US Labor Market Bounces Back from Hurricanes

US Labor Market Bounces Back from Hurricanes

After a September jobs report marred by the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, October’s monthly data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the US labor market rapidly rebounding from these disasters, with non-farm employment rising by a seasonally adjusted 261,000 last month. Although this did not meet economists’ expectations of 315,000 new jobs, it was a huge improvement from September. Figures for that month were also revised upward from 33,000 jobs lost to 18,000 jobs gained, meaning the US remains on a record 85-month job growth streak.

Unemployment fell to 4.1 percent, its lowest level since December 2000, but wage growth was stagnant at 2.4 percent year-over-year, a slowdown over the previous month. “With the swings from the hurricanes now largely behind us, the longer-term challenge of wage growth returns to the foreground,” Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed, commented to the Wall Street Journal.

The labor force participation rate also fell by 0.4 percentage points in October, to 62.7 percent, which suggests that even as the economy approaches nominally full employment, there remain many Americans who are neither working nor looking for work. Accordingly, re-engaging those labor force dropouts could become an increasingly important strategy for US organizations that want to expand their workforces in the current labor market.

“The bigger picture here is that the labor market’s fine,” Brett Ryan, an economist at Deutsche Bank, explains to the New York Times. Fine, however, is not necessarily great, as the labor force participation and wage figures suggest:

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Facebook Workplace Lands Walmart, Proves Useful During Hurricane Harvey

Facebook Workplace Lands Walmart, Proves Useful During Hurricane Harvey

Facebook’s enterprise social network, Workplace, has scored a major new customer in Walmart, the world’s largest private employer. The retail giant has already been testing the product, and will continue to phase the platform in among its other internal communication tools, though it’s not yet clear if or when Workplace will be available to all of the company’s employees.

Workplace by Facebook was launched less than a year ago, but with more than 14,000 companies using the service—including Delta Air Lines, Booking.com, Canadian Tire, Lyft, and Starbucks—it is already a serious competitor in an increasingly crowded field of enterprise communications and collaboration offerings. (Facebook hasn’t announced how many active daily users Workplace has.)

Since its inception, one of Workplace’s main selling points has been Facebook’s omnipresence as a social media platform. Most workers, and especially most millennials, are already likely to be familiar with the look, feel, and functionality of the Facebook-like Workplace, so organizations should have an easier time getting their workforces to adopt and actually use the platform without much of a learning curve.

According to a Walmart spokesperson, per Fast Company‘s Emily Price, that ease-of-use is precisely why the retail giant was drawn to the product, and they’ve already been pleased with how the service has improved communication where they have rolled it out. For instance, leaders at the company have been using the Live video feature to conduct more visually compelling all-hands meetings, and associates have been sharing photos of their best in-store display ideas. In addition, the platform became a vital asset to both Walmart and Delta during Hurricane Harvey, as Price explains:

“We were able to use the Live capability to share our current weather updates and what was happening with people that were in the field from our Emergency Operation Center. We also were using it to gather kind of information about what was happening on the ground very quickly. Part of that was because of the ease of use with the mobile [experience,” Walmart’s Dan Kneeshaw explained.]

And they weren’t the only company to use Workplace after the hurricane. Delta, for instance, used Facebook to help check in with its employees using a new feature called Safety Officer, a variation of Facebook’s Safety Check feature.

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Hurricane Harvey: What Employers Need to Know, and How HR Can Help

Hurricane Harvey: What Employers Need to Know, and How HR Can Help

In one of the worst natural disasters in US history, Hurricane Harvey has dumped more than 11 trillion gallons of rain on the Houston metro area and other parts of southeast Texas, leading to catastrophic flooding throughout the region. While the city of Houston was not ordered to evacuate, most organizations in the city, including major employers like NASA’s Johnson Space Center, ConocoPhillips, and Waste Management, Inc., were closed on Monday and instructed employees to stay home, according to the Wall Street Journal. Some encouraged employees who were safe to work remotely from home. Many local businesses and national firms with a presence in the region, including major retail chains like Target and Walmart have closed their stores in the area and are participating in relief efforts by donating money or emergency supplies.

For organizations whose employees are affected by the hurricane, the first priority in the coming days and weeks is to communicate with employees about the status of their workplaces and projects, as well as benefits and resources available to them, as Amanda Eisenberg highlights at Employee Benefit News:

“The most important thing to communicate is what the employers are doing for the employees and the community,” says LuAnn Heinen, vice president of the National Business Group on Health. “First of all, that help is on the way.”

Employers also are going to have to be flexible, she says. Employees need to know if they are expected to come into the workplace, and if they can’t, whether they can work remotely. Schools are likely to be closed, and relatives might have been relocated from nursing homes or hospitals to shelters. Employees might need access to childcare or eldercare, and companies should be in constant communication to relay those benefits, Heinen explains.

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