‘Eye’ spy a savings opportunity for health and vision benefits

Traditionally, vision benefits were offered as an elective, with coverage is focusing on vision tests or discounts for corrective eyewear, but this often can result in inadequate coverage for employees and their dependents. Read this blog post to learn more about vision benefits.


Sixty-one million adults are at high risk for serious vision loss, according to the National Eye Institute, but most U.S. employers don’t include eye care as part of their benefits package. Vision benefits have traditionally been offered as an elective, where coverage is focused on vision tests or discounts for corrective eyewear.

This often results in inadequate coverage for employees and dependents, which can result in unrecognized and untreated issues that impact employee health and productivity, as well as an employer’s bottom line.

Comprehensive eye exams are recommended for adults under the age of 65 at least every two years, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). These exams are the only way a doctor can detect signs and symptoms of serious conditions without cutting into or scanning body parts.

The total economic burden of eye disorders and vision loss in the U.S. was $139 billion in 2013, which includes $65 billion in direct medical costs strictly due to eye disorders and low vision. Loss of vision among workers results in $48 billion in lost productivity per year.

When it comes to benefit management priorities employers often focus more on chronic condition management. Yet, eye health is often linked to common chronic conditions including diabetes and hypertension. Without early detection of eye and vision health issues, employees cannot properly manage these conditions. Delaying medical treatment can lead to increased absenteeism and reduced productivity, eventually resulting in treatment that comes too late, and at a much higher price tag for employers, employees and family members.

About 68% of Americans with diabetes have been diagnosed with eye complications, many of which could have been prevented through a comprehensive eye exam. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among adults, according to the National Institutes of Health. Its prevalence is increasing as one in 10 people worldwide may be affected by 2040, according to research from the International Diabetes Federation.

Nearly half of Americans don’t know that diabetic eye diseases have visible symptoms, according to a 2018 AOA survey. More than one-third of respondents didn’t know a comprehensive eye exam is the only way to determine if a person’s diabetes will cause blindness. These exams, considered the gold standard in clinical vision care, should be covered under the employees’ medical benefits.

Three years ago the Midwest Business Group on Health began a collaboration with the AOA to better understand how employers think about and implement eye health and vision benefits. As part of this partnership, a no-cost eye care benefits toolkit was developed to support employers in evaluating their current eye health and vision care benefits to:

  • Understand the importance of early detection so that employees can effectively manage chronic and more serious conditions
  • Recognize how to integrate primary and preventive eye care into an overall medical benefit design
  • Educate employees on the importance of periodic eye examinations

It’s important that employers better understand the impact of vision care benefits, including lower costs, better employee health, improved job satisfaction, better employee quality of life, and work productivity.

SOURCE: Larson, C. (20 September 2019) "‘Eye’ spy a savings opportunity for health and vision benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/vision-loss-resulting-in-billions-in-lost-productivity


Simple Open-Enrollment Tips That Can Make a Big Difference

Thirty-three percent of employees stated their primary emotions when thinking about open enrollment season as annoyance and dread. Read this blog post from SHRM for a few simple tips that can make a big difference this open enrollment season.


Trepidation is what comes to mind for many employees when asked their feelings about open enrollment, the annual period when they select employer-provided benefits for the coming year.

According to a nationally representative sample of 1,000 employees polled earlier this year, 33 percent cited "annoyance" or "dread" as their primary emotions when they thought about open enrollment and just 10 percent of workers said they were "confident" in the benefits choices they made when the enrollment process was over, according to VSP Vision Care's annual Open Talk about Open Enrollment survey.

In another survey, HR software company Namely found that 31 percent of employees give their employer a "C" or lower when it comes to open enrollment.

Here are some tips from benefits experts that will help you raise your grade this open-enrollment season.

What to Do, and Not to Do

Jennifer Benz, national practice leader at benefits communications firm Segal Benz, shared three bad HR practices that undermine open enrollment and three best practices for doing open enrollment the right way.

  • Don't hide vital information from employees. Benz recalls how one company sent out its benefits materials but didn't include monthly costs. "A group of enterprising employees crunched the numbers and came up with estimates and circulated a rogue spreadsheet. Dealing with this communications fiasco took more work" than being upfront about costs, she noted.

Best practice: Be transparent and share the reasons you are making benefits changes. Break down the details and do the work for the employees. Provide scenarios so employees can better understand their options and cost breakdowns for different life situations.

  • Don't cram in every benefit at once. Some companies hand out pages and pages of text, jamming a year's worth of communications into a few weeks, and figure they have done what they need to do. "What they have done is confused their employees," Benz said.

Best practices: Communicate the technical details of your various benefits over time. "Don't assume employees will weed through all your materials to make sense of the benefits offered to them," Benz said. Also make full use of visual aids. "Photos, icons, infographics, memes, charts, graphics and more—they all help to attract, and more importantly hold, people's attention," noted Amber Riley, a communications consultant to Segal Benz. "Whether you're driving an open-enrollment campaign, creating a new benefits guide or promoting a wellness program, when you increase the visual pleasure of what you are communicating, your people are more likely to engage, learn, understand and ultimately take action."

  • Don't give employees too little time to process their open-enrollment choices. While many people wait until the last day to fill out the health care selection forms, they may have been considering their options with family members for weeks, so giving them just a few days to make decisions is not going to be enough.

Best practice: Build in a time frame that gives HR staff and employees the time they need. Benz recommended three weeks.

"People are always talking about learning from the best practices and success stories, but you can also learn a lot from other companies' mistakes," she noted. "When you prepare for enrollment in advance and anticipate issues—including those you and others have experienced in the past—you are better-equipped to avoid missteps. Your employees will notice and appreciate the extra effort."

Help Employees Ace Open Enrollment

"Open enrollment is often time-consuming and confusing for employees, but these choices can make a huge financial impact," said Julie Stich, CEBS, vice president of content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, an association of benefit plan sponsors. She suggested that HR share the following advice with employees to help prepare them for the upcoming enrollment season:

  • Take your time. Take time to really read through the enrollment materials you receive. If you are invited to a face-to-face meeting, make time to attend. It's possible you'll be offered different plan options and coverages this year. The better you understand the changes, the better decisions you'll make.
  • Look ahead. Consider what the next year will look like for you and your family. Are you planning to have a baby? Knee replacement surgery? A root canal? Does someone need braces? New glasses? Keep this in mind as you look at your coverage options.
  • Dive into the details. It's important to note whether the plans' provider networks have changed. Make sure your doctors are still in-network. Is your chiropractor also covered? Does the plan cover orthodontics? Is your spouse's daily prescription drug covered, and did the coverage change? Also consider areas of need like access to specialists, mental health care, therapies, complementary and alternative medicine, and chronic care. Look at the options offered in all plans, including health, dental, vision and disability.
  • Get out your calculator. Add up the amount you'll need to pay toward your health premium plus deductibles, co-payments (flat-dollar amounts) for prescriptions and doctor office visits, and co-insurance (a percentage of the cost you'll pay) for services. Understand what you'll be asked to pay if you seek care outside your network. This will give you a clearer picture of how much you're likely to spend. The plan that looks to be the cheapest option may not really be the cheapest for you.
  • Determine what's right for you. Consider your comfort level with risk. If you want your family to be covered for every eventuality, a more traditional plan, if one is offered, might be right for you. If you're comfortable taking on some upfront costs, a high-deductible plan with a lower premium ight be your plan of choice.
  • Take advantage of extras. Your employer may offer the option to reduce your health premiums in exchange for your participation in a wellness program or health-risk assessment. It may match some or all of the money you save in your 401(k) plan. It might let you set aside tax-deferred money into a health savings account or flexible spending account. Also, check with your employer to see if it offers voluntary insurance with a group discount and payroll deduction for premiums—like critical-illness, pet, auto and homeowners coverage. If these options work for your situation, sign up.
  • Ask questions. Don't be shy about asking your HR or benefits department to explain something if you're not sure. They're there to help and want you to make the best decisions for your situation.

"Taking the time upfront to carefully choose the best options will help employees better manage their finances throughout the year, alleviating stress and promoting productivity," Stich said.

SOURCE: Miller, S. (24 September 2019) "Simple Open-Enrollment Tips That Can Make a Big Difference" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/simple-open-enrollment-tips-make-a-big-difference.aspx


How to Save Your Business with Cyber Liability Insurance

In recent years, the risk of cyberattacks has become a common, high-level threat to organizations. This means that both time and money need to be invested in order to take precautionary measures and implement damage control before and after an attack happens. As a result, cyber liability insurance is now the recommended measure for risk management.

According to our expert, Cathleen C. Christenson, VP of Property & Casualty at Hierl Insurance, there are two main reasons why Cyber Liability Insurance is the best way to protect your company’s cyber assets: the all-in costs of a data breach and the protection of customers and employees. Since the world will never be free of cyber risks, the right thing to do is to protect your business with Cyber Liability Insurance.

Why Cyber Liability Insurance?

When cyberattacks occur, they often result in devastating damage to an organization’s important data. This results in business disruptions related to lost revenue, restorative actions and public relations. Not being able to accurately measure business costs of cyber risk means organizations are unable to make decisions about resource allocation, technology investments and threat prioritization. According to research published by Ponemon Institute, the cost of a data breach has increased to around $150 per document lost.

While the average breach involves around 25,000 files, this could round up to nearly $3.9 million dollars. It is important to remember no organization is immune to the impact of cybercrime. Insurance will help protect your organization’s information, facilitate timely recovery of business functions, and minimize loss of revenue, customers and data.

Coverage Options

If the worst should happen and your company suffers a data breach or similar attack, you should have a business continuity plan in place. Data is generally worth more than physical assets and keeping your data safe from cyber risks requires constant attention to ensure an attack never happens. Hierl Insurance has the resources and know-how to help you identify potential risks and keep your business running smoothly in the event of an attack. Cyber liability insurance policies are tailored to meet your company’s specific needs Benefits include data breach coverage, business interruption loss reimbursement, cyber extortion defense, forensic and legal support.

Why Hierl?

At Hierl Insurance, we love what we do, and this includes a partnership with you in mind. We understand the demands of each client are unique, so we craft your options to fit your business perfectly, creating a different story for each client. We stand by waiting to greet you with a warm welcome to devise a blueprint to turn your company’s dreams into reality. Supplementing your insurance with cyber coverage can provide peace of mind that your organization’s financial and reputational well-being is protected.

To speak with Cathleen, contact her today at 920.921.5921 or by email at cchristensen@hierl.com.


Addressing Marijuana Usage and Testing in the Workplace

With the legalization of cannabis around the country, many employers find themselves asking how they should address drug testing in the workplace. Read this blog post from UBA for more on addressing cannabis usage and testing in the workplace.


Recreational cannabis legalization is rolling out across the United States, and many employers are faced with a big, hazy question: how should they address drug testing in the workplace? Eleven states have legalized recreational marijuana and 33 others have legalized medical marijuana. It’s safe to say that in the next few months or years this topic will hit nearly every employer nationally.

Your leadership team may have questions as you unpack this issue. How is cannabis influencing safety and productivity on the job? Is your company at risk for a lawsuit if medical marijuana use doesn't align with the organization's zero-tolerance drug policy? How can you develop a defensible policy that is logical and effective?

It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by these questions, but it is important to know that you have options for ways to structure your company’s policy on cannabis usage outside of the work environment. We will weigh the pros and cons of pre-employment testing, random testing, selective testing, and not testing at all.

Pre-Employment Testing

Most corporations that rely on manual labor for profit, such as transportation or advanced manufacturing, require a drug screening prior to hire and then routinely afterward. Historically, testing positive for a drug in any category (amphetamines, opiates, narcotics, hallucinogens) has been grounds for termination or retraction of a job offer.

However, these zero-tolerance policies as a barrier to entry are becoming tricky. With the onset of cannabis legalization, many state and local jurisdictions are implementing anti-discrimination laws that protect employees who might test positive for marijuana in mandatory employer screenings. Under these laws, a person could file a hefty lawsuit resulting in expensive settlements for corporations that deny a job offer to a medicinal or recreational cannabis user. Because of this legal risk, many employers are slashing the upfront drug testing to attract and successfully onboard more people, and avoid lawsuits.

Random Testing

It is common sense that employees shouldn’t be impaired while on the job, especially in manual labor operations. However, it is nearly impossible to determine whether someone is high at work with a drug test, because cannabis can remain in the system for up to 30 days or more following even a single usage. The majority of court cases indicate that employers can’t fire someone for using marijuana when they aren’t on the clock. Because of this, more employers will need to use observation and performance review tactics to make termination decisions, and then be prepared to face any legal repercussions the employee may initiate.

For many employers, the risk of not testing is far greater than the implications of hazardous workplace accidents as a result of cannabis impairment. For example, Uber uses routine, random drug screenings to ensure the safety of its independent drivers and their passengers. It is up to each organization to weigh the risks involved in safety, legal, and productivity loss when determining if a random test initiative is the right fit.

No Testing/Selective Panel Testing

If your business or organization does not use manual labor to produce revenue, an option is to forgo testing entirely. For example, in offices and other professional environments, the risk of workplace accidents due to impairment is much lower.

Due to legalization and shifting cultural perceptions, many employer policies treat cannabis usage in an employee’s personal life as a non-issue, comparing it to alcohol. Many millennials say they prefer to smoke marijuana than to drink alcohol, and as that generation ages into corporate leadership roles, their attitudes will begin driving corporate policy.

If your team shares a relaxed perspective on cannabis, but is not quite ready to forgo drug testing entirely, a great option is a selective panel test. These do not test for THC (the active ingredient in cannabis), but can register other illegal substances. Selective panels are available to an employer in up to 14 criteria. This option can ensure workplace safety and productivity without getting into the stickiness of cannabis use.

SOURCE: Olson, B. (11 September 2019) "Addressing Marijuana Usage and Testing in the Workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/addressing-marijuana-usage-and-testing-in-the-workplace


4 pitfalls of paid leave and how clients can avoid them

In efforts to better attract and retain talent, employers are boosting their current benefit offerings by adding paid leave options. Read this blog post for 4 common pitfalls of paid leave and how employers can avoid them.


PaidLeave.5.2.19.pngSmart employers are boosting their benefits packages with paid family leave — the most coveted work perk among all generations. In today’s low unemployment environment, paid leave benefits can be a huge differentiator in attracting and retaining talent.

But some employers are getting themselves into trouble in the process, facing accusations of gender discrimination or improper use of leave.

Here are four potential pitfalls of paid leave, and how employers can avoid them.

1. Be careful what you call “maternity leave.”

Employers have long been granting leave for new moms in the form of disability coverage. In fact, the top cause of short term disability is pregnancy. Disability insurance usually grants new moms six to eight weeks of paid leave to recover from childbirth.

Because this coverage applies to the medical condition of recovering from childbirth, it shouldn’t be lumped in with bonding leave.

Guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says leave granted for new moms for bonding must also be extended to new dads, so separating disability leave from bonding leave is crucial to avoiding gender discrimination.

2. Don’t make gender assumptions.

The amount of bonding time for new parents after birth, adoption or fostering must be granted equally for men and women. Companies that don’t provide the same amount of paid leave for men and women may find themselves in a discrimination lawsuit.

It’s not just the time away from work that matters, but also the return-to-work support provided. If new moms are granted temporary or modified work schedules to ease the transition back to work, new dads must also have access to this.

Some companies may choose to differentiate the amount of leave and return-to-work support for primary or secondary caregivers. That’s compliant as long as assumptions aren’t made on which gender is the primary or secondary caregiver.

The best way to avoid potential gender discrimination pitfalls is to keep all parental bonding and related return-to-work policies gender neutral.

3. Avoid assuming the length of disability.

Be careful about assuming the length of time a new mom is disabled, or recovering medically, after birth. Typical coverage policies allot six to eight weeks of recovery for a normal pregnancy, so assuming a new mom may be out for 10 weeks might be overestimating the medical recovery time, and under-representing the bonding time, which must be gender neutral.

4. Keep up with federal, state and local laws.

Mandated leave laws are ever-evolving, so employers should consistently cross-check their policies with state and local laws. For instance, do local paid leave laws treat adoption the same as birth? Are multistate employers compliant? What if an employee lives in one state but works in another: Which state’s leave policies take precedence?

Partnering with a paid leave service provider can mitigate the risk of improperly administering leave. Paid leave experts can help answer questions, review guidelines and provide information regarding job-protecting medical or family leave.

They can also help flag potential pitfalls, ensuring leave requests from all areas of your company are managed uniformly and in accordance with state and federal laws, including the EEOC.

SOURCE: Bennett, A. (12 September 2019) "4 pitfalls of paid leave and how clients can avoid them" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/list/4-pitfalls-of-paid-leave-and-how-clients-can-avoid-them


Key elements to consider when researching financial wellness programs

Have you implemented a financial wellness program? With financial wellness programs becoming a staple employee benefit, organizations find themselves implementing programs that only offer a few tools or resources. Read the following blog post for key elements to consider when researching financial wellness programs.


Financial wellness programs are becoming a staple in the employee benefit universe. But what should a successful financial wellness program encompass? As a rapidly growing industry, we often lack a consistent definition for financial wellness. This leads to organizations believing they have implemented a financial wellness program, when they may only be offering a few tools like education or counseling.

I define financial wellness as the process by which an individual can efficiently and accurately assess their financial posture, identify personal goals, and be motivated to gain the necessary knowledge and resources to create behavioral change. Behavioral change will result in improved emotional and mental well-being, along with short- and long-term financial stability.

As the administrator of your company’s benefits, you are responsible for bringing the best possible solution to your employees. That’s a tough ask, given the growing number of service providers. So, what is the most efficient and effective way to assess financial wellness services to determine which solution best fits your organizational needs? Ask yourself these questions:

Does the platform offer a personal assessment of each employee’s current financial situation and help them identify their financial goals? If the answer is yes: Does the assessment return quantifiable and qualifiable data unique to each individual employee?

Does the platform address 100% of your employee base, including the least sophisticated employees at various levels of employment? Much of your ROI from a financial wellness program does not come from your top performers. It comes from creating behavioral changes within your employees who need the most financial guidance.

Does the platform integrate the various components to provide a personalized roadmap for each employee? It should connect program elements like personal assessments, educational resources, tools, feedback and solutions to ensure the employee is presented with a cohesive, comprehensive plan to attack and improve their financial situation.

Does the platform offer solutions for short-term financial challenges like cash flow issues, as well as long-term financial challenges associated with saving and planning? A major return on your investment comes from reduced employee stress, which is substantially driven by short-term needs versus long-term objectives. The program must help employees deal with current financial challenges before they can focus on their longer-term vision.

About 78% of U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet, according to data from CareerBuilder.com. The need for financial wellness is clear, but there are consistent pillars that must be addressed in any successful financial wellness program to affect change: spend, save, borrow and plan. When evaluating financial wellness programs, it’s important that these dots all connect if you are truly going to motivate behavioral change and recognize the ROI of a comprehensive financial wellness program.

SOURCE: Kilby, D. (13 September 2019) "Key elements to consider when researching financial wellness programs" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/key-considerations-for-employee-financial-wellness-programs


What would change if your employees were CEO for a day?

New data from Salesforce shows that employees are 4.6 times more likely to contribute their best work when they feel like their voices are being heard. Read the following blog post from Employee Benefits News to learn more about building a strong workplace culture.


When employees feel like their voices are being heard, they are reportedly 4.6 times more likely to contribute their best work, according to SalesForce data. Ultimately, knowing that the company is interested in what employees have to say builds trust and encourages loyalty among members of the workforce.

Respect is the most important leadership behavior, according to a Georgetown University survey of nearly 20,000 employees. More than merely listening, making employees a part of a two-way conversation shows that the company values their opinions.

With this in mind, we set out to develop a process to help Nearmap increase workplace communication. Along the way, we found that creating opportunities for interaction, encouraging honest participation and involving executive participation were all keys to building a stronger corporate culture.

Invite employee interaction

We recognized that we needed a conversation starter to open the lines of communication and spark a little enthusiasm. We discovered that engagement surveys work the best for our circumstances because they’re quick and easy to take, which results in high completion rates.

We like to include thought-provoking questions like “if you were CEO for a day, what is the one thing you would change?” to keep the employees engaged. At first, that particular question provided some of our most entertaining suggestions, including “free umbrellas for all,” “I would like the CEO’s paycheck,” “change my LinkedIn profile,” and “put margarita slushy machines in the kitchen.” When employees saw that the CEO responded to every answer, they realized that we were taking the feedback seriously, and that changed the tone of their responses.

Anonymity invites honest responses

It was essential to Nearmap that we collect unfiltered, honest feedback from our employees. This meant reassuring participants that their responses were completely anonymous. We believe this confidentiality encouraged authentic and candid submissions from employees that otherwise would have remained silent for fear of reprimand or judgment.

For instance, we’ve received excellent insights about driving the strategy and growth of the business, giving Nearmap valuable concepts that we’ve been able to embed into the business.

In addition, we present the survey results back to the employees so they can see how their thoughts align with those of their co-workers. We believe this commitment to being open is an excellent way to motivate honest dialog.

Executive participation leads by example

When the survey concludes, we group all of the responses under different headings, such as collaboration and communication, marketing, mission, planning, product, compensation, recognition, and general. Then, our CEO, Rob Newman, gets together with other executives to provide answers and comments on many of the submissions. In turn, those responses are shared with the employees via the HR newsletter and on our company collaboration app.

In reply to an inquiry about creating a green initiative for the company, our CEO shared a list of active programs that Nearmap was involved in to reduce not only our carbon footprint but also that of our customers as well.

While we may not know what we would change if we were the CEO for a day, we are convinced that employee interaction, honest responses and executive participation are reliable and important ways to make impactful connections with our employees and build a stronger corporate culture in our company.

SOURCE: Steel, S. (13 September 2019) "What would change if your employees were CEO for a day?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/what-would-change-if-your-employees-were-ceo-for-a-day


U.S. Jobs Increase by 130,000 in August

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released a report showing that U.S. employers added 130,000 jobs this past August. The report also showed that the unemployment rate stayed unchanged at 3.7 percent for the third month in a row. Continue reading this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


U.S. employers added 130,000 jobs in August, coming in below economists' expectations, and the unemployment rate held at 3.7 percent for the third straight month, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report.

July's employment total was revised down from 164,000 new jobs to 159,000. In the past three months, job gains averaged 156,000 a month after revisions.

"Today's jobs report shows slowing private-sector job growth and slowing wage growth, which—while expected this late in the recovery—is somewhat disappointing after the rapid gains of the past two years," said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at employment marketplace ZipRecruiter.

On Sept. 5, the ADP Research Institute and Moody's Analytics reported private-sector growth of 195,000 new jobs, better than economists' expectations of about 160,000 jobs.

"Despite the slower growth in jobs added, labor force participation did perk up, a sign that the healthy labor market is still drawing in workers from the sidelines," said Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao.

The labor force participation rate—which includes people who are working and those looking for work—ticked up to 63.2 percent, one of its highest readings in years. The proportion of the population currently employed is at 60.9 percent, its highest point since December 2008. And the employment-to-population ratio for workers aged 25-54 reached 80 percent for the first time since January 2008.

Zhao said that the increases signal that the tightness of the labor market is putting upward pressure on labor force participation despite an aging population pulling it down.

Michael Stull, senior vice president at the staffing and recruiting firm Manpower North America, said other positive takeaways from the report are better than expected wage growth and strong hiring in the professional and business, financial and health care sectors.

Job gains in August were led by professional and business services (37,000 new jobs), which includes many technology jobs and the nation's booming health care industry (23,900). Other industries showing gains include finance (15,000) and construction (14,000).

"Health care and professional services have both grown strongly across 2019, carrying the labor market despite weakness in the goods-producing sectors," Zhao said. "Additionally, the increase in temporary help services [15,400 jobs] is a good sign that employers are not cutting back on the most flexible parts of their workforces in the face of recession chatter."

However, Pollak noted that the BLS reported that the private sector only added 96,000 jobs, marking a slowdown from the pace of job growth over the last two years.

Industries like mining and manufacturing are struggling. Mining employment fell by 5,600 jobs and manufacturers have seen a marked slowdown in job creation, with only 3,000 jobs added in August. "In 2018, manufacturing job growth exceeded 10,000 jobs in 11 of 12 months, but this year job growth has been below 10,000 or even negative in six of eight months," Pollak said. "Trade policy uncertainty and a global manufacturing slowdown seem to have brought the 2017-2018 manufacturing boom to a halt."

The retail sector lost 11,000 jobs in August, continuing a trend of month-over-month declines for the seventh consecutive month. "Despite strong consumer spending, increasing labor costs and the rise of e-commerce are keeping retail hiring down even as we begin to enter the holiday hiring season," Zhao said. "We'll be watching the next few reports for signs that the holiday retail hiring season has slowed or that the latest round of tariffs are having a larger effect on the retail industry."

Juiced by Census Hires

U.S. jobs data is now—and will for some time be—inflated by a temporary spike in government hiring for 2020 Census workers. The federal government added 28,000 workers (excluding U.S. Post Office hires) to its payrolls in August. The majority of those—25,000 temporary workers—will go door-to-door over the next several weeks to verify addresses ahead of the 2020 count.

The Census Bureau expects to hire about 40,000 people for this preliminary duty and about 500,000 workers next year for the actual canvassing.

Unemployment Stays Low

The BLS data showed that the national unemployment rate remained below 4 percent for the 18th consecutive month. The number of unemployed people held at 6 million.

"The unemployment rate remains near its lowest level in 50 years, again signaling the strength of the labor market for workers as the number of job openings continues to exceed the number of unemployed workers," Zhao said.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) rose from 1.1 million to 1.2 million in August and accounted for 20.6 percent of the unemployed.

The U-6 unemployment rate—a broader measure capturing both the unemployed, underemployed and those too discouraged to seek work—continued its long decline and held at 7.3 percent for the second month in a row. There were 467,000 discouraged workers in August, about the same as a year ago.

"There are still more discouraged workers than we would expect, given the low unemployment rate," Pollak said. "Discouraged workers are those who are out of work but have not applied for a job in the past four weeks because they think there are none available or none for which they qualify," she explained. "If there were fewer discouraged workers, labor force participation and employment rates would be higher, and more vacancies would be filled."

Wages Inch Up

Average hourly earnings increased 11 cents to $28.11, following 9-cent gains in both June and July. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.2 percent.

"At this point in the expansion, we'd expect wage growth to pick up, but it is continuing to stall," said Nick Bunker, a Washington, D.C.-based economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab. "Wage growth continues to be strongest for workers in lower-wage industries."

SOURCE: Maurer, R. (06 September 2019) "US Jobs increase by 130,000 in August" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/bls-hr-jobs-unemployment-august-2019.aspx


Illnesses, Deaths Tied to Vaping

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a health alert warning that severe pulmonary disease is associated with vaping products. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more about vaping and how to address it in the workplace.


The use of electronic cigarettes, also known as vaping, is believed to be responsible for five deaths and 450 severe lung injuries in what appears to be a nationwide epidemic, according to new reports.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated and produce vapor that simulates smoking. They can resemble regular cigarettes, cigars, pipes, pens, USB sticks and other everyday items. They do not burn tobacco, but the device heats a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals.

While most employers ban smoking in the workplace, their policies don't always extend to e-cigarette products. However, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health alert on Aug. 30 warned that severe pulmonary disease is associated with using e-cigarette products. The agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, launched a multistate investigation into the lung illnesses on Aug. 1.

"Although more investigation is needed to determine the vaping agent or agents responsible," wrote Dr. David C. Christiani of the Harvard School of Medicine, "there is clearly an epidemic that begs for an urgent response." He shared his comments in the Sept. 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, along with the preliminary report "Pulmonary Illness Related to E-Cigarette Use in Illinois and Wisconsin."

The CDC is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, states and other public health partners and clinicians to determine what is sickening users, and in some cases resulting in fatalities. On Friday, it suggested that people refrain from using e-cigarette products during its investigation.

SHRM Online has collected the following articles about this topic from its archives and other trusted sources.  

5 Deaths Linked to Vaping. Officials Are Urging Consumers to Stop. (Chicago Tribune)

How Are You Handling Vaping at Work? (SHRM Online)

More States Ban Vaping, E-Cigarette Use in Workplaces (Bloomberg)

Florida Adds Vaping to Regulated Indoor Smoking (SHRM Online)

SOURCE: Gurchiek, K. (6 September 2019) "Illnesses, Deaths Tied to Vaping" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/Pages/Illnesses-Deaths-Tied-to-Vaping-.aspx