Weddles is a Great HR and Job Resource

Anne Fisher is a writer for Fortune and she recently turned me on to Weddles.com. Its a no nonsense website with many resources geared toward job seekers and recruiters. I recommend anyone that is interested in the HR field or looking for job should consult this site at some point in the process. It won’t hurt.

Baby Boomers are 62

The average baby boomer is now 62 years old. 62 is a significant age for a couple of obvious reasons. First is that means the social security office will start cutting a lot of checks. Second is that a massive amount of leadership and knowledge is eligible to leave the workforce.

First reason

One of the largest generations in American history will now access the reserves (which they paid for). Fortunately, this group benefited from productivity gains throughout their lifetimes and that coorelated to more income/saving streams – 401k, Pensions, and improved financial planning. This a good thing because there will be 72 million people needed improved health care. Social Security is the cherry on top… until 2019.

Second reason

As 72 million people start to pay to live longer, a new realm of innovation opportunity exists. But who will identify it and who will lead it? Will the groups behind the baby boomers be talented enough to take advantage of this situation? It practically begs for the baby boomers who aren’t retired to start the plan for those coming behind them to use. Its like a treasure map.

Time will tell.

Types of Intelligence and Challenge Approaches

I’ve recently documented the different types of thinking that exists. I just kind of came up with a list through observation. I had scientific intelligence (deductive and inductive reasoning), social intelligence, and creative intelligence. As I read the NY Times online this past weekend I read a great piece by Janet Rae-Dupree called Can You Become a Creature of New Habits? The writing is good on several levels – from talking about cognitive tools for staving off Alzheimer’s to a Japanese technique called kaizen.

According to the article, researchers in the 1960s discovered four methods that humans use to solve challenges. They are: analytically, procedurally, relationally (collaboratively), and innovatively. So if you pair these with my types of intelligence you start to get a complex individual. But as the author points out, the need for analytical and procedure approaches to problem solving is rewarded in our test taking criteria. The other two are neglected to the point of wither. But not everyone is the same and learning is different depending on your strengths.

Here are a few excerpts from the writing:

So it seems antithetical to talk about habits in the same context as creativity and innovation. But brain researchers have discovered that when we consciously develop new habits, we create parallel synaptic paths, and even entirely new brain cells, that can jump our trains of thought onto new, innovative tracks.

The current emphasis on standardized testing highlights analysis and procedure, meaning that few of us inherently use our innovative and collaborative modes of thought. “This breaks the major rule in the American belief system — that anyone can do anything,” explains M. J. Ryan, author of the 2006 book “This Year I Will…” and Ms. Markova’s business partner. “That’s a lie that we have perpetuated, and it fosters mediocrity. Knowing what you’re good at and doing even more of it creates excellence.”

“Whenever we initiate change, even a positive one, we activate fear in our emotional brain,” Ms. Ryan notes in her book. “If the fear is big enough, the fight-or-flight response will go off and we’ll run from what we’re trying to do. The small steps in kaizen don’t set off fight or flight, but rather keep us in the thinking brain, where we have access to our creativity and playfulness.”

Simultaneously, take a look at how colleagues approach challenges, Ms. Markova suggests. We tend to believe that those who think the way we do are smarter than those who don’t. That can be fatal in business, particularly for executives who surround themselves with like-thinkers. If seniority and promotion are based on similarity to those at the top, chances are strong that the company lacks intellectual diversity.

April 2008 Jobs Report and Wages

Here are the job market and compensation numbers for April 2008 (based on the job report):

Net loss of 20,000 jobs in the month (revised to a loss of 28,000)

  • 4th consecutive month of labor reduction
  • March had a loss of 81,000, so a loss of 20,000 is moving in the right direction
  • Analysts expected a loss of 75,000 jobs for April
  • 260,000 jobs have been lost so far in 2008 (first four months of the year)
  • That is an average of 65,000 a month
  • During the 2001 recession the average was 121,000 jobs lost a month and in same period in 1990 it was an average of 123,000
  • But it was a jobless recovery from 2001, so companies might already be lean in comparison to those times
  • Strangely, the corresponding household survey that includes self-employed individuals saw a net increase of 173,000 people joining the workforce in the month (this is a volatile survey).

Unemployment rate moved  down to 5.0%

  • Economists expected the rate to increase to 5.2% rather than a drop to 5.0%
  • Part time workers increased to 306,000. These are people that want full time jobs.
  • This improves the unemployment rate, but reflects a weak job market
  • This is the highest number since November of 2005
  • Unemployment length increased in April to 9.2 weeks from 8.1 weeks in March
  • Taking into consideration those no longer looking for work and added to those looking, that number is 9.2% – a 0.1% rise from March
  • Those not looking for work rose from 399,000 last year to 412,000 this April
  • Those jobless for at least 27 weeks, AKA long term unemployed, rose last month to 17.8% from 16.7% in March
  • The 12 month average unemployment now stands at 4.5%
  • An employment number of 6% isn’t expected this year, compare that to similar situation: 1992 was 7.8% and 6.3% in 2003


Wages increased a penny to $17.88

  • Smallest increase in almost two years
  • The rate of growth of wages has dropped since the end of 2006
  • Over the last year, average weekly wages are up 3.1%
  • Costs of food and energy are canceling out that improvement
  • Inflation over the same period (12 months) is 4%, indicating pay isn’t staying in line
  • Companies are reducing work hours (trying to avoid layoffs until economy picks up)
  • 33.7 weekly hours is a drop from 33.8 in March (correlating to the increase in part time work)
  • The number of part time workers is 5.2 million.
    • It was 4.9 million in March
  • As a percentage of the population, part time workers are at their highest amount since 1995
  • The average weekly pay for normal workers is $602.56 (adjusted for inflation).
    • That is down $3.55 in April (this is for 80% of the population)
  • Because of the narrow increase in pay and the reduced number of hours worked, the weekly wages suffered its biggest drop in almost two years

Specific Segment Job numbers:

  • Manufacturing loss 46,000 jobs in April
    • 326,000 in the last year
  • Construction loss 61,000 jobs
  • Retailers loss 26,800 jobs
  • Health Care gained 37,000 jobs
  • Professional and business services (architects, accountants, and management consultants) added 39,000 jobs
    • This number is questioned however, and expected to be revised
    • There was a loss of 44,000 last month
  • The financial sector added 3,000 jobs
    • This is after 8 months of losses due to the credit situation
  • Restaurants and bars employed and additional 18,000 people
    • This is often an indication of an improving economy since people are eating out more often
  • 29,000 total jobs were lost in the private sector
    • It is the 5th straight month of losses outside of government payrolls

Question:

Is this report the tipping point back to a positive economy or is it just a fluke month of reports?

Job Report Statistics Index Page

Manufacturing Jobs Not Stolen

David Brooks is an Op-ed writer for the NY Times. I mostly just gloss over what he writes for whatever reason. But today he had a point that I’ve recently touched on indirectly – manufacturing jobs.

As Mr. Brooks says in today’s piece called The Cognitive Age globalization is convenient for politicians because blaming someone that can’t vote insults no one. But does blaming faceless entities accomplish anything? Not really – every four years it is the same song and dance.

But Mr. Brooks really highlights the issue, technology. Jobs aren’t being lost to foreign countries like politicians say. Jobs are being lost to computer systems. Why? Because the job was routine to begin with. The current person doing the job is in the unfortunate position of being in a job that needs his level of skills at this point in time. If he was more educated or had more diversity in his skill set then he probably wouldn’t be in the job in the first place. But once the job is automated the person that is displaced is expected to use their other skills to get a new job. But those skills either don’t exist or have been neglected.

For more information as to where his is headed, check out Daniel Pink. He has several great ideas for people to latch onto while doing a gig that is routine.

Increasing Your Brain Power?

There are many tools people use to keep their mind sharp. For some it is the cross word puzzle in the paper or chess or playing a musical instrument. Now there are electronic games specifically from Nintendo called Brain Age that markets itself as tool implying it will improve your chances of staving off Alzheimer’s. But is keeping your mind sharp the same as improving its overall ability?

There is an article posted on Guardian by Emine Saner that argues against the true ability of the examples I listed. The article, called Is brain training really the best way to boost your IQ,? points out that much of the success people see from repeatedly playing these games is from practice and pattern recognition, not necessarily from from unlocking new abilities. I agree with this point of view to an extent. It is very focused on a certain type of thought, but there are multiple types. What tends to be valued now and called intelligence is closer to how scientists think – using deductive and inductive reasoning. But there is social intelligence and creative intelligence as well (there are more beyond those two as well). I could argue that those two are actually more valuable to society because the payout is multifaceted, but that is for another day.

But back to the cognitive portion of the brain. The NY Times ran an article recently called Memory Training Shown to Turn Up Brainpower by Nicholas Bakalar. This article describes a medical study that observed (deductive and inductive reasoning) volunteers complete comprehensive memory games that adjusted to their ability (constantly challenging them) and then had them take tests. The results show an improvement because of the memory games. There was a control group as well so the two results were compared to make sure that the results weren’t just from better test taking from experience. But as I mentioned above, it is just one type of thinking that is being improved.

To repeat what Saner says in the Guardian, getting outside and interacting with others is also a good way to improve your brain.