up from 13.1% in 2000)
  • the “prime-age” labor cohort (ages 25-54) is projected to drop to 63.7% (from 71.1% in 2000) of the work force

So the engagement, development and retention of Baby Boomers and other older workers will be a very critical part of most organizations’ talent strategies because they’ll make up 25% of the available work force.  Providing incentives to stay, financial education for pro-active retirement planning and unique engagement strategies — among others — will all be part of talent strategy in 2020.  There won’t be any weighing the positives and negatives of employing an older workforce.  But there will be significant effort spent in figuring out how to keep the Baby Boomers’ skills, talents,and  organizational knowledge in play in the work force — and in our organizations.

At 25% of the available workforce, there won’t be other options.  We won’t be able to succeed without Baby Boomers.

*Full Disclosure:  I am SHRM’s former Chief Operating Officer

8 Comments

Filed under Baby Boomers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Success, China Gorman, Demographics, Employment Data, HR, Retirement Planning, Talent Management, Talent pipeline, U.S. Department of Labor