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Employers, employees face different challenges

We’ve been talking about high unemployment for a few years now, and we have different ideas of what that means. Although the unemployment rate has been as high as 12.4 percent between the start of the Great Recession in December, 2007 and the present, the actual number of people who have been continuously idle for all of those years is relatively small. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in January 2013, the latest month for which they have numbers completed, there were 3.7 million jobs available in different fields across the nation. That might not seem like a lot when there were 14.3 million people categorized as unemployed.

However, the numbers take on a different meaning when the bureau reports that during January, 4.2 million people were hired and 4.1 million were separated from employment. A separation can be a quit, layoff, retirement or other termination. These numbers have been repeated with little significant difference for most of the past couple of years. What it means is that unemployment is a fluid number. People are constantly moving in and out of jobs.

Employers and employees experience challenges filling many of the openings. Some of these challenges are the result of changes over which they have no control, but many are self-initiated, difficulties brought on by hiring practices, attitudes about employment, unreasonable expectations and lack of foresight.



Perhaps the greatest current challenge expressed by businesses, especially small to medium-sized businesses, is the effect the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, known as ACA or Obamacare, will have on them. Donna Lattanzio, CEO of Millenium Staffing in Las Vegas, sums it up: “For Millenium Staffing and its clients, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is probably one of the biggest challenges facing us today.”

This sentiment is echoed by Jennifer DeHaven, Millenium Staffing’s president. “The ACA is a big additional cost no matter if we pay or play: to pay the mandated penalty or to provide insurance for all eligible employees and their dependents,” she said. “This is a cost that can’t be absorbed into the skinny margins inherent in the staffing industry, and thus we also face the challenge of addressing increased fees to our clients.”

The uncertainty surrounding the act’s changes looming on the horizon may be slowly vanishing. However, not knowing has some companies scrambling for solutions, while others are frozen in place, unsure of what to do. Many are worried that the outcome will have little to do with either patient protection or affordable care. Watch for a discussion on the upcoming changes in this section in May.


Although Obamacare dominates the spotlight, other issues are brought on by the rise and fall of the great recovery. The competition for qualified employees has heated up.

Brian Wolf, executive recruiter for Manpower Professional, a division of Manpower Inc. of Southern Nevada, thinks that some employers act too slowly in making a hiring decision and lose out on some top quality talent. Not long ago, an employer could take their time; the jobs were scarce and the candidate wasn’t going anywhere.

“The market has turned; candidates are now in demand. If it takes an employer three to five months to make a decision, by that time the prime candidate has found a position with another employer,” Wolf said.

Some employers find that the pool of talent they are accustomed to is drying up. Employers got used to having many highly skilled candidates to fill openings. During the recession, the number of newly laid off job seekers with excellent skills were elbowing out lesser skilled competitors for low- to mid-level jobs. Employers could easily find excellent employees with the right skills and qualifications.

Things have changed. Brigitte Hendon, conventions manager for Manpower, said, “People working in lower paying jobs need to move up. Positions are becoming more labor intensive; employers want higher skills for lower jobs.”

The situation will evolve as the economy strengthens and people apply for the jobs that match their qualifications. It was good while it lasted, but times are changing.

Even as the economy strengthens, much of the job market will look different from a few years ago. The needs of workers are changing, and they are demanding changes in their work lives.

Carl Camden, CEO of Kelly Services, as reported in a recent issue of the McKinsey Quarterly, said, “So jobs aren’t permanent, locations aren’t permanent, and workers are returning back to what I would call a free-agent type of work style. Independent contractors, part-time employees … temporary employees, consultants who move in and out of the workforce — that group of individuals in most of the industrialized world is already 25 to 35 percent of the workforce, on its way to becoming 50 percent of the workforce, I think, over the next decade.”


The demand for workers with IT skills is increasing faster than colleges and universities are putting them out.

Cottia Bender, director of executive search for Millenium Staffing, said, “We have seen an increase of technical positions at all levels hitting the market in Las Vegas. However, Las Vegas continues to have a shortage of IT professionals who have the credentials and education needed for these positions.” DeHaven agreed. “There is a huge increase in demand for technology talent . Most companies feel the pressure to acquire this talent, and yet there is a limited supply, especially in our market.

“Thankfully, the (Southern Nevada’s) schools are doing their best to educate a segment of the workforce to meet the demand. Unfortunately, we still have to reach out of our marketplace to import this talent.”

Although the need for IT talent tops the list of needs in the Las Vegas Valley, other industries are finding it difficult to obtain the talent they thought would be available as the economy recovers.

“There are several sectors that are experiencing difficulties hiring talent: mortgage banking, commercial construction and home builders are some of these sectors,” Lattanzio said. “These industries seek employees with recent experience, yet due to the downturn in hiring in these sectors for the past few years, finding talent with recent experience becomes a struggle.

“Employers have unrealistic expectations of paying lower salaries and that there is an abundance of candidates readily available. Many of these niche industry candidates have relocated out of state for work or have moved into other fields.”

As of May 2012, most employers can no longer ask on the initial application if a candidate has been convicted of a crime. Only during a subsequent interview can an employer ask a candidate if he has a criminal record. Misdemeanors can be sealed after five years and most felonies can be sealed after 10 years.

If all criminal convictions have been sealed, the candidate is not required to disclose that information. The job seeker can simply state that he or she has no criminal record. The employer is not allowed to pursue the matter further without a valid reason.

This new law has made for some interesting methods for employers to still get the information they want. For example, Gary Hopkins, transportation manager for Staffmark in Las Vegas, said, “Some trucking companies require a prospective driver to have a hazmat certification (the ability to transport hazardous materials). The companies know that to be hazmat-certified, a person cannot have been convicted of a felony.”

Unfortunately, this requirement also eliminates some otherwise qualified drivers who do not have a felony conviction but are not certified.


On the other side of the aisle, employees face their own challenges. For most who have had a difficult time finding employment, the challenge is not always in finding a job; it’s being realistic about expectations. There are jobs available and there are people being hired. The problem is it is taking much longer to find a job.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics chart below shows significant increases in the amount of time it takes for the unemployed to become employed. The numbers are through February 2011, the latest accurate numbers available.

As the chart indicates, the number and percent of job seekers who have been unemployed for 27 weeks and longer have more than doubled since 2007 to more than 40 percent of the total number of the unemployed.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was 6.0 million in February 2011.


Perhaps the next greatest challenge facing employees is in the selection or reselection of a career path that will most likely provide employment for the long term. Not everyone will be able to return to the same salary, same job or even same industry they left when they do find work.

If you are not fortunate enough to have experience in a field that is in demand and growing, then, according to Manpower’s Wolf, “Expectations must change — the salary of the past may not be available. It may be necessary for a candidate to take a lower position to get their foot in the door and move up from there.”

“Employees face the age-old economic factors of supply and demand,” Millenium’s Lattanzio said. “There is an abundance of highly educated and highly qualified individuals (in some declining fields) that are underemployed, who now are seeking opportunities closer to what they had before the economic bust. However, there are still very few positions opening up in those fields and the salary offers are lower.

“Prospective employers also shy away from hiring over qualified individuals for fear that once hired, these employees will leave during the turn around.”

DeHaven offers some insight. “It has always been true that how you present your information is key,” she said. “If you are overqualified for the position you are applying for, then present why this experience will be a plus: the value of you as a resource, and your recognition that you need an opportunity to update your skills as well. In other words, you need them for experience and to make a living, but that your experience will increase their productivity. Quantify this — no fluff — just hard core facts with performance metrics and percentages.”


This situation may be especially difficult for older workers with years of experience . The recession devastated their nest eggs and they find that retirement has to be delayed. They may not have time to go back to school and get re-educated.

If you fall into this group, additional help is available through such resources as AARP, on its Workreimagined.org website, which combines career advice, job listings and online discussion groups. Another resource for older job seekers is found at Retirementjobs.com, where a search engine lists thousands of nationwide jobs by companies actively seeking workers over the age of 50.

Many older workers are turning to work-at-home solutions that give income with flexible schedules better suited to near-retirement individuals. However, before jumping into any situations that offers work-at-home opportunities, make sure they are legitimate. There are hundreds of scams targeting older workers with too-good-to-be-true opportunities. Never forget that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


Yorbanna Sanchez, branch manager of Manpower’s North Las Vegas office, thinks there is a mismatch in what employees say they want and what they are willing to take.

“Employees will come in and say that they are willing to do anything; then when they receive an offer they turn it down because they don’t want to work for that wage,” she said.

Expectations on what an employee wants and what an employer is willing to give have always been an issue; however, expectations in the new economy may require adjustment on both sides. Marsha Werber, regional manager at Manpower, still finds it difficult to find qualified candidates.

“Even lower paid candidates need computer skills, but many are not motivated to get them,” she said.

If you’re having difficulty finding an opportunity, Wolf has some suggestions for candidates. “Keep your resume updated, keep skills sharp, apply for positions you have skills in, whether cashier or controller,” he said. “Train, take an internship or externship and be willing to start at entry level or at least lower than you had.”

And a final word from DeHaven: “A quick review of job boards and postings will show what employers are looking for in respective fields. Yes, skill set requirements are changing, but that has always been the name of the game. I would encourage people not to be discouraged, do their homework on what is being requested, and then do a quick course on updating their core competency. Remember the importance of a good resume and an enthusiasm to learn and change.”

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