Index points to slow growth
Arlington, Texas-based research firm Decision Analyst reported that its U.S. Economic Index moved from 99 in February 2013 to 100 in March 2013, an increase of one point.
The U.S. Economic Index has essentially been flat over the past 10 months, fluctuating in a narrow range just below 100.
This pattern is a leading indicator of slow growth for the U.S. economy during 2013 — and forecasts a continuation of the economic malaise. On the positive side, the U.S. Economic Index is not yet indicating the likelihood of outright recession in 2013 (i.e., declining GDP). The feeble growth of the U.S. economy in 2013, however, does increase the risks of a recession; that is, it would not take much in the way of negative shocks to the economy to tip the U.S. into a recession.
“The U.S. economy faces many risks in 2013, as well as some upside possibilities.,” said Jerry W. Thomas, president and CEO of Decision Analyst. “On the downside, tax increases and high gasoline prices, plus sequestration in Washington, D.C., and the recession in Europe, could create barriers to U.S. economic growth. On the positive side, the U.S. could be poised for expansion in 2013 if the price of oil falls below $85 a barrel, if natural gas prices remain below $4 a thousand cubic feet, and if Corporate America begins to make major investments for the future.”
The West South Central and the New England Census Divisions are tied for the highest Economic Index, with a score of 104. The East South Central Census Division has the lowest Economic Index at 96. (See map below.)
The Index numbers for the Census Divisions are three-month moving averages, to smooth out fluctuations due to smaller sample sizes. The reported Index number averages the current month with the previous two months.
Use social media smartly when hiring
There are so many legal pitfalls to avoid when using social media in the candidate sourcing and screening processes, some employers might wonder whether it’s worth all the trouble.
The answer is yes — if it’s done carefully. Social media can significantly expand the universe of applicants and shed valuable light on job candidates — when a disciplined approach is used, experts say.
Laws and regulations tend to lag behind changes in the worlds of social media and human resources, but sound social media policies can help keep hiring and screening practices viable. In addition, they can help organizations remain competitive for top talent.
“The benefits of using social media in recruiting are clear,” said David S. Baffa, a partner with Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago. Although it’s true there is a potential for costly lawsuits against employers who misuse social media, “most of the stuff you hear about potential risks, I haven’t seen it play out in litigation.”
Avoiding discrimination charges
Perhaps the biggest concern with using social media in the hiring process is discrimination. Social media provides employers with information that they might not obtain otherwise or might not obtain until they conduct a face-to-face interview.
For example, companies generally avoid requesting photos and videos attached to resumes and application forms. But social media sites present employers with information such as race, ethnicity and approximate age. They might include information about religion, marital status, disabilities, political affiliations and other personal interests.
“In both the recruiting and screening process, you run the risk of learning and utilizing protected information,” said Eric Meyer, a partner in the labor and law practice of Dilworth Paxson in Philadelphia. “The pitfall is using it to make an employment decision.”
Allyson Willoughby, general counsel and senior vice president of people at career website Glassdoor, suggests that employers delay social media searches until after they meet candidates. “Don’t do anything different with social media than you would do with a face-to-face interview.”
Once the process moves to the screening phase, have someone other than the employment decision-maker do the screening, advises Jason Morris, president and COO of EmployeeScreenIQ in the Cleveland area. “Create a firewall between this person and the decision-maker,” he said, particularly if the screening will involve social media sites.
The screener should be armed with criteria specific to the position for which the company is hiring. He or she might be looking online for certain red flags, such as hate speech, violent tendencies or drug use that would have a direct bearing on the candidate’s potential job performance.
Employers should keep in mind that background-screening companies that use social media sites are subject to the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, under which applicants must give permission for pre-employment investigations.
Another risk to employers is that they could be sued for negligent hiring for not using information available on the Internet that might have foreshadowed bad behavior by an employee. However, legal experts say they are aware of no significant cases of this type against employers to date.
Widening the pool
A more immediate problem with using social media — particularly the most popular sites, LinkedIn and Facebook — is that subscribers do not represent the U.S. or global job-applicant pools. Recent surveys show that social media sites have lower percentages of Latino and black users than are in the general population.
That puts the burden on employers to widen their job searches through other means, such as job boards, newspapers, magazines and job fairs.
Experts urge organizations to post notices on their websites that they are equal opportunity employers and that they seek a diverse pool of applicants from many sources. And employers need to recognize there are limits to what they can and should learn.
“Employers need to be sensitive about how they get the information they need and to recognize that they may not have the right to get the information they are looking for without the employee’s permission,” said Peter J. Gillespie, an employment attorney with Fisher & Phillips in Chicago.
“Have a good policy and guidelines about the kind of information you intend to seek through social media,” said Baffa. “Why are you looking at social media? Why is it relevant to this position?”
Experts say few employers are demanding that applicants give them the passwords to their social media accounts. “It’s a terrible practice,” said Meyer.
Employers who are federal contractors have an even greater burden. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) requires that federal contractors keep detailed records on the backgrounds of job applicants and issues fines to companies it finds have discriminated against applicants.
OFCCP audits focus on the sources that contractors use to find job candidates — including social media, notes Christine Hendrickson, senior counsel for Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago.
Steve Bates is a freelance journalist in the Washington, D.C., area and a former editor for SHRM Online.
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Lufkin announces availability of Control Series tapes
Lufkin, a premium tool brand from Apex Tool Group, announced that its new Lufkin Control Series tapes are now available for purchase at Home Depot stores nationwide.
The tapes provide greater control and accuracy for construction/trades, industrial, and DIY users. The Lufkin Control Series tapes feature a unique Drag Strip feature on the bottom of the tape which allows users to regulate the feed and return of the tape by applying pressure directly to the blade with their index finger. The opening is ergonomically positioned to allow maximum control while the hand and fingers remain in a natural grip around the tape.
“The Drag Strip feature is one of the greatest design innovations in measuring tools in years,” said Tobias Bridges, product manager for Lufkin. “No other tape on the market offers this level of control, making the Lufkin Control Series a great addition to any toolbox.”
The Lufkin Control Series’ ten-foot stand out capability and co-molded rubber grip provide comfort and durability for the toughest of applications. The extra-wide end hook holds onto corners better and makes marking easier and more precise.
Additionally, the wide slide lock button is ideal for quick and easy use. Lufkin tapes consistently exceed National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards in every category, so users can be confident their measurements are consistently accurate.
The Control Series line is available in three sizes: 16’ – $12.99; 25’ – $15.99; and 30’ – $18.99 lengths.