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13th May 2022
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U.S. jobless claims rose 1,000 last week
New applications for unemployment benefits rose for the second week in a row last week but remained near historic lows in a sign of a tight U.S. labor market. Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, increased by 1,000 to 203,000 last week from the previous week’s revised level of 202,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal had estimated new claims would fall to 194,000. The four-week average for claims, which smooths out volatility in the weekly figures, rose to 192,750. Continuing claims, a proxy for the total number of people receiving payments from state unemployment programs, fell to 1.3m for the week ended April 30th, the lowest level since January 1970. "There is no change in the underlying message of a very tight labor market and employers unwilling to lay off existing workers in the face of extreme labor scarcity," said Conrad DeQuadros, senior economic advisor at Brean Capital in New York.
Mental Health in the Workplace During Times of Uncertainty

You know what's a threat to your organization's success? Ignoring your employees' mental health. Organizations and businesses succeed when their people can operate at peak performance. But with ongoing crises and unprecedented challenges, it's difficult for everyone to be at their best. Read this guide from UKG in association with The Human Times in which HR consultant Tamara Rasberry discusses the state of mental health today and shares steps you should take to protect and prioritize your people's mental well-being, especially during uncertain times.

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Employers warned against biased AI
The U.S. Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have issued guidance that using artificial intelligence technology to screen new job candidates or monitor their productivity at work can unfairly discriminate against people with disabilities. “We are sounding an alarm regarding the dangers tied to blind reliance on AI and other technologies that we are seeing increasingly used by employers," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the department’s Civil Rights Division said. "The use of AI is compounding the longstanding discrimination that jobseekers with disabilities face.” Among the examples given of popular work-related AI tools were resume scanners, employee monitoring software that ranks workers based on keystrokes, and video interviewing software that measures a person's speech patterns or facial expressions. Such technology could potentially screen out people with speech impediments or range of other disabilities. The move reflects a broader push by President Joe Biden's administration to foster positive advancements in AI technology while reining in opaque and potentially harmful AI tools that are being used to make important decisions about people's livelihoods.
Tight labor market and low unemployment leads to belt tightening
The Wall Street Journal looks at how companies which saw substantial growth during the COVID-19 pandemic are starting to take a more cautious approach toward hiring and spending. From Peloton and Meta Platforms to Twitter, Uber Technologies and others, corporate belt tightening comes as the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates, global stock markets have fallen and concerns of an economic slowdown are mounting, the WSJ notes. Twitter is imposing a hiring freeze and might renege on some job offers, CEO Parag Agrawal said. Elsewhere, Carvana is cutting around 2,500 staffers, or 12% of its workforce after finalizing an expansion deal. Peloton recently logged its worst quarterly loss as a public company and raised $750m in loans to help bolster its balance sheet. Netflix laid off about 25 people in its marketing department in April and Robinhood Markets said late last month it was laying off 9% of its full-time staffers. 
NJ cannabis: Senators want answers on employer rights
Members of the state Senate Judiciary Committee have spent hours hearing from and asking questions of officials from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission as well as advocates and experts, just three weeks after the first legal weed sales for recreational purposes began. "This is an economic opportunity for New Jersey to create jobs, to create revenue, to get taxes but also to get the stigma of marijuana off our streets - to stop arresting our people, stop destroying our lives before they've begun," Senate President Nick Scutari, D-Union, said. "I think we've taken an important first step. This committee is moving the topic back to the forefront because it's important."
Report: Trump officials, meat companies knew workers at risk
A new Congressional report has concluded that at the height of the pandemic, the meat processing industry worked closely with political appointees in the Trump administration to stave off health restrictions and keep processing plants open even as COVID-19 spread rapidly among workers. The report by the House's Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis said meat companies pushed to keep their plants open even though they knew workers were at high risk of catching the coronavirus. The lobbying led to health and labor officials watering down their recommendations for the industry and culminated in an executive order President Donald Trump issued in spring 2020 designating meat plants as critical infrastructure that needed to remain open. Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn, who leads the subcommittee, said U.S. Department of Agriculture officials and the industry prioritized production and profits over the health of workers and communities as at least 59,000 workers caught the virus and 269 died. "The shameful conduct of corporate executives pursuing profit at any cost during a crisis and government officials eager to do their bidding regardless of resulting harm to the public must never be repeated,” Clyburn said.
L.A. resort agrees to $1.5m settlement in dispute over laid-off workers
The Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, Los Angeles, has agreed to pay $1.52m to settle allegations that it violated labor laws by failing to offer laid-off workers their jobs back when it began rehiring after the pandemic slowdown. A state labor commissioner called on Terranea to pay $3.3 million in fines in March for allegedly violating legislation adopted last year that requires hotels, event centers and airport hospitality and janitorial employers to first offer positions to workers laid off because of a COVID-19 shutdown when the jobs become available again. It was the first citation for violations of that law. Terranea appealed the fines, saying the law was vaguely worded but agreed Thursday to settle the dispute by paying $1.52 million without admitting wrongdoing, according to court records. The resort also agreed to offer jobs to three former employees: a banquet server, a laundry attendant and a banquet houseperson.
Dollar Tree adds two execs from rival Dollar General
Dollar Tree has announced the appointments of John Flanigan as chief supply chain officer, and Larry Gatta as chief merchandising officer for the Family Dollar chain. Both join the firm from rival discount retailer Dollar General.
HSBC launches $1bn lending fund for female entrepreneurs
HSBC is launching a $1bn lending fund to invest in female-owned businesses over the next 12 months. Sam Cooper-Gray, global head of market strategy at HSBC Business Banking, said: "The level of funding received over time by female-led businesses is significantly lower than male counterparts, while the recent impacts of the pandemic have seen these same businesses disproportionately affected.”
PwC Consulting adds Sphera's ESG platform to its offerings
PwC has entered a partnership with Sphera, a provider of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance and risk management software, to offer Sphera’s software to its client base. The alliance will scale the implementation of Sphera’s software solutions, which provide advanced ESG tracking and reporting. PwC’s clients will be able to access the leading ESG solution platform in concert with the Big Four firm’s industry expertise and strategy and technology consulting capabilities.
Collective bargaining is essential for global recovery, ILO says
The UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) has highlighted the importance of dialogue between workers and management to the global post-pandemic recovery – and to keeping people’s wages fair. After two years of COVID-19 lockdowns and increased pressure on the traditional “9 to 5” business model, including zero-hours contracts and telework, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said that voluntary negotiations known as collective bargaining had proved their worth. “Workers want to keep their heads above the water, as prices rise, as they are right now, and they want to ensure workplace safety and secure the paid sick leave that has proved so critical over the last two years,” he told journalists in Geneva. “Employers for their part have welcomed agreements that have allowed them to retain skilled and experienced workers, so that they could restart, recover and rebound.” He added: “The higher the percentage of employees covered by collective agreements, the lower the wage inequality. And the more equality and diversity there is likely to be in the workplace.” According to a new report by the ILO, more than one in three employees in 98 countries currently have their wages, working hours and other professional conditions set by collective agreements, although  there is a considerable variation across countries.

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