With the Super Bowl now behind us, it is time to zoom ahead to a popular sporting event for the financial community: handicapping the monthly employment report.
While stock and bond traders will push the markets around as part of the typically short-term reaction to this news, the thing to keep in mind is that jobs are critically important to the everyday lives of Americans and to the stability of the broader economy. It can be easy to forget that real people are affected if the economy is on a scoring run -- or losing streak.
Key reports due this week include:
- January manufacturing, from the Institute for Supply Management, due Monday at 10 a.m. (all times Eastern).
- Auto sales for January, expected from the automakers throughout the day on Monday.
- Services sector for January, from the Institute for Supply Management, due Wednesday at 10 a.m.
- January employment, from the Labor Department, due Friday at 8:30 a.m.
Remember the last report?
The previous jobs report, covering December, showed fewer-than-expected 74,000 jobs were added. A portion of that weakness was blamed on nasty winter weather in much of the country. The unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent, but largely for a not-so-welcome reason: a large number of people gave up on their job search.
During all of 2013, slightly more than 180,000 jobs a month were added by employers, on average.
So, for January…
Economists are penciling in estimates, on average, for 185,000 jobs added in January. Looks suspiciously like the average over the past year, right? That's called playing it safe, in terms of coming up with an estimate. And, little change is expected in the unemployment rate for the month.
Economist John Canally thinks there's a possibility of a positive surprise in the upcoming report, though not any indication that employers were hiring aggressively. But Canally, with LPL Financial, says the week when employers were surveyed in January was during a bit of a warm spell in the Northeast. That could give the deceptive appearance of a boost in hiring. Nevertheless, he thinks the job market is fairly steady overall.
What happens if the report suggests weakness once again? Then, people will start to question whether something more dire is happening with the economy, coming after recent declines in the stock market. "If we get a number below 170K, the markets may start to question the sustainability of the stronger growth we have seen over the past six months, especially now with the Fed moving forward with further tapering," says Scott Anderson, chief economist with Bank of the West.
How about a raise?
In the years during and after the Great Recession, Americans have largely gone without pay increases. Further evidence of this miserly experience was seen in the government's December snapshot of personal incomes and spending, which showed that incomes were flat. Similarly, the previous employment report from the Labor Department told us that average hourly earnings rose just 1.8 percent over the past year. That's hardly burning the proverbial hole in Americans' pockets. "Consumers are spending beyond their means right now and may need to rebuild savings before they can hit the stores again," says economist Anderson.
Hooray for Hollywood
For this week in business history, we go way, way, way back to Feb. 5, 1919. That's when some of the motion picture industry's leading figures -- director D. W. Griffith and actors Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford -- founded the United Artists film studio. They had the hope of breaking the stranglehold held by the big studios. United Artists still survives, but as a unit of MGM.
Follow me on Twitter: @Hamrickisms.
A battle plan for today's job market
Though we may see more evidence this week of an improving jobs picture, finding work still requires a strategy.
LISTEN TO AUDIO
From Bankrate.com, This is "Your Money This Week."
We connect the dots between what's happening in the world and your wallet.
I'm Mark Hamrick reporting from Washington.
The job market. It's been a bumpy journey over the past several years. The struggles have been there for the nation as a whole, and for individuals just looking to make a living, feeling stuck in neutral.
There has been steady improvement in the job market since the depths of the Great Recession. Still, wage gains have been lackluster. Many Americans lack skills they need to take some of the jobs that are available, particularly in technology and manufacturing.
We'll chat with Jennifer Grasz, an executive with CareerBuilder. She gives us some tips for use whether you're currently employed, just starting to search, or have been out-of-work for a while.
And Bankrate's Doug Whiteman shares a roadmap -- for use if you decide to take a left or right turn on the path to a new car insurance provider.
And, we take a look at this week in business history, with a quick trip to Hollywood.
We're hoping you'll come along for the ride.
All of that and more coming up on "Your Money, This Week."
We follow the ups and downs in the unemployment numbers, and the financial markets react.
But the fact remains millions of Americans remain out of work, and millions more would either like to get better jobs, or could use some help engaging in the job search.
That's why we like speaking with Jennifer Grasz. She's a vice president with CareerBuilder, a leading online jobs site. To begin, I asked: What are the common mistakes that people make when beginning to look for work, whether experienced or not?
Jennifer Grasz: You know, I think one of the biggest challenges that we faced post-recession was that there were industries that just experienced enormous job loss, and we're not seeing jobs coming back in the same -- at the same level that they were pre-recession, today. And so I think a lot of workers out there are now tasked with having to figure out: How do I transition my skills and experience to new industries, new fields? And that's not necessarily something that can happen overnight. But it is something that you have to make an investment in.
And one of the, I think, biggest challenges that people face is: How do I cast that wider net? How do I make myself relevant to employers beyond my comfort zone to be on the industry that I was always working at, how do I transfer those skills? Do I go back to school for a one-off class or a certification or even a formal degree so I can embark on a new career path? Do I do some on-the-job training? Do I volunteer and try to build up new skill sets? I think you see people are going to have to look at changing the course of their careers in a lot of cases especially in these industries that have not had that same job numbers come back.
Mark Hamrick: And so there's the part that has to do with preparing yourself for the workplace and then the other part of it has to do with the actual search. Now you've been operating career builder since 1995 I believe. Searching online for work was something novel back in the beginning. So how has it evolved over these many years.
Jennifer Grasz: Well, I think that there's a lot more resources available to job seekers. And you can look on national job sites. You can look on niche job sites. I think that the way job seekers interact with employers is different today. When we look at the basics, getting back to the basics of what you need to do in your job search and if you're going to look for -- I don't know if you're looking for specific tips, but especially if you're applying on an online job site, for example, you want to pay close attention to what employers are posting in their jobs. What are the requirements that they're looking for? Do your homework on that company, and you have to customize your application for each employer. And you want to do that for various industries, do that for various areas where you can transfer your skills, but pay attention to that because if you're putting relevant information from that job posting into your resume, it's going to help your resume come up higher in that employer's ranking when they're looking at applications.
I think you also want to post different versions of your resume online. I think you want to take advantage of different advice and resources that are available online and help you make connections with employers. The important thing is, you want to continue to stay on the radar screen.
Another development that we see a lot of companies using today are talent networks, where you're able to join a talent network, fill out a quick form telling the company that you're interested in working for them. You can submit your resume, and they may not have a position open for you today, but maybe they've got something that's going to come up down the line, maybe six months from now, that you may be a good fit for, and then they can reengage you then. So it's really good to make sure that you're constantly engaged with these companies.
Mark Hamrick: So you're talking about matching skills that are essentially outlined in the job listing itself. Is a fair amount of this process essentially automated where you have software screening resumes or applications and maybe throwing some out where they're lacking such information?
Jennifer Grasz: Well, I think--are you talking about the job seekers or the ...
Mark Hamrick: Yeah, well, or both I guess.
Jennifer Grasz: Yeah, I mean I think -- well, certainly there are screening tools that you can use and so you can get very advanced in your job search, you can get very specific in your job search. Same thing with employers. They can do a very general search for workers, whether they're looking at their resume database or looking through the applications they've received, or they can get very, very specific and detailed where I only want to look at people who worked in sales for X number of years who live in this particular market. I mean it can get very specific in looking at their requirements for their jobs and drill down into who are the candidates that best match that. And job seekers, when they're looking for jobs, can also put in various criteria so they get those jobs that best match what they're interested in.
Mark Hamrick: You know, we talk so often about these digital tools and I know that's a big part of your business. But the other part of it is, Jennifer, I find that with some younger people -- and these days more people are younger than me than not -- but they're more comfortable with digital tools than they are with making sort of connections with so-called real people. And I'm wondering, you know, about this question of making a real person-to-person connection. Does that remain critically important when navigating the workforce and looking for work?
Jennifer Grasz: I think it does. I think you always want to try and figure out where you can get an end road in an organization. A warm resume is going to get noticed more so than a cold resume -- something that's placed on someone's desk by someone who's vouching for you does certainly help. And you got to look at different ways to make those connections. Certainly online tools have helped to do that, facilitate that, so you can quickly grow your professional network. But it's got to go beyond the digital experience. You know, you've got to make an effort to try and connect with people, not only just directly with the employers, but also with people that might be able to get you in with those employers. And so you can do that by going to lunch with people or maybe asking for an informational interview or sending information that you think they'll find helpful. It's got to be a mutual relationship.
Mark Hamrick: And finally, big picture. As we speak the unemployment rate has dropped below seven percent now. Is Career Builder seeing that the job market is slowly improving?
Jennifer Grasz: Yeah, we do see improvements in the job market. You know, 2013 was better than 2012, 2012 was better than 2011. We think 2014 is going to be a stronger year than last year in terms of job creation. When we look at job listings on our site we can see that jobs are up across industries. They're up across company sizes. They're up across geographies. It's very different than what you'd have seen a few years ago. And so we definitely see it's headed in the right direction. We just want to see jobs getting closer to the 300,000 new jobs being created every month and having that sustained, so you can see some notable improvement in the unemployment rate. We're not quite there yet, but I think you do see improvements in industries. You do see employers feeling more confident. You see jobseekers feeling more confident. So I think that's all pointing to a better year this year.
Mark Hamrick: What about wages Jennifer? That's the area where improvement seems like it's been particularly hard to come by. Are they on the rise at all, or do you think that's on the horizon?
Jennifer Grasz: Well, I think especially when it comes to high-skill positions, so the positions where there's a shortage of labor, employers are very competitive for talent. You see a lot of that in information technology, in health care. You do see wages increasing. For the general population, the general jobs, I haven't -- we've seen some movement in that. Probably not as much as we would like to see. But hopefully, as the economy's getting stronger, you see the labor market strengthening, you're going to start to see those wages follow suit.
Mark Hamrick: Well, we'll end on that optimistic note. Jennifer, it's always great to catch up with you. Thank you so much for your time.
Jennifer Grasz: Thank you.
Mark Hamrick: Jennifer Grasz, a vice president with Careerbuilder. She spoke with us from her office in Chicago.
So you've decided to switch. For whatever reason, the time has come to change car insurance providers.
We asked Doug Whiteman, who covers the insurance industry for Bankrate, what are the next steps?
When you find a better deal on car insurance, you need to make a smooth changeover. A sloppy switch could wind up costing you.
Make the right steps when moving your auto policy from one company to another. Start by shopping around, to make sure you find the best deal on new coverage. Contact your current carrier to see if it's willing to fight for your business. See if there would be any penalties for canceling your existing policy early, because there might be a fee.
Investigate the new company. Are there a lot of online complaints about its customer service? Make certain your old policy is closed out. If you don't notify the company, it might continue to bill you, jeopardizing your credit rating.
Beware of any gap in your coverage as you move between insurers. And make a good first impression with your new carrier, because it could easily drop you if you have an accident or violation out of the gate.
For more on the steps to switching car insurance, visit Bankrate.com. I'm Doug Whiteman.
Finally, our look at this week in business history....
February 5th, 1919
In their day, 95 years ago, they were among Hollywood's leading figures: Director D. W. Griffith, and actors Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks and actress Mary Pickford. They founded United Artists with the hope of breaking the stranglehold of the big studios. United Artists survives, but as a unit of MGM.
As the four founded the studio, the advent of sound in movies had yet to unfold for theatergoers, but would bring big changes when it did.
You've been listening to Your Money, This Week.
Thanks to our guest, Jennifer Grasz with Careerbuilder.
If you enjoyed the podcast please check us out on iTunes and rate and subscribe to our program.
We're hoping you can help us get the word out. Also check out our other podcast, Special Report, with breaking news and special features.
For more on this and other personal finance issues, visit Bankrate.com. And you can follow us on Twitter @bankrate and I'm at @hamrickisms.
Thanks to Producer Amanda Rowe, for her work in the studio.
I'm Mark Hamrick. From all of us here at Bankrate, here's hoping you have a great week.