College Pays Off Despite Recession

Those who graduated from college in 2008 often say it wasn’t the best time to be entering the working world. As graduates were searching for those first jobs, the economy was shedding them and the world was plunging into recession. If those prospects weren’t dire enough, many of those graduates were also carrying debt from student loans.

Those millennials, however unlucky, fared better than their non-college-educated counterparts, though.

A new longitudinal study from the National Center for Education Statistics – the primary collector of student data on the federal level – found these results by taking a sample of students who were high school sophomores in the 2001-02 academic year and tracking them through 2012. The nationally representative sample was measured for a variety of factors – co-habiting, marriage, unemployment, underemployment, student debt carried – but the economic breakdown in those categories between those who attained a postsecondary degree and those who didn’t is especially telling.

Even though the timing of graduating might not have been ideal, attaining a four-year degree was still a good economic move for these millennials, on average, according to the report, which attempted to control for outside factors in its economic modeling. Put simply, even in the face of a recession, going to college still paid off.

“Individuals with less education had higher unemployment rates, while those with more education had higher employment rates and were more likely to be working full-time,” the report stated.

By 2012, 78% of those who had earned a bachelor’s degree were working more than 35 hours a week. Eleven percent were working fewer than 35 hours, 5% were unemployed and 6% were out of the labor force.

Of the members of the cohort who only had high school degrees, 64% were employed 35 hours or more a week, with 12% working fewer than 35 hours – similar to the number of those with a bachelor’s degree – and 14% and 10% were unemployed and out of the labor force, respectively.

In addition to employment, earning power was also differentiated along educational lines. Those surveyed who had a bachelor’s degree earned, on average, $17 an hour. Those surveyed with a high school diploma earned, on average, $13.

The study notes that it’s still early to be drawing overly expansive conclusions from its data.

“It is important to note that this section only addresses cohort members’ early career and labor market outcomes,” it reads. “At age 25-26, many individuals are just starting their careers; some are still enrolled in undergraduate or graduate studies; and others will return to school for additional training later in their careers.”

Still, as the study notes, early labor data is often correlated with later outcomes.

What To Do About Negative References

Reference checking is often viewed as a routine matter. But not for the company or the job seeker when certain information is shared.

Allison & Taylor, a company engaged in the reference business for more than 30 years, offers the following:

It’s an all-to familiar scenario – a job seeker with strong employment credentials has interviewed well, and received positive feedback from a prospective employer.  After being asked to provide a list of references, communications suddenly stop; no explanation is provided, and the job seeker’s attempts to follow up elicit a vague “we decided to go in a different direction” statement.

What is happening here?

While there may be multiple reasons why a prospective employer has suddenly lost interest, one possibility is that a reference they’ve contacted has offered negative commentary about the job seeker.  When this happens, the employer begins to see the job seeker as an employment risk, and it’s highly likely that the entire process will stutter to a stop.

The employment process can be tricky, and there are three common ways that an unfavorable reference can derail even the most promising job prospect:

  1. The Supervisor Dilemma – A potential employer will often ask, “May we contact your former supervisor?”  If they are told “no”, it sends up a red flag and makes the employer wonder what a job seeker has to hide.  If the contact is permitted, a job seeker runs the risk that the reference may offer some negative feedback – supervisors often give a mix of favorable and unfavorable commentary about their former subordinates.    
  2. HR’s Influence – Human resources, which most former employees feel is a “safe” reference bet, can actually be quite problematic.  While company policy may not allow them to provide damaging commentary, they may indicate that the employee is not eligible for rehire or suggest that the separation was due to involuntary, unfavorable circumstances.  
  3. “Do Not Hire” – Still another possibility is that a job seeker is on a former employer’s “do not hire” list.  This could be due to any number of reasons, including a failed background check, minor corporate infractions or resume fraud. While most U.S. hiring managers rarely admit that they keep such records, they do exist.

Allison & Taylor reports that approximately half of all reference checks it conducts reveal negative input from the reference.

Job Losses Have Lasting Impact

The ripple effects of large-scale job losses linger for years and can keep adolescents from attending college later in life, according to new research carrying significant ramifications for policy makers, college recruiters and counselors.

Poor middle school and high school students who live through major job losses in their region attend college at significantly lower rates when they are 19 years old, according to new research published in the journal Science. A 7% state job loss when a student is an adolescent is tied to a 20% decline in likelihood that the poorest young people will attend college.

Local job losses hurt adolescent mental health, researchers found. Job losses also cut academic performance. The negative impacts are not limited to children from families where parents lost jobs – they extend to those who witness their friends, neighbors and others in the community being affected by layoffs.

Researchers argue that large-scale job losses are not simply economic events touching directly affected families. They are community-level traumas, said Elizabeth O. Ananat, an associate professor of public policy studies and economics at Duke University who is one of the lead authors of the paper appearing in Science.

“Worse mental health and worse test scores, they are all going to be blows to you that knock you off the path,” Ananat said. “That was a difficult path to begin with.”

In the economic theory, a student may have watched their father lose his job when a mine closed. Or they watched a friend’s mother be laid off when the local factory downsized. Those students should then be drawn to a college education because of the promise of larger financial returns and more stable employment in the newly developing knowledge economy.

In other words, economic theory has tended to focus on the idea that a shrinking pool of blue-collar jobs increases the relative return on investment of a college education. But it’s not working that way in the real world.

“Economists tend to think about it as a change in relative prices – the return changes,” Ananat said. “They miss the fact that it’s an emotional blow, like another kind of community trauma would be.”

Report: Competency Focus Mostly on Adults

Three states considered bills that would have enacted competency-based education policies in 2016 and five considered such bills in 2017, according to a new report from the Education Commission of the States.

A number of states (including New Hampshire) and districts (including Chicago) are using or contemplating competency-based learning in K-12 schools. A group of prestigious private high schools recently began pushing for colleges to accept competency-based high school transcripts, which highlight students’ skills and accomplishments instead of more-traditional grades.

But the state legislatures seem to mostly be contemplating how to use competency-based education to serve adults. Lexi Anderson, the report’s author, notes that states’ competency-based education bills mostly target the growing population of people over 25 who are enrolled in postsecondary education.

“[C]ompetency-based education serves to award credit/degrees to students for meeting specific skill competencies agreed upon by faculty, industry leaders, and workforce representatives,” she writes. “This innovative delivery model could create greater access to postsecondary education for returning adults, low-income students, and working adults needing additional skills.”

Number of Independent Workers Continues to Climb

The independent workforce continues to grow and mature, even as the economy continues to rebound and the unemployment rate declines, according to MBO Partners, the nation’s largest provider of business services and tools to the self-employed and companies that engage them. The company released its 2017 State of Independence in America report, the country’s longest-running end-to-end survey of the American independent workforce.

According to the new report, the total number of self-employed Americans aged 21 and above rose to 40.9 million in 2017, up 2.8% from 2016. Independents, who now represent about 31% of the U.S. civilian labor force, are distributed across every demographic, age, gender, skill and income group.

Over 40% of the U.S. adult workforce reports either currently working or having worked as an independent at one time during their careers. Over the next five years, MBO Partners projects that fully half of the U.S. adult workforce will have experienced what independent work can offer.

Independents work in all segments of the U.S. workforce and are of vital impact to our economy, generating roughly $1.2 trillion of revenue for the U.S. economy, equal to about 6% of U.S. GDP.

Three key trends emerged from this year’s study:

  • The number of high earning independents rose for the sixth year in a row. Ongoing economic expansion enables those whose skills are in high demand to get more work and to command a premium for their services. Now, 3.2 million full-time independents make more than $100,000 annually, up 4.9% from 2016 and an annualized increase of more than 3% each year since 2011.

  • More Americans are seeking to supplement their income with part-time independent work or “side gigging.”Though the economy is getting stronger, the typical American worker has seen very little – if any – wage gains. As a result, many Americans who are struggling to keep up with inflation and higher costs are supplementing their income with part-time independent work or side gigging. Fueled in part by the growth of the increasing number of online platforms, the number of people working as occasional independents (those working irregularly or sporadically as independents but at least once per month) soared 23% to 12.9 million, up from 10.5 million in 2016.

  • A strong job market has created a “barbell effect” on both sides of the independent work spectrum. Work opportunities are growing on both sides of the spectrum – both unskilled and skilled – creating a barbell effect. At the low end of the market, there is growing demand for online platform workers, such as Uber drivers or TaskRabbiters, who usually go independent to supplement income, learn new skills or even to socialize in retirement. On the other end of the spectrum, we see a strong rise in entrepreneurial independent professionals earning significant incomes by offering unique services in areas such as technology and marketing.

Survey: Social Media Screening on the Rise

Before posting pictures of your late-night revelry or complaints about your job on social media, think again – 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring, up significantly from 60% last year and 11% in 2006.

The national survey was conducted online on behalf of CareerBuilder by Harris Poll. It included a representative sample of more than 2,300 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes in the private sector.

Social recruiting is becoming a key part of HR departments – three in 10 employers have someone dedicated to the task. When researching candidates for a job, employers who use social networking sites are looking for information that supports their qualifications for the job (61%), if the candidate has a professional online persona (50%), what other people are posting about the candidates (37%) and for a reason not to hire a candidate (24%).

Employers aren’t just looking at social media – 69% are using online search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing to research candidates as well.

Of those who decided not to hire a candidate based on their social media profiles, the reasons included:

  • Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information: 39%
  • Candidate posted information about them drinking or using drugs: 38%
  • Candidate had discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion: 32%
  • Candidate bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employee: 30%
  • Candidate lied about qualifications: 27%
  • Candidate had poor communication skills: 27%
  • Candidate was linked to criminal behavior: 26%

Your online persona doesn’t just have the potential to get you in trouble. Cultivating your presence online can also lead to reward. More than four in 10 employers have found content on a social networking site that caused them to hire the candidate. Among the primary reasons employers hired a candidate based on their social networking site were candidate’s background information supported their professional qualifications (38%), great communication skills (37%), a professional image (36%) and creativity (35%).

Debating removing your social media profiles while job searching? Think twice before you hit delete. Fifty-seven percent of employers are less likely to call someone in for an interview if they can’t find a job candidate online. Of that group, 36% like to gather more information before calling in a candidate for an interview and 25% expect candidates to have an online presence.

Just because you got the job doesn’t mean you can disregard what you post online. More than half of employers use social networking sites to research current employees. Thirty-four percent of employers have found content online that caused them to reprimand or fire an employee.

‘Time is Money’ Leads to Stress

Do you think of time as money? That view may be damaging your health. Research by Jeffery Pfeffer and Dana R. Carney demonstrates that people who are keenly aware of the economic value of their time generally are more psychologically stressed.

The researchers were inspired by previous research on why lawyers often are unsatisfied with their careers. That study concluded that attorneys, whose time is accounted for in billable minutes, are hyperaware of the ticking clock that rules their work lives. Even when they’re not working, they’re thinking about how much income they’re forgoing during off hours, including time with friends and family.

To demonstrate the effects of time-money awareness, Pfeffer and Carney conducted an experiment in which half of the working subjects were asked to calculate their per-minute pay rate, while the other half were not. Even though both groups worked the same number of hours and got paid the same, the cortisol levels were almost 25% higher in the time-is-money group, whose members also seemed to find less pleasure during two breaks in the experiment.

Elevated cortisol is linked to many health problems, such as anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, headaches, sleep problems, decreased immunity, weight gain and cognitive impairment. “A rise of almost 25% is a serious health consequence,” says Pfeffer.

This phenomenon is particularly disturbing as more workers piece together incomes in the so-called “gig” economy. Rather than being on a full-time payroll, they’re more focused than ever on the economic value of time.

Voice Searches Taking Over

A recent report by iProspect offers a glimpse into the trends and opportunities regarding paid search marketing.

Google AdWords data showed strong mobile growth in terms of both impressions and clicks. Volume on desktops and tablets, however, was down, indicating an overall decrease in demand for those devices. Cost per click (CPC) increased across all devices, reaching the highest CPC recorded since this report’s inception in 2014. Mobile CPC saw a particularly significant increase, up 40% year-over-year, further closing the gap on desktop.

Voice search is quickly becoming the search method of choice for many consumers, says the report. Today, 500 million people use a voice search-powered digital assistant of some kind, and half of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.

This behavioral shift is ushering in a rise in longer, more conversational queries, causing savvy advertisers to refocus their keyword strategy to ensure it includes question-based keywords such as who, what, when, where, why and how, as well as qualifying phrases such as near me.

Small Business Tax Rankings Released

The “Small Business Tax Index 2017: Best to Worst State Tax Systems for Entrepreneurship and Small Business” ranks the 50 states according to the costs of their tax systems for entrepreneurship and small business.

View an interactive U.S. map of “Small Business Tax Index 2017” results.

Raymond J. Keating, chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship (SBE) Council and author of the report, said: “While there is much discussion in Congress and the Trump administration about making the federal tax system more competitive, these issues obviously reach down to state and local levels as well. That’s the focus of SBE Council’s ‘Small Business Tax Index 2017.’ Specifically, which states are among the least burdensome in terms of taxes, and which inflict the weightiest burdens on small businesses?”

The SBE Council pulls together 26 different tax measures, and combines those into one tax score that allows the 50 states to be compared and ranked. Among the taxes included are income, capital gains, property, death, unemployment, and various consumption-based taxes, including state gas and diesel levies.

According to the “Small Business Tax Index 2017,” the 10 best state tax systems are: 1) Nevada, 2) Texas, 3) South Dakota, 4) Wyoming, 5) Washington, 6) Florida, 7) Alabama, 8) Ohio, 9) North Carolina, and 10) Colorado.

The bottom 10 include: 41) Connecticut, 42) Oregon, 43) New York, 44) Vermont, 45) Hawaii, 46) Iowa, 47) Minnesota, 48) Maine, 49) New Jersey, and 50) California.

Since last year’s report, several states have made significant tax changes.

Five states – Arizona, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and North Carolina – have improved their tax climates by reducing their personal or corporate income tax rates. Other states – such as New Mexico and Tennessee – have scheduled changes that will improve their tax climates for entrepreneurship, business and investment in coming years. Unfortunately, all of the news is not good. Kansas, Maine and New York have made tax changes that are negatives.

Travel Preferences: Australia and Hawaii

Survey findings from Travel Leaders Group reveal that Australia remains the most dreamed about destination for American travelers, followed by Italy, Bora Bora, Ireland and New Zealand.  Additionally, the data highlights Hawaii, California and Alaska as the most desirable U.S. destinations for vacation travelers. Survey findings from Travel Leaders Group reveal that Australia remains the most dreamed about destination for American travelers, followed by Italy, Bora Bora, Ireland and New Zealand.  Additionally, the data highlights Hawaii, California and Alaska as the most desirable U.S. destinations for vacation travelers. Travel Leaders reports:

“Australia is undeniably captivating to many Americans.  With a size mirroring that of the continental U.S., it offers immense variety from cosmopolitan cities to the rugged outback and from world-class beaches and the Great Barrier Reef to award-winning wine regions,” explains Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko. 

Travel Leaders Group’s 2017 Consumer Travel Survey asked Americans to name their “ultimate dream destination” and the list includes:

  1. Australia
  2. Italy
  3. Bora Bora
  4. Ireland
  5. New Zealand
  6. Cruise – World
  7. Fiji
  8. Cruise – Europe (Mediterranean)
  9. Greek Islands
  10. Tahiti
  11. Cruise – Europe (River)
  12. (tie) Antarctica
  13. (tie) Cruise – South Pacific and Tahiti
  14. Cruise – Australia/New Zealand
  15. France 

When asked, “If you could take a trip anywhere in the U.S., where would you choose to go?” the list of top favorites included:

  1. Hawaii
  2. California
  3. Alaska
  4. Florida
  5. New York
  6. Arizona
  7. Colorado
  8. (tie) Maine
  9. (tie) Montana
  10. (tie) Washington
  11. (tie) Washington, D.C.