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.

Nominations for Indiana Innovation Awards Closing Soon!

Nominations are open for the 2017 Indiana Innovation Awards until the end of July. Any innovation is eligible to be recognized as long as it has been “released” in some form or fashion within the past three years and the team behind the innovation is headquartered (at least partially for interstate/international organizations) in Indiana.

Past winners have included products, services, technologies, processes and initiatives that demonstrate both uniqueness and success.

Awards will be presented at the October 12 Day of Innovation conference in Indianapolis.

Breaking Down the Research Efforts

Research corridors are not new. In our neighbor to the north, the University Research Corridor has been a strong performer over a number of years.

The State Science & Technology Institute has this brief recap of a recent analysis:

Michigan’s University Research Corridor, an alliance of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, conducted $1.2 billion in academic R&D in the life, medical and health sciences, and served as a stabilizing force to the state’s economy as one of the only sectors that grew during the 2000s. Those are among the findings of the 2017 URC sector report, which was prepared by Public Sector Consultants.

The report, Leading Discovery: URC Contributions to the Life, Medical and Health Sciences, notes that employment in the life, medical and health sciences sector, which accounts for one in eight jobs in Michigan, is up 18.9 percent since 2000, compared to overall Michigan employment, which is down 9.3 percent.

The URC also was successful in moving discoveries out of the lab and into the marketplace. From 2012 to 2016, the following results relating to the life, medical and health sciences sector were found:

• 1,348 inventions reported by researchers
• 380 U.S. patents issued
• 433 new license agreements
• 32 new startup companies
• $142 million in royalties earned

Where Are All the Workers?

While Indiana’s unemployment dipped to 3.6% last month, Utah is a full half point lower. The New York Times recently cites some of the challenges that brings. A few excerpts:

After eight years of steady growth, the main economic concern in Utah and a growing number of other states is no longer a lack of jobs, but a lack of workers. The unemployment rate here fell to 3.1%, among the lowest figures in the nation.

Nearly a third of the 388 metropolitan areas tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics have an unemployment rate below 4%, well below the level that economists consider “full employment,” the normal churn of people quitting to find new jobs. The rate in some cities, like Ames, Iowa, and Boulder, Colo., is even lower, at 2%.

That’s good news for workers, who are reaping wage increases and moving to better jobs after years of stagnating pay that, for many, was stuck at a low level. Daniel Edlund, a 21-year-old call center worker in Provo, Utah, learned on a Monday that his hours were changing. On Wednesday, he had his first interview for a new job.

But labor shortages are weighing on overall economic growth, slowing the pace of expansion in northern Utah and other fast-growing regions even as unemployment remains stubbornly high in Rust Belt cities like Cleveland and in regions still recovering from the 2008 recession, like inland California.

To Todd Bingham, the president of the Utah Manufacturers Association, “3.1 percent unemployment is fabulous unless you’re looking to hire people.”

“Our companies are saying, ‘We could grow faster, we could produce more product, if we had the workers,’” he said. “Is it holding the economy back? I think it definitely is.”

But the share of Utah adults who have withdrawn from the labor force remains higher than before the recession. Last year, 31.7% of adults in Utah were neither working nor looking for work, up from 28.2% in 2006. That is part of a broad national trend.

References Still Really Matter

Allison & Taylor estimates that approximately 50% of all reference checks it conducts reflect some degree of employer negativity.

Here are five false perceptions that explain why countless job seekers go for months, or years, without landing that next job:

Myth No. 1:
Companies cannot say anything negative about a former employee.

Reality:
While countless companies have policies dictating that only title, dates of employment and salary history can be discussed, their employees – particularly at the management level – frequently violate such policies. Former supervisors are particularly notorious in this regard.

Myth No. 2
Most corporations direct reference check requests to their human resources departments, and they are trained to ensure that nothing negative will be said about me.

Reality:
Most human resources professionals will indeed follow proper protocol. However, be warned that some will not. When asked whether a former employee is eligible for rehire, some will indicate they are not – and may go on to explain why this is the case. Even if they indicate “not eligible” and offer no further explanation, a potential employee is unlikely to take the risk of hiring you without knowing the reason why a past employer has described you as ineligible for rehire.

Myth No. 3
Assuming HR has nothing negative to say about me, I should be “ok” with that company, reference-wise.

Reality:
Prospective employers have figured out that former supervisors are much more likely to offer revealing commentary about a company’s former employees. Your supervisor(s) knew you personally and has formed opinions about you, favorable or otherwise. When asked for their opinion, supervisors frequently forget, or are unaware of, company policies that typically instruct them to refer incoming reference inquiries to HR.

Myth No. 4
I should have my references listed on my resume and distribute them together.

Reality:
You never want to list your references on your resume, or indicate “References Provided Upon Request.” You do not want companies that may have little/no interest in hiring you bothering your references. What’s more, you may be wrongly assuming that the references you list truly “have your back.” Countless job seekers offer up the names of references that ultimately provide lukewarm or unfavorable commentary about them. The candidate should have a list of their references readily available (in the same format/font as their resume) to be given to prospective employers. When offered at the conclusion of an interview – in a highly professional format – it can create a very proactive (and favorable) ending impression.

Myth No. 5:
I took legal action against my former company and they are now not allowed to say anything.

Reality:
They may have been instructed not to say anything definitive, but do not put it past them to make your life difficult. There have been countless instances where a former boss or an HR staffer has said, “Hold on a minute while I get the legal file to see what I am allowed to say about this former employee.” Most employers are uncomfortable hiring someone who has a legal history, probably dashing your job prospects.