Strong U.S. Job, Wage Gains Open Door to Mid-Year Rate Hike

January 11th straight month of job gains above 200,000

overview of business people at work in cubicles

Feb 6 (Reuters) - U.S. job growth rose solidly in January and wages rebounded strongly, a show of underlying strength in the economy that puts a mid-year interest rate increase from the Federal Reserve back on the table.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 257,000 last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. Data for November and December was revised to show a whopping 147,000 more jobs created than previously reported, bolstering views consumers will have enough muscle to carry the economy through rough seas.

At 423,000, November's payroll gains were the largest since May 2010, when employment was boosted by government hiring for the population count.

While the unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 5.7 percent, that was because the labor force increased, a sign of confidence in the jobs market.

January marked the 11th straight month of job gains above 200,000, the longest streak since 1994.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast hiring increasing 234,000 last month and the unemployment rate holding steady at 5.6 percent.

The continued improvement in the labor market comes despite the economy slowing. Sputtering growth overseas and lower oil prices have weighed on exports and business investment.

Wages increased 12 cents last month after falling five cents in December. That took the year-on-year gain to 2.2 percent, the largest since August.

Interest rate hike expectations had been dialed back to September in the wake of December's surprise drop in wages.

The Fed last week ramped up its assessment of the labor market. Brisk job gains and the improvement in wages could harden expectations of a June policy tightening.

The pick-up in wages is likely to combine with lower oil prices to provide a massive tailwind for consumer spending and keep the economy growing at a fairly healthy clip, despite the global turmoil.

Growth braked to a 2.6 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter.

While several states put in place higher minimum wages last month, that likely had a minimal impact on wages. Economists say roughly three million workers may have been affected, accounting for just 3 percent of the private sector's more than 118 million employees.

The government revised payroll employment, hours and earnings figures dating back to 2010. The level of employment in March 2014 was 91,000 higher than previously estimated.

A new population estimate that will be used to adjust the figures from its household survey was also introduced. That survey is used to determine the number of unemployed and the size of the workforce.

Away from the firmer wages and job growth, the labor force participation rate, or the share of working-age Americans who are employed or at least looking for a job, rose two-tenths of percentage point to 62.9 percent, a sign of confidence in the jobs market.

A broad measure of joblessness that includes people who want to work but have given up searching and those working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment rose to 11.3 percent from 11.2 percent in December.

In January, private payrolls increased 267,000. November and December private employment was revised higher. Private payroll gains in November were the largest since September 1997.

Manufacturing added 22,000 jobs in January. Construction payrolls increased 39,000 after rising 44,000 in December.

Retail employment increased 45,900 after braking sharply in December. The only areas of weakness were government, where payrolls fell 10,000, and transportation employment which dropped 8,600, the first drop since last February.

Temporary help fell 4,100, the first drop in a year.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)    

Here's How Your Handshake Can Affect Whether You Get a Job

Forget eyes - for interviewers, the handshake is the window to the soul

This Software Could Be Better At Hiring Than Any Human

Call it HR: Rise of the Machines

Close up of the Facebook 'like' button. (Editorial use only: ­print, TV, e-book and editorial website).
Computer programs can draw conclusions about hirability based on your digital footprint, which includes data like Facebook "likes."
By Jacquelyn Smith

What you "like" on Facebook may seem inconsequential now - but there's a good chance that will change in the future.

A new study, cited by The New York Times, finds that computer models can draw accurate and detailed conclusions about your personality and creditworthiness, among other things, based on your Facebook "likes."

According to researchers Youyou Wu and Dr. David Stillwell of the University of Cambridge, and Dr. Michal Kosinski of Stanford University, employers may eventually use this technology to make important hiring decisions.

In a paper on the study, the researchers write: "Although accurate personality judgments stem from social-cognitive skills, developments in machine learning show that computer models can also make valid judgments." They found that these models may even make better judgments than humans.

Using a sample of 86,220 volunteers who completed a 100-item personality questionnaire, the researchers determined that computer predictions based on a generic digital footprint (Facebook "likes") are more accurate than those made by the participants' Facebook friends using a personality questionnaire.

The researchers found that someone who "likes" Nike and In-N-Out Burger, for example, is likely a calm and relaxed person.

"Computers outpacing humans in personality judgment presents significant opportunities and challenges in the areas of psychological assessment, marketing, and privacy," they write in the paper.

Another process this may have an affect on? Hiring.

"Currently, occupational psychologists evaluate people's characteristics and decide the fit between people and jobs," Wu tells Business Insider. "It's very likely that in the future this process of assessing personalities and determining how someone's characteristics are related to a certain job will be automated using computer models like ours."

Stillwell says there are many benefits to using computer models like the ones he and his colleagues have created - which are only being used for their research projects for now - as long as they are implemented with a respect of privacy and ethics. "One, computer models are cheaper than human capital; two, computer models are more efficient and can be applied on a large scale; and three, they generate more reliable results, as computers can use big data to detect unobservable patterns between likes and personality, or between personality and jobs."

Eventually, he says, employers will be presented with a list of job candidates that computers deem the best matches, without knowing why they are suitable. "Besides the benefits we already mentioned, this approach would help promote equality in the selection process and avoid human biases prevalent in occupational settings," Stillwell adds. "Computers do not favor people of certain gender, race, or personality."

But of course there is some apprehension.

"I think people, from a job candidate's perspective, might be at first worried about not being able to present themselves in the way they want anymore," Kosinski says.

But they needn't be worried, he argues, since if candidates present themselves in an inaccurate way on social media, it could eventually lead to a mismatch between their characteristics and the job.

As for whether employers will begin using these models for hiring purposes and when, the researchers are unsure.

"It takes time for companies to switch gears and accept a new recruiting method," says Kosinski. "I think it's likely that some companies will experiment with computer's evaluations, and use it as a reference in addition to other traditional metrics. There are also legal and ethical concerns that need to be addressed before any implementation," he explains.

"For instance, users need to understand which of their personal data is out there, how it is being used, and how it might be used," he continues. "We also need to enable users to take full control of their data and decide for which purpose it is to be used. Both aspects have relatively well understood technological solutions, but their implementation may require user awareness and, perhaps, some nudges from policy makers."

Wu says any companies that collect data on individuals, like Facebook and major banks, should take it upon themselves to inform the public about how that data can be used to benefit the users themselves. "I believe that if users have a better sense of how their online experiences can be improved by letting their data be analyzed, and they have the control over how and what data are analyzed, they will be more motivated to share their data."                                          

The Demise of the 9-5 Workday

Does a more flexible schedule really mean we're just working all the time?

a card for control over working ...

When does work stop? In truth, it doesn't. Email and smartphones have completely transformed the traditional 9-5 work model. Millennials entered the work world during this transition.

I'm not surprised that according to a recent survey by Bentley's PreparedU Project, 77 percent of millennials prefer a flex-work schedule. With Wi-Fi virtually everywhere, you can literally be online and 'accessible' anywhere. We've been able to flex-work during college, vacations, internships, and train with virtual classrooms. Email and internal instant messaging have greatly changed the typical workday.

Working 24/7 isn't the answer. There is a grey area when it comes to flexible work schedules. I believe that employees need to create an open dialogue with their bosses about their schedule. Be honest about what the hours are and what hours would work best for you. Would they mind if you started your day a bit later to hit a yoga class or left early to attend a networking event? The problem many managers face is knowing if they can trust their employee.

As for me, I put in the long hours, the face time, and my work shined. My boss completely trusts my instinct. She also works from her home and wouldn't easily be able to check in on my whereabouts without connecting with the internal office staff. My work, my work ethic and my accountability are what allow me to have a flex-work schedule.

Understanding work needs. If you have a client on the West Coast, or worse, in Asia, you could be clocking in double or triple the hours of your coworkers. Arranging conference calls at 3:00 in the morning or constantly working on projects in the middle of the night can take a toll on anyone. If you become overworked and sleep deprived, you'll be more likely to start looking for positions elsewhere.

Speak up to your boss. Come up with a plan to ensure the work gets done, and you don't come into the office the next day looking like a zombie. Don't assume that your boss has thought of these alternative options already. Most likely, they are worried about so many things that unfortunately, they aren't always thinking about you.

Millennials are always on. Millennials often get pegged as the generation with a terrible work ethic, but in fact, 89 percent of millennials regularly check work email after their regularly scheduled work hours, and 37 percent say they always check work email. Smartphones have truly changed the work landscape. As a community, we have a Pavlovian response when it comes to email. We see the blinking light, hear the ding of a bell and immediately need to check our messages – personal or professional. Time of day does not hinder this need to be "on."

The truth is, millennials work differently than our older counterparts, as each generation did before them; Generation X worked differently than the Boomers. Technology and awareness played a big role in that. Millennials don't have a poor work ethic- it's simply a different approach to work.

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