National / International News
First up, the Fed released new data on industrial production this morning. How will the markets react? Plus, Americans who've been out of work for months face an uphill battle getting hired. That's why 300 companies signed a White House pledge earlier this year to bring down some of the barriers faced by the long-term unemployed in this country. One company's approach is to forget resumes and turn to videos. And Mexico's been trying to attract foreign investment to help boost its economy, but the country's facing challenges. Corruption is big one. Violence is another. More on that.
People who’ve been out of work for months often face an uphill battle getting hired. That’s why some 300 companies signed a White House pledge earlier this year to reduce hiring barriers for the three million job seekers who’ve been out of work 27 weeks or longer.
One company’s approach: Forget resumes; turn to videos.
Frontier Communications Corp. sells things like high speed internet and phone service. The company realized that resumes can’t always predict who’ll be good at selling its triple play packages. Jim Oddo was looking for soft skills.
“Like the ability to delight the customer,” says Oddo, senior vice president of human resources. “How do you read that on a resume?”
So this year, Frontier has been moving from a resume-first hiring model to a video-first model. To do so, the company teamed up with a group called HireVue. As the system rolled out, applicants started answering a few questions on videos they could submit from their smartphones.
“So the very first evaluation that we would have of someone is how they communicated," Oddo says. "And then we would look at their resume."
Frontier’s needs dovetailed with the Obama Administration’s push to decrease employment barriers for the long-term unemployed. Oddo says Frontier hired more unemployed people this year, half of whom were long-term unemployed.
The White House is touting this strategy and others.
Mitchell Hirsch with the National Employment Law Project says otherwise qualified jobless applicants are sometimes rejected by automatic filters.
“So they’re being unfairly screened out,” he says. “Often without the direct knowledge of the hiring managers themselves.”
A new guide to hiring the long-term unemployed recommends removing those filters.
The latest figures on builder confidence are out today. Tomorrow, the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report on housing starts and permits for September 2014 will be released. The consensus among economists is for a rise in both measures of homebuilding, compared to August figures.
Confidence among homebuilders is gradually improving, as unemployment falls and job creation has strengthened since the end of the recession, says David Crowe, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders. Still, housing starts have only recovered to about half the level of the mid-2000s, before the housing crash.
From 2004 through early 2006, housing starts consistently numbered 2 million annually. So far in 2014, Crowe says, housing starts have bounced back and forth around the 1 million mark. Nonetheless, that’s a major improvement on construction levels at the depths of the recession, when housing starts fell below the 500,000 annual level.
“It’s pretty good now, from where we’ve been,” says Crowe of the current state of homebuilding.
Crowe points to several factors that are still holding back home construction. He points out that builders—those who are left in business after a severe winnowing of the industry following the housing crash—have a hard time securing financing, due to tight lending standards. They are also having trouble finding skilled construction workers, since so many left the field during the recession. Finally, land that has been prepared for development is scarce in many markets around the country.
Economist Stephanie Karol at IHS points out that the real estate market is still digesting a decade-old oversupply of new homes. “We saw a lot of overbuilding leading up to the crash,” says Karol. “There’s less of an incentive to add to the housing stock, especially when household formation is below expectations.” Young people have been delaying marriage, and eschewing major financial commitments, like getting a mortgage, since the recession hit. Many also face high levels of student loan debt.
David Crowe says the hottest sectors of the residential construction market right now are ‘move-up’ homes (in the $300,000-plus range) for those who already own, as well as multi-family housing, which has fully rebounded since the recession.
First-time homebuyers looking for new homes in the $125,000-$150,000 price range are having a harder time, he says.
“We have very tough lending standards,” says Crowe. “So even for people ready to buy, if they have the least ding on their credit, it gets more difficult.”
Text messages, e-mails, missed phone calls, "Yo's — it's easier than ever to let someone know you want to get a hold of them. In many ways, the voicemail is a relic in the eyes of millennials and those younger, but a staple of etiquette for Gen X'ers and older.
This was the precise problem that Leslie Horn ran into with her mother. She just wouldn't stop leaving voicemails.
But then something happened that made her change the way she viewed the end of unanswered phone calls forever: her father passed away.
Upon the passing of her father, Horn's phone rang for months. Many of them ended at the machine.
It was here that she realized a few things about these messages. People often ended up saying more than they do in an actual conversation (in an endearing way), it's nice to hear a voice other than your own sometimes, and that there was a special place reserved for all the messages people left her throughout the years waiting in storage.
Old friends with stories, the occasional ramblings of a drunk dial, and one very special message for her birthday last year: A voicemail from her dad.
Why people donate is a mystery. And when it comes to giving money to help contain the spread of Ebola, charitable giving has been modest. This week, Priscilla Chan and her husband Mark Zuckerberg — the co-founder of Facebook — donated $25 million to help fight Ebola.
In an interview with Marketplace, Chan explains why one of the most prominent couples in the United States decided to donate millions to the cause — and what they hope they get for that money.
Thinking like a doctor
The gift — which Zuckerberg of course announced on Facebook — will go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the idea that it will filter through to many different organizations on the ground.
Chan, who works as a doctor, explains her rationale this way: "As a pediatrician, [my] training is in preventing disease and keeping children healthy. And so we take advantage of — and are appreciative of — the massive vaccine program in our country to help prevent the spread of a more serious epidemic, of anything ranging from...flu to measles...and what I see as cases of devastating illness that would otherwise be preventable...I understand how important it is to act now to keep Ebola from being a massive problem that affects the lives of many, and the importance of prevention and early intervention."
What they're worried about
Ebola is, at present, a disease without a cure.
"Right now we don't have an effective vaccine program...Not acting now might lead this to be a more pervasive illness that's harder to control later down the line,"Chan says. "The examples Mark brings up are diseases like HIV, Polio...infectious diseases that are so difficult for us to control, or in Polio's case, eradicate. But we have an opportunity now to act quickly and to really change the direction and growth of Ebola."
A larger donation than originally planned
Chan and Zuckerberg had been contemplating a donation for a couple of weeks, she said. Then, Zuckerberg took a trip to India. After seeing the lack of public health resources in the country's poor and rural communities first-hand, Zuckerberg called Chan and suggested they make a larger gift than they had previously been considering (Chan declined to say how much they increased the donation by).
How did she react?
"We definitely had to think about it as a couple, if this was something we really wanted to commit to...the need to respond has always been a no-brainer, the thing that changed with Mark's visit, and seeing the disparity in resources," she said. "[We decided] that we need to act now and make a larger gift, to be able to keep Ebola to a confined state, where we can aggressively intervene, rather than have it evolve into something that ends up having to be costly and linger in our worldwide community for decades."
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