Employment new in the USA

Walmart Inc will now provide only one week of paid leave to COVID-19 positive employees. The previous policy allowed them to have two-weeks off-time. This is according to a memo seen by Reuters.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Policy

U.S. hourly associates and long-haul drivers received a memo on last Tuesday.  According to the memo, the COVID positive employees will one-week paid leave from work to complete quarantine. The company is changed its policy in light of guidelines from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated last week. The guidelines recommends that the people will isolate for five days after getting the COVID-19 infection. Previously, the infected people had to to complete a ten-days quarantine period.

Labor Shortage Challenge

Walmart is the largest private employer in United States employing about 1.6 million workers. The retail giant is the first major retailer to reduce the paid leave time for COVID-19. Many other companies may change their paid leaves policy accordingly. The current spike in COVID-19 cases is posing the challenge of significant labor shortage for the employers. Many industries are battling with supply-chain issues, product shortages, rising inflation and rocketing transportation costs. A Walmart spokesperson confirmed the COVID-leave policy change. Workers who continue to be sick can potentially receive additional COVID-related pay for up to 26 weeks.

Pandemic’s Effect on Walmart’s Business

There are 600 Sam’s Club stores and more than 4,700 Walmart U.S. stores in the United States operating under Walmart. Last week, the company announced that they temporarily shut 60 stores in COVID-19 hot spots during December for sanitization purpose. Like other mass retailers, Walmart witnessed a massive increase in sales during the pandemic as more people shopped for groceries and home goods. The company raised its full-year annual sales and profit forecast in November but disappointed investors with higher labor and transportation costs that eroded margins.

The company’s stock is nearly flat over the past one year compared to the broader S&P 500 retailing index’s 20.6% rise over the same period.

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The negotiations among Kroger’s King Soopers grocery store chain and the union which represents more than 8,700 Colorado workers had failed last week. The employees have now gone for a three-week strike started last Wednesday.

Disagreement on Proposal

More than 8,000 employees working at nearly 80 King Soopers stores went on strike. Their demands include higher wages and better benefits. The strike started at 7:00 a.m. ET. The workers on strike work at King Soopers stores in the Denver metropolitan area, Boulder, Parker and Broomfield cities of Colorado. This is the latest among the string of strikes posed by workers in United States. The events are quite similar to ones witnessed by Kellogg Co’s U.S. cereal plants and Deere & Co. The increased number of Omicron cases and rising inflation across United States is pushing workers to demand high wages and improved working conditions.

Union Demanding Higher Wages and Better Benefits

At King Soopers, the workers are demanding an increase of at least $6 an hour for all employees irrespective of their job classifications. However, the company have proposed an increase of $4.5 an hour based on job classification and tenure. This is a bit higher compared to their previous proposal. However, the union has decided to call off the negotiations and they started the strike on Wednesday.

According to company’s final offer, they will invest $170 million in wages and bonuses during the next three years. Alongside, it will offer a staring pay of $16 an hour and will offer better healthcare benefits. The negotiations were going on for some time. Last month, the retail giant offered more than $145 million in new wages during the next four years. This will bring the average hourly wage for 75% of associates to more than $18 and to over $20 for more than 50% of them. The union rejected the offer, following which the company sweetened it to $148 million in wages and signing bonuses over three years.

King Soopers Filed Charge of unfair Practices

Amid to strike, the company has now filed unfair practices charge against the union for refusing to bargain in good faith. King Soopers stated in a statement on last Monday. The union has not given any indication of when they will return to the negotiation process.

King Soopers operates more than 100 store chains in Colorado. They are state’s number one grocery chain store in terms of market share. Its sales have boomed during the pandemic, with shares of its parent Kroger hitting a record high last week.

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MP Materials Corp. is planning to build an initial rare earth (RE) metal, alloy and magnet manufacturing facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The facility will also create more than 100 skilled jobs.

MP Materials will develop a 200,000 square foot greenfield metal, alloy and neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnet manufacturing facility. The plant will also serve as the business and engineering headquarters for its growing magnetics division, MP Magnetics. MP’s initial magnetics facility will have the capacity to produce approximately 1,000 tons of finished NdFeB magnets per annum. In addition, he production facility will have the potential to power approximately 500,000 EV motors annually. The NdFeB alloy and magnets produced will also support other key markets, including clean energy, electronic and defense technologies. The facility will also supply NdFeB alloy flake to other magnet producers to help develop a U.S. magnet supply chain.

Agreement with General Motors

The company also announced that it has entered a  long-term agreement with General Motors. The idea is to supply U.S.-sourced and manufactured rare earth materials, alloy and finished magnets to GM for their electric vehicle production. MP Materials owns and operates the Mountain Pass Rare Earth Mine and Processing Facility in San Bernardino County, CA. The company’s visions is to enhance their alloy and magnet capacity in the future. This is to consume a greater percentage of its primary production and supply growing U.S. demand.

More than 100 Jobs

MP Materials said the facility will create more than 100 skilled jobs. It will be located in the AllianceTexas development in far north Fort Worth. “MP Materials has built an exceptional magnetics team and important commercial relationships. This will accelerate our mission to restore the full rare earth supply chain to the United States. This is a momentous occasion for the reshoring of the American supply chain, and we are grateful for GM’s confidence, commitment and leadership.” MP Materials Chairman & CEO, James Litinsky stated in his statement.

Although development of permanent magnets originated in the United States, the U.S. has virtually no capacity to produce these NdFeB magnets today. MP Materials said these magnets are fundamental building blocks in modern technologies and will increase in importance as the global economy electrifies and decarbonizes.

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Novelis Inc. has announced to invest $365 million to build an advanced recycling center for automotive in North America. In addition, the new recycling facility will create 140 new jobs in Guthrie, Kentucky.

New Recycling Facility

The announcement made by Novelis is good news for Kentucky’s people. The Atlanta based company is the leading producer of rolled aluminum. The new recycling facility will be built adjacent to their existing automotive finishing plant in Guthrie. The existing automotive plant became operational in October last year. The center will enable Novelis to grow its closed-loop-recycling programs with more automotive customers in North America. The closed loop recycling program will take back the aluminum remaining after automotive stamping of parts from sheets. Later, the new pant will recycle it into the same product for new vehicle production. The facility will reduce carbon emission by more than 1 million tons each year.

Employment Prospects

This recycling facility will approximately add 140 new jobs in Guthrie. Currently, Novelis is employing 150 people at its automotive plant and they have planned to increase it to 190 over the next two years. This jobs at existing automotive plant and the new recycling plant will adds up to 330 in the small city of Guthrie. In 2020, the population of Guthrie was 1,400. In addition, Novelis employs 1,600 workers in Kentucky. Apart from Guthrie automotive finishing facility, Novelis operates an aluminum beverage can recycling plant in Berea and the Logan Aluminum joint venture in Russellville.

Kentucky’s Administration Welcomed the Investment

“We are excited about this new investment in Kentucky, which will help Novelis achieve its sustainability goals, as well as support the carbon-reduction targets of our automotive customers”. Tom Boney, Executive Vice President and President of Novelis North America stated this in his statement. Kentucky’s Gov. Andy Beshear also commented on the investment prospects. “As we continue to build back throughout Western Kentucky, companies are committed to creating quality job opportunities for Kentucky families”.

The center will also be able to process aluminum from vehicles at the end of their life cycle. Using recycled aluminum as input material requires only 5% of the energy used to make primary aluminum.

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Twenty-six states in United States will raise minimum wage in 2022. Workers are expecting to get significant pay gains form their employers.

After a decade long struggle, U.S. workers will finally get a wage hike during this year. Many worker organizations were pushing for at $15 minimum wage and their efforts are finally successful. Amid high inflations and increased cost of living, activists were raising voice for a significant wage increase for workers. 2022 is set to be very expansive for citizens with inflation at its highest levels in the past 40 years.

California Wage Increase

California State struggled the most since pandemic started and its employers are finding it difficult to attract workers. Therefore, California is set to have the highest statewide minimum wage in the United States in 2022. The increased wage will be $15 per hour. There is a $1 per hour increase since last year. However, this is applicable only on employers having 26 or more employees. The minimum wage is $14 for employers having less than 26 workers. But, they need to increase the wage to $15 per hour in 2023.

Wage Increase Among Other Counties

In addition, $15 an hour went into effect in at least three New York counties. They include Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau. New York City implemented $15 an hour wage rate a couple of years ago. Seattle is the city with the highest minimum wage at $17.27 an hour and it came into effect since start of 2022. Virginia employees witnessed the highest increase in terms of percentage. The minimum wage an hour went from $9.5 to $11 on Jan 01, 2022.

Eight states raised the minimum wage across their state based on cost-of-living increases reported in the Consumer Price Index. These states include Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Washington, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio and South Dakota.

Federal Minimum Wage Rate is Way Behind

The federal minimum wage applicable on most private employers is $7.25 an hour since 2009. That comes out to roughly $15,000 a year for someone working 40 hours a week. President Joe Biden sought to increase the federal minimum wage to$15 in a 2021 pandemic relief package. However, the proposal was scrapped by parliament and legislation couldn’t be passed through the budget reconciliation process.

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The United States is experiencing a shortage of more than 80,000 truck drivers countrywide. This is according to an estimate from American Trucking Associations.

American Trucks Associations estimates that trucks carry out around 72% of American’s freight transport. This shows the level of dependency of consumers on truck drivers for managing the deliveries. Much of the nation’s $23 trillion economy rides on the back of trucks. There is a huge mismatch between the load of freight that needs to be moved around and number of truck drivers willing to do their jobs.

High Churn Rate

There are schools such as SAGE which are important is fulfilling the economy’s demand for drivers. Each year, nine out of ten drivers are replaced by new ones. This reason is that the drivers get exhausted due to job schedules that keeps them away from their homes for long periods of time. However, the post-pandemic situation is very different. The constant churn is creating a nationwide shortage of workers. The freight is adding up and there are not enough drivers to handle the deliveries. The freight forwarding companies are struggling to fill the vacant positions.

Better Compensation for Truckers

Trucker turnover is also seeking attention of the federal government and White House is trying to find out ways to resolve the issue. Administration officials on Thursday announced steps aimed at bolstering the ranks of the nation’s roughly 444,000 long-distance truck drivers, down about 25,000 since early 2019. This includes an expansion of paid apprenticeships and efforts to tap military veterans.

This is also not a new problem. Analysts and industry groups have warned of truck driver shortages for years around the globe. But supply chain disruptions during the pandemic and surges in demand in places like the US have made this slow-rolling crisis much more acute. Fewer and fewer people want to be truck drivers or stay at it long enough to replace an aging workforce. In particular, long-haul driving can be grueling. There is lesser compensation for lengthy wait times  and other costs operating costs on a route are also low.

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The latest numbers of unemployment do not appear to reflect on fast growing omicron variant of coronavirus. According to figures of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment during December stood at 3.9%. In Florida, the unemployment claims were around the same levels as they in period prior to COVID pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Labor posted stated that 3,982 unemployment claims were filed in Florida during the holiday shortened week which ended on December 25. If this number remain unchanged, this will be the lowest number of claims for a single week since the holiday week of December 2019. The average claims for the last four weeks will stand at 5,347. During the same period prior to March 15, 2020 the weekly average of jobless claims was 5, 367.

Omicron Variant is Not Affecting Employment

Unemployment claims saw a hike to 74,313 during the week that ended March 21, 2020 and the number peaked to 506,670 in the week which ended on April 18, 2020. More than 1.4 million Floridian were laid off during April 2020. However, the pace of unemployment claims eased during the past year as U.S. economy is on road to recovery. This was a result of massive federal stimulus money and a comprehensive free vaccination program launched across the country.

Unemployment Claims are Down Across the Country

The latest numbers of the unemployment claims do not appear to show signs of an impact of the fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus. Countrywide, 198,000 unemployment claims were filed during last week of December. This was down by 8,000 from the prior week. The national weekly average in November marked the lowest number of unemployment claims for the since October 25, 1969.

Government Efforts to Bring Workforce Back

For Florida, the estimated weekly claims for the week ended on December 25, 2021 was down from a revised count of 5,160 from week ended on December 18, 2021. State leaders ramped up their efforts in May to get Floridians back to work. They withdrew two federal assistance programs and reinstated a “work search” requirement for people seeking unemployment benefits.

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United States labor market posted positive growth in job market for the twelfth consecutive month. However, the rate of growth was slower as compared to the expectations of many economists.

Lesser New Jobs as Compared to Expectations

The economists were expecting that the December payroll increase will at least be double than that of November. But the U.S. economy managed to add only 199,000 new jobs which was much lower than the expected number of 422,000 jobs. The labor market started to grow momentum during initial period of the third quarter of 2021. However, the growth was hampered quickly. This was primarily due to advent of Delta Variant. The Delta Variant cases slowed down the economic recovery and it also affected the job market . December represents the second consecutive month where the actual added jobs were worse than the expected numbers.

Decrease in Unemployment

On the other hand, the unemployment dropped to 3.9% and economists are considering it a positive sign for economy. The drop in unemployment percentage is higher than the expected figure of 4.2%. These were the lowest numbers of unemployment since the pandemic begun in March 2020. The above stats suggests that businesses are struggling to attract new workers. Factors like virus fears, childcare and large stimulus savings persevere are making it difficult for employers to hire new workers. Although there is a drop in the unemployment percentage, the labor participation rate remained unchanged and stood at 61.9%.

Leisure and Hospitality Are Gaining Slight Momentum

COVID-19 pandemic drastically affected the job market of leisure and hospitality sector. Attracting workers is toughest for employers pertaining to this sector. However, leisure and hospitality sector managed to create 53,000 new jobs which is higher compared to November’s increase of 41,000 jobs. But, they are still much below than October’s number of 211,000 jobs. Sectors like transportation and warehouse and professional and business services witnessed a lower increase in job numbers as compared to previous month. Professional and business services contributed 43,000, while manufacturing added 26,000.

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Amazon announced it plans to open new technology center in Tempe near Arizona State University’s main campus.  In addition, the new project is expected to create an additional 550 jobs in the Phoenix metro area over the next few years.

550 New Jobs

The tech giant Amazon is already Arizona’s third largest private sector employer and is now planning to expand its  technology center in Tempe. Currently, there are more than 400 open jobs at the technology center. Applicants can apply for the open job positions at amazon.jobs. The new jobs roles will assist Amazon in consumer retail, web services and operations. The company will need software development engineers, senior solution architects, project managers and business analysts.

“Not only do Phoenix and Tempe have an incredible existing talent pipeline, but this is a place where people want to move to as well. We’ve already created more than 5,000 corporate and tech jobs in the Phoenix area, and we are excited to continue investing here”. The site lead for Amazon’s Phoenix Tech Hub Doug Welzel said in a prepared statement.

“Highly skilled and growing workforce as well as our premier attractiveness for technology and innovation”. Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority said in her statement.

Opportunity for Arizona State University Graguates

Arizona State University’s close proximity to the expansion center is a plus for the company. ASU is one of the largest universities in the U.S. and produces thousands of graduates looking to join the workforce. Amazon’s officials have announced that the Tempe Tech Hub is going to be using two special hiring programs.

Amazon Returnship and Best Fit Programs

Amazon Returnship is a program is to help professionals get back to work after they lost or left their jobs. The 16-week paid initiative is for the people who do not have a job during the past one year. After joining the program, the employees work on a specific project for a four-month period. Afterwards, there is a possibility of moving in a full-time position at Amazon.The other special hiring program being used is Best Fit. This will allow engineers to apply once at Amazon. The company will consider them for thousands of jobs throughout the company.

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E-commerce giant Amazon is planning a major expansion in Austin. Amazon announced that it plans to create more than 2,000 corporate and tech jobs in Austin over the next few years.

2,000 New Jobs

Amazon has already created more than 70,000 jobs full time and part time jobs in Texas over the last decade. The current expansion is aimed to support growing teams in Operations Technology, Amazon Retail, Amazon Business, and Amazon Web Services. Amazon will offer job roles including data engineers, senior technical program managers, user experience designers, and financial analysts.

During the end of December 2021, the tech giant announced it has already signed a lease for 330,000 square feet office space. The space in acquired at The Domain which is a shopping mall in North Austin. This office will be an addition to Amazon’s already existing three offices at The Domain. The new office in Austin is expected to be operational by 2024.

Austin’s Expansion Plan

There are more than 3,000 employees working at Amazon’s Austin Tech Hub in three locations at The Domain. They are from both tech and corporate side. The site lead for Amazon’s current offices says that the company has more than 1,000 corporate and technology positions currently open in Austin. You may check the job listings online. The expansion at Austin is part of Amazon’s nationwide efforts to grow. They have planned to hire 3,000 people across Austin, Chicago and Phoenix. They also posted 750 jobs in Houston and Dallas.

Amazon Returnship Program

The e-commerce company has initiated a program named Amazon Returnship to attract the workers. The idea is help professionals get back to work after they lost or left their jobs. This also include people displaced by the coronavirus pandemic.  The 16-week paid initiative is offered to the people who do not have a job during the past one year. After joining the program, the employees work on a specific project for a four-month period. Afterwards, there is a possibility of moving in a full-time position at Amazon.

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