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Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Episode 60: April 19, 2021

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien talks with Suzanne Murphy, CEO and founder of Unemployment Tax Control Associates in Springfield

On this installment of BusinessTalk, BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien talks with Suzanne Murphy, CEO and founder of Unemployment Tax Control Associates in Springfield. The two discuss a critical issue now facing employers across the region — the huge increases in the unemployment insurance solvency fund assessment now facing all business owners. These assessment increases are dramatic and largely unforeseen, and they come at a time when many business owners are still reeling from the pandemic.  The two have a lively discussion about what’s at stake for businesses if something isn’t done, and just what can be done to provide a softer landing for the state’s businesses. It’s must listening, so join us on BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local.

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Crunching the Numbers

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was passed by the U.S. Congress by the narrowest of partisan margins, but its impact promises to be broad, for individuals and businesses alike. Following is a breakdown of how the act, signed into law by President Biden last month, affects everything from unemployment benefits to tax credits to employee retention.

By Jim Moran, CPA, MST

 

On March 11, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP). Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package is aimed at stabilizing the economy, providing needed relief to individuals, small businesses, and improving and accelerating the administration of coronavirus vaccines and testing.

The relief package, which is Biden’s first major legislative initiative, is one of the largest in U.S. history and follows on the heels of the Trump administration’s $900 billion COVID relief package enacted in December 2020 (Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021).

The most significant measures included in the ARP are the following:

• A third round of stimulus payments to individuals and their dependents;

• Extension of enhanced supplemental federal unemployment benefits through September 2021;

• Expansion of the child tax credit and child and dependent care credit;

• Extension of the Employee Retention Credit (ERC);

• $7.25 billion in aid to small businesses, including Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans;

• Increased federal subsidies for COBRA coverage;

• More than $360 billion in aid directed to states, cities, U.S. territories, and tribal governments (the Senate added $10 billion for critical infrastructure, including broadband internet, and $8.5 billion for rural hospitals);

• $160 billion earmarked for vaccine and testing programs to improve capacity and help curb the spread of COVID; this includes funds to create a national vaccine-distribution program that would offer free shots to all U.S. residents regardless of immigration status; and

• Other measures that address nutritional assistance, housing aid, and funds for schools.

Here are details on many (but not all) of the provisions of the ARP.

 

MEASURES AFFECTING INDIVIDUALS

The ARP includes several measures to help individuals who have been adversely affected by the impact of the pandemic on the economy. The additional round of stimulus checks, in conjunction with supplemental federal unemployment benefits, should provide some measure of relief to individuals. A temporarily enhanced child tax credit offers another area of assistance.

 

Cash Payments

An additional $1,400 payment is being sent for each dependent of the taxpayer, including adult dependents (such as college students and parents). The previous two stimulus payments limited the additional payments to dependent children age 16 or younger.

jim Moran

jim Moran

“The relief package, which is Biden’s first major legislative initiative, is one of the largest in U.S. history and follows on the heels of the Trump administration’s $900 billion.”

The amount of the stimulus payment is based on information in the taxpayer’s 2020 tax return if it had been filed and processed; otherwise, the 2019 return is used. The amount of the payment will not be taxable income for the recipient.

The stimulus payments are subject to certain limitations with respect to a household’s adjusted gross income. Households with adjusted gross income of more than $80,000 for single filers, $120,000 for head-of-household filers, and $160,000 for married filing jointly will not receive any payment. For taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes below those respective limitations, the stimulus is subject to a phaseout beginning at $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for heads of household, and $150,000 for married filing jointly.

 

Extended Unemployment Benefits

The current weekly federal unemployment benefit of $300 (which applies in addition to any state unemployment benefits) is extended through Sept. 6, 2021; the Senate cut back the $400 that would have applied through Aug. 29 under the House version. The extension also covers the self-employed and individual contractors (such as gig workers) who typically are not entitled to unemployment benefits.

Additionally, the first $10,200 (per person if married filed jointly) of unemployment insurance received in 2020 would be non-taxable income for workers in households with income up to $150,000. If you have already filed your 2020 federal taxes (Form 1040 or 1040-SR), there is no need to file an amended return to figure the amount of unemployment compensation to exclude. The IRS will refigure your taxes using the excluded unemployment compensation amount and adjust your account accordingly. The IRS will send any refund amount directly to you.

 

Child Tax Credit

The child tax credit will be expanded considerably for 2021 to help low- and middle-income taxpayers (many of the same individuals who will be eligible for stimulus payments), and the credit will be refundable.

The amount of the credit will increase from the current $2,000 (for children under 17) to $3,000 per eligible child ($3,600 for a child under age six), and the $3,000 will also be available for children who are 17 years old. The increase in the maximum amount will phase out for heads of households earning $112,500 ($150,000 for couples).

Because the enhanced child tax credit will be fully refundable, eligible taxpayers will receive a refund for any credit amount not used to offset the individual’s federal income-tax liability. Part of the credit will be paid in advance by the IRS during the period July through December 2021 so that taxpayers do not have to wait until they file their tax returns for 2021. The IRS will publish future guidance as to how the payments will be refunded.

 

Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

The child and dependent care tax credit will be expanded for 2021 to cover up to 50% of qualifying childcare expenses up to $4,000 for one child and $8,000 for two or more children for 2021 (currently, the credit is up to 35% of $3,000 for one child or 35% of $6,000 for two or more children). The credit will be refundable so that families with a low tax liability will be able to benefit; the refund will be fully available to families earning less than $125,000 and partially available for those earning between $125,000 and $400,000.

 

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

The EITC will be expanded for 2021 to ensure it is available to low-paid workers who do not have any children in the home. The maximum credit will increase from about $530 to about $1,500, and the income cap to qualify for the EITC will go from about $16,000 to about $21,000. Further, the EITC will be available to individuals age 19-24 who are not full-time students, as well as those over 65.

 

MEASURES AFFECTING BUSINESSES

The ARP also contains provisions designed to assist businesses — small businesses in particular.

 

Small Businesses and Paycheck Protection Program

An additional $7.25 billion is allocated to assist small businesses and the PPP forgiven loans. The current eligibility rules remain unchanged for small businesses wishing to participate in the PPP, although there is a provision that will make more nonprofit organizations eligible for a PPP loan if certain requirements are met.

The PPP — which was originally created as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted on March 27, 2020 — is designed to help small businesses that have suffered from disruptions and shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic and keep them operational by granting federally guaranteed loans to be used to retain staff at pre-COVID levels. A PPP loan may be forgiven in whole or in part if certain requirements are met.

The Economic Aid Act, which is part of the CAA, earmarked an additional $284 billion for PPP loans, with specific set-asides for eligible borrowers with no more than 10 employees or for loans of $250,000 or less to eligible borrowers in low- or moderate-income neighborhoods. The program has recently been extended from March 31, 2021 to May 31, 2021.

 

Employee Retention Credit (ERC)

The ERC, originally introduced under the CARES Act and enhanced under the CAA, aims to encourage employers (including tax-exempt entities) to keep employees on their payroll and continue providing health benefits during the COVID pandemic. The ERC is a refundable payroll-tax credit for wages paid and health coverage provided by an employer whose operations were either fully or partially suspended due to a COVID-related governmental order or that experienced a significant reduction in gross receipts.

The CAA extended the eligibility period of the ERC to June 30, 2021, increased the ERC rate from 50% to 70% of qualified wages, and increased the limit on per-employee wages from $10,000 for the year to $10,000 per quarter ($50,000 per quarter for startup businesses). The ARP also extends the ERC until Dec. 31, 2021 under the same terms as provided in the CAA.

 

 

Other Measures

• Employers offering COVID-related paid medical leave to their employees will be eligible for an expanded tax credit through Sept. 30, 2021.

• The ARP increases the proposed subsidies of insurance premiums for individual workers eligible for COBRA, after they were laid off or had their hours reduced, to 100% through Sept. 30, 2021.

• Funds are allocated for targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance payments, as well as for particularly hard-hit industries such as restaurants, bars, and other eligible food and drink providers, shuttered venue operators, and the airline industry.

• Effective for taxable years beginning after Dec. 20, 2020, the ARP repeals IRC section 864(f), which allows U.S.-affiliated groups to elect to allocate interest on a worldwide basis. This provision was enacted as part of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 and has been deferred several times. The provision is relevant in computing the foreign tax-credit limitation under IRC section 904.

• The ARP does not cancel student-loan debt, but there is a provision that would make student loan forgiveness passed between Dec. 31, 2020 and Jan. 1, 2026 tax-free (normally, the cancellation of debt is considered taxable income).

• A deduction will be disallowed for compensation that exceeds $1 million for the highest-paid employees (such as the CEO, CFO, etc.) for taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2026.

• The limitation on excess business losses of non-corporate taxpayers enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will be extended by one year through 2026.

• The threshold for third-party payment processors to report information to the IRS is lowered substantially. Specifically, IRC section 6050W(e) is revised so that the current threshold of $200,000 for at least 200 transactions is reduced to $600. As a result, such payment processors will have to provide a Form 1099K to sellers for whom they have processed more than $600 (regardless of the number of transactions). This change, which applies to tax returns for calendar years beginning after Dec. 31, 2021, will bring many more sellers, including ‘casual’ sellers, within the 1099K reporting net.

If you have questions about any of the items above, reach out to your tax professional, who will be able to navigate you through any portion of the American Rescue Plan Act and how it may affect you.

 

Jim Moran, CPA, MST is a tax manager at Melanson, advising clients on individual and corporate tax matters; [email protected]

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate was down 0.7% in February at 7.1%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts gained 14,100 jobs in February. This follows last month’s revised gain of 37,900 jobs. Over the month, the private sector added 22,300 jobs as gains occurred across all sectors, led by leisure and hospitality and professional, scientific, and business services.

From February 2020 to February 2021, BLS estimates Massachusetts lost 325,100 jobs. Losses occurred in each of the private sectors with the exception of mining and logging, with the largest-percentage losses in leisure and hospitality, with 30.1% of the jobs lost; other services, with 19.0% of the jobs lost; and education and health services, with 8.9% of the jobs lost.

The February unemployment rate was 0.9% higher than the national rate of 6.2% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The labor force dropped by 11,900 from 3,756,700 in January, as 15,700 more residents were employed and 27,600 fewer residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was up by 4.3 percentage points.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — was down two-tenths of a percentage point at 66.3%. Compared to February 2020, the labor-force participation rate is down one-tenth of a percentage point.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate for January was down 0.6 percentage points at 7.8%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts gained 35,500 jobs in January. This follows last month’s revised loss of 8,700 jobs. Over the month, the private sector added 26,300 jobs as gains occurred across all sectors, led by education and health services and professional, scientific, and business services.

From January 2020 to January 2021, BLS estimates Massachusetts lost 334,200 jobs. Losses occurred in each of the private sectors with the exception of mining and logging, with the largest-percentage losses in leisure and hospitality, with 32.8% of jobs lost; other services, with 18.7% of jobs lost; and education and health services, with 8.7% of jobs lost.

The January unemployment rate was 1.5 percentage points higher than the national rate of 6.3% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The labor force increased by 3,600 from 3,753,100 in December, as 23,300 more residents were employed and 19,700 fewer residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was up by five percentage points.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — remained unchanged at 66.5%. Compared to January 2020, the labor force participation rate is down one-tenth of a percentage point.

Annual year-end revisions show the unemployment rates were lower than the previously published estimates for May 2020 through September 2020. After the revisions, the highest unemployment rate during the COVID-19 pandemic occurred in April 2020 at 16.4%, which was 1.3 percentage points lower than the previously published highest rate of 17.7% in June 2020.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate rose 0.7% to 7.4% in December, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicates Massachusetts lost 600 jobs in December. This follows last month’s revised gain of 12,600 jobs. Over the month, the private sector added 5,200 jobs as gains occurred in professional and business services; trade, transportation, and utilities; construction; manufacturing; and financial activities. Losses occurred in leisure and hospitality, education and health services, information, other services, and government.

From December 2019 to December 2020, BLS estimates Massachusetts lost 335,400 jobs. Losses occurred in each of the private sectors, with the largest-percentage losses in leisure and hospitality, other services, construction, and education and health services.

The December unemployment rate was 0.7% above the national rate of 6.7% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The labor force increased by 70,400 from 3,588,100 in November, as 39,800 more residents were employed and 30,600 more residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by 4.6%.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — was up by 1.2% over the month at 64.5%. Compared to December 2019, the labor-force participation rate is down by 3.4%.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s November total unemployment rate was down 0.7 percentage points at 6.7%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 12,200 jobs in November. This follows the previous month’s revised gain of 9,500 jobs. Over the month, the private sector added 15,600 jobs as gains occurred in trade, transportation, and utilities; professional, scientific, and business services; construction; education and health services; leisure and hospitality; information; financial activities; manufacturing; and other services. Government lost jobs over the month.

From November 2019 to November 2020, BLS estimates Massachusetts lost 337,900 jobs. Losses occurred in each of the private sectors, with the largest percentage losses in leisure and hospitality, construction,education and health services, and other services.

The November unemployment rate was the same as the national rate of 6.7% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by 3.9 %.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — dropped to 63.1%. Compared to November 2019, the labor-force participation rate was down by 4.8%.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s October unemployment rate was down 2.4 percentage points at 7.4% following a revision to the September rate at 9.8%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 11,400 jobs in October, following the previous month’s revised gain of 36,400 jobs. Over the month, the private sector added 15,600 jobs as gains occurred in trade, transportation, and utilities; professional, scientific, and business services; construction; manufacturing; financial activities; and other services. Government lost jobs over the month.

From October 2019 to October 2020, BLS estimates Massachusetts lost 340,200 jobs. Losses occurred in each of the private sectors, with the largest-percentage losses in leisure and hospitality; other services; construction; and education and health services.

The October unemployment rate was 0.5% above the national rate of 6.9% reported by BLS.

The labor force decreased by 155,600 from 3,764,000 in September, as 55,200 fewer residents were employed and 100,400 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by 4.6%.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — dropped to 63.7%. Compared to October 2019, the labor-force participation rate is down by 4.3%.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s September total unemployment rate is down 1.8 percentage points at 9.6% following a revision to the August rate at 11.4%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 36,900 jobs in September. This follows last month’s revised gain of 62,500 jobs. Over the month, the private sector added 49,200 jobs as gains occurred in education and health services; leisure and hospitality; trade, transportation, and utilities; other services; professional, scientific, and business services; manufacturing; construction; financial activities; and information. Government added jobs over the month.

From September 2019 to September 2020, BLS estimates Massachusetts lost 351,800 jobs. Losses occurred in each of the private sectors, with the largest-percentage losses in leisure and hospitality; other services; construction; and trade, transportation, and utilities. The September unemployment rate was 1.7 percentage points above the national rate of 7.9% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The labor force increased by 240,900 from 3,548,600 in August, as 279,000 more residents were employed and 38,000 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by 6.8%.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — increased to 66.9%. Compared to September 2019, the labor-force participation rate is down by one percentage point.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s June total unemployment rate is up eight-tenths of a percentage point at 17.4% following a revision to the May rate of 16.6%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 83,700 jobs in June. This follows last month’s revised gain of 55,000 jobs. Over the month, the private sector added 97,300 jobs as gains occurred in leisure and hospitality; trade, transportation, and utilities; construction; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; manufacturing; and other services. Losses occurred in financial activities and information. Government lost jobs over the month.

From June 2019 to June 2020, BLS estimates Massachusetts lost 529,800 jobs. Losses occurred in each of the private sectors, with the largest-percentage losses in leisure and hospitality; other services; trade, transportation, and utilities; and construction.

The June unemployment rate was 6.3% above the national rate of 11.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The labor force increased by 130,800 from 3,540,900 in May, as 79,200 more residents were employed and 51,600 more residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by 14.5%.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — increased to 64.9%. Compared to June 2019, the labor-force participation rate is down by 2.7%.

Women in Businesss

Critical Tools

As women continue to experience the devastating impact of unemployment due to COVID-19, representing close to 60% of all lost jobs this spring, the food-service, hospitality, retail, and travel industries have been some of the hardest hit.

Further delivering on its mission of empowering women, at a time when many are forced to reimagine their lives, Bay Path University is offering a free three-credit online undergraduate college course in August. The course, “Fundamentals of Digital Literacy,” will help women expand their digital technology skill set and be better prepared for the workforce of the future. The course is offered through The American Women’s College, Bay Path University’s fully online division designed to fit busy women’s lives.

“We hope this free course inspires women to look to a better future through education at a time when they are experiencing such uncertainty,” said Carol Leary before her recent retirement as Bay Path president. “This is our way to offer women an opportunity to discover the benefits of online learning. We have deep experience serving women in a proven college format resulting in a graduation rate that is 20% higher than other adult-serving online programs.”

“Fundamentals of Digital Literacy” is a six-week, three-credit course in which students will examine best practices for utilizing social-media and digital-communication tools in the workplace. In addition, they will learn practical skills for a digital world and gain an increasing awareness of the risks of digital communication essential in all fields. By mastering the fundamentals of computing technology and demonstrating digital literacy, women who complete the course will have developed the computer skills needed to thrive in a 21st-century workforce that is continually changing.

“We hope this free course inspires women to look to a better future through education at a time when they are experiencing such uncertainty. This is our way to offer women an opportunity to discover the benefits of online learning. We have deep experience serving women in a proven college format resulting in a graduation rate that is 20% higher than other adult-serving online programs.”

Leaders in the Women in Travel and Hospitality and Women in Retail Leadership Circle organizations are sharing this free course opportunity with impacted employees impacted. The course offering is not exclusive to these groups, however, and any woman in sectors affected by COVID-19 are welcome to enroll.

“At a time when the retail industry has been dramatically impacted, it is refreshing to see Bay Path University, an institution dedicated to advancing the lives of women, provide an opportunity for women in our industry to gain a valuable skillset and college credits,” said Melissa Campanelli and Jen DiPasquale, co-founders of the Women in Retail Leadership Circle.

Unlike other online degree programs, students enrolled in classes through the American Women’s College at Bay Path University are able to get immediate feedback on individual academic performance. They also get the support they need to excel in the program, such as coaching, counseling, virtual learning communities, and social networking. The courses are designed to help provide the flexibility women need to engage in their studies, while still balancing their daily lives, jobs, and families.

As a result of the innovative approach to learning offered through the American Women’s College, women successfully earn degrees at higher rates than national averages, the institution notes. The model has been widely recognized by industry experts, the federal government, and granting agencies since its inception in 2013. Most recently, the American Women’s College was awarded a $1.6 million grant from the Strada Education Network to use its unique model to close the digital-literacy gap for women.

Enrollment in this six-week, three-credit course is subject to availability. This offer is intended for women who are first-time attendees of Bay Path University. Active Bay Path University students and those enrolled within the past year are not eligible for this offer.

Any student enrolled in this course who wishes to officially enroll into a certificate or degree program at the American Women’s College or Bay Path University must submit the appropriate application for admission and be accepted according to standard admissions guidelines. 

To register for the course, visit bpu.tfaforms.net/41. The registration deadline is July 20, and enrollees will have course access on July 27. For more information, visit www.baypath.edu/baypathworks.

Daily News

BOSTON — From June 21 to June 27, Massachusetts had 29,072 individuals file an initial claim for regular unemployment insurance (UI), a small decrease of 469 over the previous week, the third consecutive week of decline.

However, as the school systems officially closed for the summer, over-the-week increases in filings were seen in public administration and education. Manufacturing also posted an increase in initial claims filed. From March 15 to June 27, a total of 1,057,496 individuals have filed for regular UI. For the week, continued UI claims were down 9,828, or 1.8% over the previous week.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial claims filed for the week ending June 27, at 14,154, were slightly more than the previous week. Since April 20, 638,245 claimants have filed an initial claim for PUA.

The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provided up to 13 weeks of extended benefits, was implemented on May 21. For the week ending June 20, 4,503 PEUC initial claims were filed, bringing the total of PEUC filings to 59,144 since implementation.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 16.3% in May following a revision to the April rate of 16.2%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 58,600 jobs in May. This follows last month’s revised loss of 646,700 jobs. Over the month, the private sector added 65,700 jobs as gains occurred in construction; leisure and hospitality; education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; trade, transportation, and utilities; other services; manufacturing; and financial activities. Information and government lost jobs over the month.

From May 2019 to May 2020, BLS estimates Massachusetts lost 605,000 jobs. Losses occurred in each of the private sectors, with the largest percentage losses in leisure and hospitality; other services; construction; and trade, transportation, and utilities.

The labor force increased by 123,200 from 3,406,900 in April, as 100,000 more residents were employed and 23,200 more residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by 13.4%.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — increased to 62.4%. Compared to May 2019, the labor force participation rate is down by 5.1%.

Daily News

BOSTON — Massachusetts had 44,660 individuals file an initial claim for standard unemployment insurance (UI) from May 31 to June 6, an increase of 17,626 over the previous week. Since March 15, a total of 968,899 initial claims have been filed for UI. At 565,898, continued UI claims decreased by 9,964 or 1.7% over the previous week, the second consecutive week of decline.

There were 20,991 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial claims filed for the week ending June 6, 33,290 fewer than the previous week. Since April 20, 2020, 594,068 claimants have filed for PUA.

The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provided up to 13 weeks of extended benefits to individuals who have exhausted or expired their regular unemployment compensation since July 2019, was implemented on May 21. For the week ending June 6, 3,692 PEUC claims were filed, bringing the total of PEUC filings to 46,945 since implementation.

Daily News

BOSTON — Massachusetts had 27,034 individuals file an initial claim for standard unemployment insurance (UI) from May 24 to May 30, a decrease of 10,584 over the previous week. Since March 15, a total of 924,239 initial claims have been filed for UI. For the same week, there were 575,862 continued UI claims filed, a decrease of 12,187 or 2.1% over the previous week. This marks the first decrease in continued UI weeks claimed since the beginning of the pandemic-related unemployment surge.

At 54,281, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial claims filed for the week ending May 30 were 93,313 less than the previous week. Since April 20, 573,077 claimants have filed for PUA.

The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provided up to 13 weeks of extended benefits to individuals who have exhausted or expired their regular unemployment compensation since July 2019, was implemented on May 21. For the week ending May 23, 39,011 PEUC claims were filed, followed by 4,242 PEUC filings for the week of May 24 to May 30.

Daily News

BOSTON — From May 17 to May 23, Massachusetts had 37,618 individuals file an initial claim for standard unemployment insurance (UI), a decrease of 463 over the previous week. Since March 15, a total of 897,205 initial claims have been filed for UI. For the same week, 588,049 continued UI claims were filed, an increase of 5,009 or 0.9% over the previous week.

For the week of May 17 to May 23, 147,594 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims were filed, bringing the total of claimants who have filed for PUA to 518,796.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s April total unemployment rate was up 12.3% from March at 15.1%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts lost 623,000 jobs in April. This follows last month’s revised loss of 43,800 jobs. The monthly change in the job estimates reflects the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the month, the private sector lost 597,100 jobs as losses occurred in all sectors, the largest of which occurred in leisure and hospitality; trade, transportation, and utilities; education and health services; construction; and other services. Government lost jobs over the month.

From April 2019 to April 2020, BLS estimates Massachusetts lost 638,000 jobs.

The only private-sector job gain over the year was in information. The remaining private sectors lost jobs over the year, with the largest percentage losses in leisure and hospitality; other services; construction; and trade, transportation, and utilities.

The April unemployment rate was four-tenths of a percentage point higher than the national rate of 14.7% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The labor force decreased by 364,700 from 3,772,000 in March, as 773,500 fewer residents were employed and 408,700 more residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by 12.1%.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents age 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — dropped to 60.3%. Compared to April 2019, the labor-force participation rate is down by 7.2%.

Daily News

BOSTON — From May 3 to May 9, Massachusetts had 44,274 individuals file an initial claim for standard unemployment insurance (UI), a decrease of 10,949 over the previous week, and the sixth consecutive week of fewer initial claims filing over the previous week.

Since March 15, a total of 821,506 initial claims have been filed for UI. For the week of May 3 to May 9, there were a total of 576,172 continued UI claims, an increase of 3.6% over the previous week.

Since April 20, more than 255,000 claimants have filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Between both the UI and PUA programs, more than 1 million unemployment claims have been filed in the Commonwealth.

Daily News

BOSTON — From April 19 to April 25, Massachusetts had 70,552 individuals file an initial claim for standard unemployment insurance (UI), the fourth consecutive week of fewer initial claims filed from the previous week. Since March 15, a total of 722,009 initial claims were filed.

As the number of initial claims continues to decrease, the number of claimants filing for their weekly benefit each week continues to grow. For the week of April 19 to April 25, there were a total of 527,538 claimants, an increase of 13.8% over the previous week, who filed for their weekly unemployment benefits. Food and accommodation with 93,168, retail trade at 69,333, and health and social assistance with 66,202 showed the largest number of claimants who filed for their weekly unemployment benefits.

The CARES Act created a new temporary federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides unemployment benefits to individuals who are self-employed, gig workers, and those not covered by regular unemployment compensation. In the week of April 19 to April 25, there were a total of 171,598 PUA claims.

From March 15 to April 25, combining UI and PUA, Massachusetts had a total of 893,607 claims filed for unemployment insurance.

Currently, the Department of Unemployment Assistance is paying standard UI benefits to about 450,000 claimants, and PUA to about 150,000 claimants. Since March 15, nearly 700,000 Massachusetts total claims have been paid, amounting to more than $2.3 billion in disbursements to beneficiaries of both programs.

Daily News

BOSTON — Massachusetts had 80,153 individuals file an initial claim for unemployment insurance from April 12 to April 18. This represented a decrease of 22% over the previous week, as most of the workers who have been laid off as a result of work closures related to COVID-19 have already filed claims in the previous weeks.

As in the previous week, retail trade (12,669), food and accommodation (9,564), and health and social assistance (9,249) continued to show the largest number of initial claims filed this week. Since March 15, a total of 651,457 initial claims were filed. Food and accommodation, retail trade, and health and social assistance accounted for more than 41% of all initial claims filed, at 16.8%, 12.8%, and 11.8%, respectively.

Currently, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is paying unemployment benefits to nearly 400,000 people. Over the last month, the customer-service staff at DUA has grown from around 50 employees to nearly 1,000. The remote customer-service operation is now making more than 20,000 individual contacts per day, and DUA continues to host daily unemployment town halls, held in both English and Spanish, which have been attended by nearly 200,000 constituents.

This week, Massachusetts launched Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for groups like the self-employed, becoming one of the first states in the country to begin providing financial assistance to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment compensation. In just the first few days of the program launch, DUA has already received more than 200,000 PUA applications.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s January total unemployment remained unchanged at 2.8% for the sixth consecutive month, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Friday. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 11,800 jobs in January. Over the month, the private sector added 11,100 jobs as gains occurred in trade, transportation, and utilities; education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; financial activities; leisure and hospitality; other services; information; construction; and manufacturing.

From January 2019 to January 2020, BLS estimates Massachusetts added 33,400 jobs. 

The January unemployment rate was eight-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.6% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Following year-end revisions, BLS now estimates Massachusetts added 33,400 jobs over the year. In addition to those job gains, the labor force increased by 27,000 from last year’s level, with 39,400 more residents employed and 12,300 fewer residents unemployed,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said.

The labor force increased by 1,900 from 3,834,300 in December, as 2,300 more residents were employed and 400 fewer residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped three-tenths of a percentage point.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks – remained unchanged at 67.9%. Compared to January 2019, the labor-force participation rate is up two-tenths of a percentage point. 

The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in information; education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; and construction.

Business Innovation

Best of Times, Worst of Times

From left, Amy Roberts, Sarah McCarthy, and Carol Fitzgerald discuss why and how recruiting is more difficult in the current economy.

As one of the region’s largest employers, the Center for Human Development is constantly hiring; in fact, it has about 100 job openings right now, said Carol Fitzgerald, vice president of Human Resources.

At a time of low unemployment, CHD isn’t the only company that has to be focused and creative when it comes to filling those open positions.

“I think it’s a candidate’s dream right now,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re finding that people are coming to us with multiple offers. They’re playing the field, trying to figure out who’s going to get them not just the best compensation, but the best schedule, all these extra benefits. And they often don’t decide until the very, very end. Who’s going to win that race?”

Amy Roberts, chief Human Resources officer for PeoplesBank, tells a similar story.

“I’ve never experienced a market where you almost have to aggressively make sure someone shows up for an interview,” she said. “We’re finding, when people are looking, they’re looking in multiple places, so you’re not the only game in town. So we’ve seen an increase in people not showing up to a scheduled meeting.”

Fitzgerald and Roberts detailed the challenges of the current recruiting landscape at a morning-long workshop, titled “Attracting the Best Candidates in Possibly the Worst of Times,” presented on Sept. 20 by Garvey Communication Associates and BusinessWest. Specifically, they took part in a panel of human-resources professionals who explained how the market has shifted and why recruiters have to do things differently than they may be used to in order to land the best talent.

“I think it’s a candidate’s dream right now. We’re finding that people are coming to us with multiple offers. They’re playing the field, trying to figure out who’s going to get them not just the best compensation, but the best schedule, all these extra benefits. And they often don’t decide until the very, very end. Who’s going to win that race?”

“You need to know your market — and we’re in a tough market — and know what your company offers and provides as well as being very focused on the type of individual you want to have work for you,” said Sarah McCarthy, senior Human Resources business partner for Commonwealth Care Alliance, the third member of that panel. “It’s not an environment where people are coming to you; you have to do some mining and find these individuals and encourage them to come work for you, and in doing that, you need to provide context for them — why should they want to come work for you?”

In short, companies need to sell themselves — and their company culture — to job seekers more aggressively than ever before, said John Garvey, president of GCAi, adding that this doesn’t mean catering to stereotypes about young professionals.

“For a while, we heard, ‘Millennials need nap rooms, they have to play foosball, have dance parties,’ all this crazy stuff. I don’t think any of that is true,” he said. “I think people want to be a part of something they’re passionate about. That’s important. And that requires us to talk to them in different ways and develop talent in different ways — and also to reach out in different ways.”

Baiting the Hook

It also means thinking differently about who the perfect candidate is, said McCarthy, adding that flexibility is key — not only in which skills the job requires up front and which can be trained, but what schedule and work-life balance a talented candidate is looking for.

“How can the work be done?” she went on, noting that not every job needs to be 8 to 5, and many employees have needs when it comes to dropping off or picking up kids or caring for a parent. “As an employer, you’re investing in your employees and looking what their needs are, but also what the organization’s needs are. At the end of the week, is the work getting done?”

Darcy Fortune and James Garvey say websites, video, and social media are more effective recruiting tools when they clearly showcase a company’s culture.

There was a time when employers had most of the leverage in these situations, but when unemployment is at all-time lows in Massachusetts, that’s no longer the case, which forces companies to think outside the box more than they’re accustomed to.

“You can train for technical skills, but it’s harder to train for what we would call soft skills — somebody who shows up on time and gets along with everybody and their team,” Fitzgerald said. “Those are the things that are harder to find. If you can find that and train up, you broaden the number of candidates you’re able to consider.”

That said, Roberts added, “it really is about getting the right person in the right job, and not getting hung up on the fact that you have so many openings and it’s so difficult to find people that we’re just going to put anyone in the role.”

The goal, then, should be attracting as many qualified candidates to apply as possible. That starts with the posting itself, said Tiffany Appleton, recruiter and director of the Accounting & Finance Division at Johnson & Hill Staffing Services, who gave a separate presentation on the mistakes companies make in their hiring process.

How to Ensure Your Hiring Process Stinks

Tiffany Appleton, recruiter and director of the Accounting & Finance Division at Johnson & Hill Staffing Services, took a tongue-in-cheek approach to effective hiring practices with a list of 10 surefire ways a company can turn its hiring process into a crushing disappointment.

• Write a boring job description. “Just give them the specifics of what they need to have before they walk in the door, and say, ‘if you don’t have these, don’t bother sending your résumé because I’m never going to look at it.’ Just list the facts, and don’t make it sound fun.”

• Take your time reviewing résumés. “Say, ‘some of those look pretty good, but I should wait a few more days because I might get another one that’s even better.’ Candidates love writing off a job, and then you call them a month later and say, ‘we’d like to have you in for an interview.’ That surprise factor is amazing.”

• Save time when you’re scheduling interviews. “Be efficient. E-mail the people you like — ‘I’d like to have you in for an interview; here are the dates and times that are available.’ Let them get back to you and tell you which ones they want. And to make sure you’re saving time, use a form-letter e-mail template.”

• Interviewers should talk only about the job specifics. “They should not talk about anything about the culture of the company, about it being a fun place to work, about any of the growth opportunities that might be available. They should definitely not talk about any fun projects you might get to work on. Just the facts.”

• Take your time after the interview. “You need that time to make sure you’ve arrived at a consensus, that you know who the right people are, and everyone on your team agrees. Candidates really like it when they hear from you weeks after your interview, saying, ‘yeah, we’d like to have you back.’”

• Reach out only to those who made the cut to schedule a second interview. “Don’t worry about those who didn’t make the cut. They’ll figure it out eventually. Don’t waste your time talking to those people. You’d never want them in the future anyway.”

• Make sure the second interview is long and tedious. “Make sure the candidate meets every person they may ever work with in the office in that second interview. Take your time. You need to have that group consensus, remember? Time is on your side.”

• Even if by now you’re feeling confident about whom to hire, be sure to schedule a third interview — or a fourth, or a fifth. “If you want to be sure, you have to ask them every question you’d ever want to know the answer to before you make an offer.”

• When it comes time to make an offer, figure out the lowest possible salary you think will be accepted. “There is no need to waste any money. What is that lowest number they’ll say yes to? What if you start high and they say yes? Why would you do that? They could have said yes to less money.”

• After that offer is accepted, consider your job done. “You don’t need to congratulate them. Don’t say you’re happy they’re joining the team. Don’t give them any guidance. You don’t need to tell them anything. Just assume they’re going to show up. And look at all that time you have to fill that next position!” u

“A job description is that thing you use internally to use as metrics … while a job advertisement is the thing you share with the public that makes them go, ‘wow, that looks amazing; I want it,” she said. “You’re trying to get somebody to read something and go, ‘ooh, that interests me.’”

Later in the morning, GCAi’s James Garvey, digital marketing analyst, and Darcy Fortune, digital public relations analyst, talked about the communication tools companies need to be using when recruiting, including social media, video, and websites that are optimized for mobile devices, because that’s where they’ll reach the most top talent these days. Those channels are also an opportunity to showcase some of that all-important company culture before a candidate ever walks in the door.

“It’s all about the candidate experience now,” Garvey said. “Folks are comparing you to your competition, and they’re going to think about how the process of applying for this position makes them feel. If you can use that as a competitive advantage, that’s a significant opportunity.”

Companies can express a concern for culture in many ways, some as simple as providing employees with breakfast, something Commonwealth Care Alliance does, McCarthy said. “I can’t tell you what a difference that’s made in our organization, especially for young professionals entering the market who don’t have a lot of money.”

Or, it can be expressed in the way a new hire is treated, Roberts said, noting that PeoplesBank sends its new hires a package from Edible Arrangements — a simple gesture that can resonate right off the bat.

“It’s amazing how many people will come in their first day and say, ‘oh my gosh, I got the gift, thank you.’ They just appreciate it — and the other side of it is, their family sees that,” she said. “We’re setting that standard right out of the gate that now they’re part of an organization that cares about them and wants to make them feel welcome.”

Reeling Them In

That’s especially crucial when the job market is so tight for employers that there’s no guarantee someone even shows up after accepting a position, if they find something they like better in the interim.

“I hope they show up,” Roberts said. “Most times they do, but it’s definitely a unique thing I haven’t experienced in my career in HR and recruiting.”

Fitzgerald said it’s no longer enough to post a job and watch the résumés pour in; now companies have to actively court the candidates they prefer.

“The biggest challenge for us is to get the managers to realize it’s not about them anymore,” she said. “We’re trying to tell them, ‘you have to respond within 24 hours to something, or else you’re absolutely going to lose people.’”

It’s a speed game these days, she added, one in which candidates are in effect interviewing companies, seeking the best fit for them of perhaps multiple offers.

Recruiters have to keep in contact and keep top candidates engaged even after coming to an agreement, McCarthy added. “You can’t just make a job offer and walk away now. It’s about the engagement after they’ve accepted.”

That engagement doesn’t end after the first day on the job, she added. “Now the burden is on the organization — now that they’re an employee, how are you going to retain them? Which is very different than a few years ago, when there was a surplus of candidates, and we were hiring and just waiting a month or two, before they came to orientation, to engage them.

Employers that take these steps stand the best chance of landing their top choice to fill a position, rather than just securing warm bodies, Roberts added. “It’s about focusing your attention instead of posting and praying and then deciding 30 days later you have to have that dialogue because it just didn’t work the way you hoped it would.”

And if a top candidate turns a job down? It’s OK to ask why — and learn from the rejection, Fitzgerald said.

“What we’re trying to find out is, what’s the differentiation between us and anywhere else? Sometimes it’s about salary, but mostly it’s about their experience, and it’s really about culture. So we’re really trying to look at total rewards in a way that speaks to individual employees.”

In addition, parting on good terms may lead to a change of heart down the road.

“We want them to have a good experience with us so we can make that next connection. It’s about long-term connections with people,” she went on. “Our managers may be mad they didn’t take our offer, but it’s OK. Maybe it’s not the time now for CHD, but there will be a time when this will work out, or we might have a different opportunity. So let’s stay in touch.”

In a morning filled with stark reality checks and myriad good ideas for facing that new reality, Fitzgerald acknowledged that her own job has become more critical than ever — and her fellow panelists agreed.

“Certainly,” she said, “it’s job security for all of us.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Opinion

They call it ‘employee ghosting.’

By now, just about everyone has heard the phrase, and most employers have actually experienced it. While definitions vary, the most common form of ghosting occurs when an individual is offered a job, accepts it, and then, on what would be their first day on the job, doesn’t show up, because between the time when they accepted the job and when they were supposed to start, something better came along.

But it also happens with interviews — a candidate will agree to one and just not show up for it — and with already-hired employees — they’re in the office one day, and the next day they’re not, usually without explanation.

Ghosting is a byproduct of a tight unemployment market, immense competition for good talent, and, maybe (according to some) a desire for payback among individuals who applied for a job, interviewed for it (maybe a few times, even) and then never heard from the potential employer again.

In any case, while ghosting is a fairly recent phenomenon and a sign of the current times, it is also part of what we believe will be a new norm for employers, and not a temporary inconvenience. That’s because demographics certainly favor employees; Baby Boomers are retiring, and the generations following them are considerably smaller.

Yes, we know that advancing technology will eventually reduce or eliminate certain types of employment opportunities — depending on whom one talks with, we won’t have much need for truck drivers or even lawyers soon — those days are a ways off. For now, employers must cope with this new norm. And that’s why BusinessWest partnered with Garvey Communication Associates Inc. (GCAi) this month to present a morning-long series of workshops called “Attracting the Best Candidates in Possibly the Worst of Times”.

Whey these are, indeed, the worst of times — for employers, anyway; for candidates, it’s the best of times — things are probably not going to change much moving forward. Yes, the economy will eventually decline, and yes, the unemployment rate will climb, but for a host of reasons, including demographics, employers shouldn’t expect to be in the driver’s seat anytime soon.

In this environment, they have to do things differently than they have for decades. In short, they have to create an attractive culture — one people want to be part of — and then sell that culture.

Sarah McCarthy, senior Human Resources business partner for Commonwealth Care Alliance and member of a panel at the Sept. 20 event, probably summed things up best when she said, “it’s not an environment where people are coming to you; you have to do some mining and find these individuals and encourage them to come work for you, and in doing that, you need to provide context for them — why should they want to come work for you?”

Indeed, why should they? Employers will have to come armed with reasons, and they must involve more than a number on the paycheck — although that’s always important. And it will have to involve more than flex time and casual Fridays.

As John Garvey, president of GCAi, put it, “people want to be a part of something they’re passionate about. That’s important. And that requires us to talk to them in different ways and develop talent in different ways — and also to reach out in different ways.”

Note that word ‘different.’ That’s the key. Companies can’t do things the way they used to, they can’t talk to candidates like they used to, and they can’t sell themselves like they used to.

These are different times, and in most ways, they represent what is a new norm. And if companies don’t understand this, they will soon come to understand what employee ghosting is all about.

Daily News

BOSTON The state’s May total unemployment rate is up one-tenth of a percentage point at 3.0%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Friday.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts lost 3,600 jobs in May. Over the month, the private sector lost 4,000 jobs, although gains occurred in professional, scientific, and business services; information; and manufacturing sectors. The jobs level in ‘other services’ remained unchanged over the month. Government added jobs over the month.

From May 2018 to May 2019, BLS estimates Massachusetts added 26,700 jobs. 

The May unemployment rate was six-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.6 percent reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Massachusetts continues to experience a strong economy with a low unemployment rate of 3.0% percent and over 60,000 more employed residents and 17,500 fewer unemployed residents in the last year. Also, the Commonwealth’s labor force participation rate remains at a near 15 year high and is 5 points above the US rate.”  Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said.

The labor force increased by 600 from 3,840,400 in April, as 1,100 fewer residents were employed and 1,700 more residents were unemployed over the month.