National / International News
First up, we could hear a lot more about manipulation in the foreign currency markets as the year wears on. The U.S. Justice Department is reportedly preparing a new pile of charges against some of the biggest Wall Street firms and, significantly, individuals who work at the firms. One focus: possible collusion in the buying and selling of dollars, euros, pounds sterling, and beyond. We talk with Ben Protess who co-wrote the scoop for for the New York Times Deal Book section. And Linkedin is the social media network targeted at our professional lives. Now, Linkedin is entering the already-crowded "college rankings" field with an interesting algorithm: LinkedIn ran the numbers on its over 310 million members to see where they went to college and what they're doing now. Plus, in the U.S., it's fair to say that there's a long tradition of corporations embracing what originally was a religious observance: Christmas. In India, the calendar is packed with a kaleidoscope of religious festivals, many involving elaborate processions and decorations, which business are often pleased to underwrite. But some in India say corporate sponsorship of these events may be going too far.
Update: The JOLTS numbers are in. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
"There were 4.8 million job openings on the last business day of August, up from 4.6 million in July... The hires rate (3.3 percent) was down and the separations rate (3.2 percent) was essentially unchanged in August. Within separations, the quits rate (1.8 percent) was unchanged and the layoffs and discharges rate (1.1 percent) was little changed.
See you again next month, quits rate.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics issues its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey—also known as JOLTS—for August on Tuesday. Back in July, the report showed 4.67 million job openings, and economists expect a healthy increase to 4.71 million job openings in August. That would be consistent with labor-market improvements reported in September’s employment report, with 248,000 jobs added to the economy, and the unemployment rate falling to 5.9 percent.
However, one data point in the JOLTS report has been consistently underperforming the rest of the labor market: the quits rate. This indicates how many people are leaving their jobs voluntarily—because they got a better offer, or think they can look around for a while without becoming long-term unemployed (People can also be classified as ‘voluntary quits’ if they leave a job to go back to school, to care for a family member, or to leave the workforce; retirement and disability are not counted as 'voluntary quits'). A higher quits rate is seen as a sign of job-market churn and flexibility for both employers and employees.
Since the recession, the quits rate has remained stubbornly low. In July, there were 2.5 million quits; the level of quits consistently topped 3 million in the years before the recession.
The quits and layoffs and discharges numbers starting from January, 2004.Bureau of Labor Statistics
John Challenger, at outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, thinks the quits rate will eventually catch up to other improvements in the labor market. But right now, he thinks many workers are still recession-scarred. “Even if I might get paid more money,” he said, characterizing the mindset of a typical worker, “safety is still of high value. Better to hold onto the job I have than to take something new.”
Elise Gould, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute, said workers don’t think they have much bargaining power with employers. So many are reluctant to risk quitting and looking for a new job. “The fact that we’ve seen sluggish wage growth, workers see that," she said. "They know they can’t bid up their wages because there are so many people waiting on line—on the unemployment rolls or out of the labor force.”
Gould said even as jobs become slowly more plentiful, workers fear that they’ll face stiff competition if they jump ship and go job-hunting right now.
Public health officials continue to track the well being of about 50 patients in Dallas who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus. As of Tuesday morning, there was no sign any of them was infected.
The labor-intensive surveillance operation is being run by local health officials and a pair of epidemiologists for the CDC. The two are officers in the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service.
With the Ebola outbreak growing, these so-called "disease detectives" are taking on an increasingly important role.
Let’s be honest, there’s something a little nuts about being in the Epidemic Intelligence Service—a job where you could get plopped into a communicable disease hotspot with little warning.
“What’s the type of person who wants to walk into an Ebola outbreak instead of walk away from it,” says Jennifer Hunter.
Hunter is one of the two EIS officers in Dallas who is keeping tabs on the several dozen people who came into contact with the Ebola patient, Thomas Duncan.
“I think there is nothing more you can do to help be part of something as large as this is and as important,” she says.
EIS alum Tracy Creek describes most EIS folks as “passionate, geeky, problem solvers” dedicated to public service. Every year, the CDC hires 70 to 80 people to spend two years tackling everything from smoking cessation to H1N1 outbreaks.
Creek says the EIS logo sums up their work: “It’s a sole of a shoe with a hole worn in it; you’re supposed to be the feet on the ground of our public health infrastructure,” she says.
Yep, a logo that could of been dreamed up by Dashiell Hammett.
Certainly EIS officers in Dallas earned their disease detective badge this past week as they tracked down doctors and nurses; lab techs and custodial staff; anyone who may have handled the patient’s fluids. But that’s just one part of the job.
EIS officers must solve problems and be a kind of fixer; a challenge in some corners of West Africa.
“We are not fully meeting demand and it’s a very challenging situation,” says Peter Kilmarx, who for nearly the past month has been running CDC’s operations in Sierra Leone.
One problem Kilmarx’s got is lining up enough burial teams to pick up the highly infectious bodies. Handle them wrong and the disease spreads.
“There’ve been deaths among burial team drivers and staff. At times when there is a call about a cadaver in the community, we’re not able to have a quick response,” he says.
In some sense, the solution is straight forward. Kilmarx needs more money—for protective gear, staff, ambulances. But with the number of people dying nearly doubling every month, Kilmarx says resources are stretched.
“We’re barely keeping up with what we’ve got, and thinking ahead to twice as many 30 days from now is daunting,” he says.
In the past, when Kilmarx needed three laptops, or three motorcycles, he just tapped the non-profit CDC Foundation—which cuts checks quicker than the agency.
The speed of this epidemic means there’s more going out the Foundation’s door than is coming in. And now, Kilmarx has another problem to solve.
In Nicholas Carr’s new book, "The Glass Cage – Automation and Us," he describes an academic study in which researchers discover a key difference between how we feel at work versus at home. At work, people can’t wait to clock out, whereas at home, they dread returning to work.
But surprisingly, the study also found that by many metrics, people are actually happier on the job. And in a world where the main goal of technology seems to be to reduce the work we do, Carr thinks maybe we should take a different tack:
“I think most of us, if we really thought about it, know that it’s really when we’re being challenged and when we’re really immersed in a task or a job…that’s when we feel like we are experiencing life in some better, more fulfilling way.”
In the book, Carr offers one example of how the video game, Red Dead Redemption, helped him realize that games can be a good model for software designed to engage and challenge us in an activity. Carr argues that if we are simply more mindful of how technology influences our experience of life, we can make better decisions about the things we buy, even if it’s as small as a video game.
Click the media player above to hear Nicholas Carr in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.