March 2020 Jobs Report and Industry Update


Economics & Job Creation:


Life Sciences:
“Telecommuting found to have little impact on corporate careers”

“New type of indoor solar cells for smart connected devices”

“COVID-19 a reminder of the challenge of emerging infectious diseases”

The Industrials:
“Job insecurity negatively affects your personality”

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Economics & Job Creation:


Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 273,000 in February, and the unemployment
rate was little changed at 3.5 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
reported today. Notable job gains occurred in health care and social assistance,
food services and drinking places, government, construction, professional and
technical services, and financial activities.

This news release presents statistics from two monthly surveys. The household
survey measures labor force status, including unemployment, by demographic
characteristics. The establishment survey measures nonfarm employment, hours, and
earnings by industry. For more information about the concepts and statistical
methodology used in these two surveys, see the Technical Note.

Household Survey Data

Both the unemployment rate, at 3.5 percent, and the number of unemployed persons,
at 5.8 million, changed little in February. The unemployment rate has been either
3.5 percent or 3.6 percent for the past 6 months. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for Asians declined to 2.5
percent in February. The rates for adult men (3.3 percent), adult women (3.1 percent),
teenagers (11.0 percent), Whites (3.1 percent), Blacks (5.8 percent), and Hispanics
(4.4 percent) showed little or no change over the month. (See tables A-1, A-2, and

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 1.1
million, changed little in February and accounted for 19.2 percent of the unemployed.
(See table A-12.)

The labor force participation rate remained at 63.4 percent in February. The
employment-population ratio, at 61.1 percent, changed little over the month but was
up by 0.4 percentage point over the year. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 4.3 million,
changed little in February. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time
employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they
were unable to find full-time jobs. (See table A-8.)

In February, 1.4 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force,
little changed from the previous month. These individuals were not in the labor
force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the
prior 12 months but had not looked for work in the 4 weeks prior to the survey.
Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached who believed that no
jobs were available for them, numbered 405,000 in February, little different
from the previous month. (See Summary table A.)

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 273,000 in February, after an increase of
the same magnitude in January. In 2019, job growth averaged 178,000 per month. In
February, notable job gains occurred in health care and social assistance, food
services and drinking places, government, construction, professional and technical
services, and financial activities. (See table B-1.)

Employment in health care and social assistance increased by 57,000 in February.
Health care added 32,000 jobs, with gains in offices of physicians (+10,000), home
health care services (+10,000), and hospitals (+8,000). Employment in social assistance
increased by 25,000, with a majority of the gain in individual and family services
(+18,000). Over the past 12 months, employment increased by 368,000 in health care and
by 191,000 in social assistance.

Food services and drinking places added 53,000 jobs in February. Employment in the
industry has increased by 252,000 over the past 7 months, following a lull in job growth
earlier in 2019.

In February, government employment increased by 45,000, led by a gain in state government
education (+16,000). Federal employment increased by 8,000, reflecting the hiring of
7,000 temporary workers for the 2020 Census.

Construction added 42,000 jobs in February, following a similar gain in January (+49,000).
In 2019, job gains averaged 13,000 per month. In February, employment gains occurred
in specialty trade contractors (+26,000) and residential building (+10,000).

In February, employment in professional and technical services increased by 32,000. Job
growth occurred in architectural and engineering services (+10,000) and in scientific
research and development services (+5,000). Employment continued to trend up in computer
systems design and related services (+8,000). Over the past 12 months, professional and
technical services has added 285,000 jobs.

Employment in financial activities increased by 26,000 in February, with gains in real
estate (+8,000) and in credit intermediation and related activities (+6,000). Over the
past 12 months, financial activities has added 160,000 jobs.

Employment in other major industries, including mining, manufacturing, wholesale trade,
retail trade, transportation and warehousing, and information, changed little over the

In February, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls
increased by 9 cents to $28.52. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have
increased by 3.0 percent. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and
nonsupervisory employees increased by 8 cents to $23.96 in February. (See tables B-3
and B-8.)

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 0.1 hour to
34.4 hours in February. In manufacturing, the workweek increased by 0.2 hour to 40.7
hours, and overtime edged up by 0.1 hour to 3.2 hours. The average workweek for production
and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to 33.7
hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for December was revised up by 37,000 from
+147,000 to +184,000, and the change for January was revised up by 48,000 from +225,000
to +273,000. With these revisions, employment gains in December and January combined were
85,000 higher than previously reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional reports
received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and
from the recalculation of seasonal factors.) After revisions, job gains have averaged
243,000 per month over the last 3 months.

The Employment Situation for March is scheduled to be released on
Friday, April 3, 2020, at 8:30 a.m. (EDT).


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Life Sciences:

“Telecommuting found to have little impact on corporate careers”

Working from home is known to be good for a strong work-life balance, advantageous for employee productivity, and is even touted as being beneficial for the environment. However, telecommuting has also carried a stigma — despite a lack of data to back it up — that employees who work remotely have difficulties rising in their career.

New research from the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute finds that the reality is more positive than previously feared. In a study recently published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, Timothy D. Golden, a professor and area head of enterprise management and organization in Lally, found that rather than suffering career consequences, telecommuters and non-telecommuters receive an equal number of promotions.

“Although telecommuting has experienced rapid growth, some workers are reluctant to try telecommuting for fear that it will hurt their career,” Golden said. “This research helps answer that critical question: Does it hurt your career if you telecommute? My study shows that it depends heavily on the employee’s work context.”

Golden found that a key determinant in the success of telecommuters receiving promotions was the prevalence of telecommuting in their workplace. Telecommuters were promoted more when they worked in offices where working from home was widely accepted, yet in offices where few people telecommuted, those employees received fewer promotions.

While telecommuters may rise in the ranks at the same rate as their office-bound counterparts, Golden observed that employees working from home don’t earn the same bump in pay. However, if telecommuters signaled a “devotion” to the workplace by working additional hours outside of normal working hours, his analysis indicated that they benefited in terms of both promotions and salary growth.

Golden also determined that it was not simply the fact that an employee telecommuted that mattered. The amount of telecommuting per week is also a key component of an employee’s advancement. Moreover, he found that face time matters. Even when an employee telecommuted a large percentage of their work week, telecommuters who had more in-person contact with supervisors received higher pay increases.

Golden used a sample of more than 400 employees matched with corporate data on promotion and salary growth.

“In this study, I wanted to use objective data — actual promotions and salary increases — rather than simply rely on survey responses, as had been done in previous research,” Golden said. “In this way, we can begin to uncover the true impact of telecommuting on fundamental career outcomes, such as promotions and salary growth over time.”

Golden is an expert in the field of telework and telecommuting, studying this field for more than 20 years.

“Previous research has tended to treat all telecommuters as one homogeneous group, and my research suggests that telecommuting is not a one-size-fits-all work arrangement,” Golden said. “Telecommuting arrangements are often unique, and differences in these arrangements must be understood and taken into account when determining how best to be successful. This study suggests contextual factors are especially important to consider when determining telecommuting’s effect on promotions and salary growth.”

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“New type of indoor solar cells for smart connected devices”

In a future where most things in our everyday life are connected through the internet, devices and sensors will need to run without wires or batteries. In a new article in Chemical Science, researchers from Uppsala University present a new type of dye-sensitised solar cells that harvest light from indoor lamps.

The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to a network of physical devices and applications connected through the internet. It is estimated that by 2025, many facets of our lives will be mediated through 75 billion IoT devices, a majority of which will be located indoors. Broad installation of such IoT devices requires the devices to become autonomous, meaning that they should no longer need batteries or a grid connection to operate. To achieve this, it is crucial to identify a local low-maintenance energy source that can provide local power to IoT devices, especially in ambient conditions.

Towards this goal, a research team led by Marina Freitag, assistant professor at the Department of Chemistry, Uppsala University, has developed new indoor photovoltaic cells that can convert up to 34 per cent of visible light into electricity to power a wide range of IoT sensors. The team has designed novel dye-sensitised photovoltaic cells based on a copper-complex electrolyte, which makes them ideal for harvesting indoor light from fluorescent lamps and LEDs. The latest promising results establish dye-sensitised solar cells as leaders in power conversion efficiency for ambient lighting conditions, outperforming conventional silicon and solar cells made from exotic materials.

The research promises to revolutionize indoor digital sensing for smart greenhouses, offices, shelves, packages and many other smart everyday objects for the Internet of Things.

“Knowing the spectra of these light sources makes it possible to tune special dyes to absorb indoor light. While generating large amounts of energy, these indoor photovoltaics also maintain a high voltage under low light, which is important to power IoT devices,” says Freitag.

In cooperation with the Technical University of Munich, the researchers have further designed an adaptive ‘power management’ system for solar-powered IoT sensors. In contrast to their battery-limited counterparts, the light-driven devices intelligently feed from the amount of light available. Computational workloads are executed according to the level of illumination, minimising energy losses during storage and thus using all light energy to the maximum of its availability. Combining artificial intelligence and automated learning, the solar cell system can thus reduce energy consumption, battery waste and help to improve general living conditions.

In the future, scientists expect that billions of IoT devices self-powered by indoor solar cells will provide everything from environmental information to human-machine and machine-machine communications. Such advanced sensors can further enhance the next wave of robotics and autonomous systems currently in development.

“Ambient light harvesters provide a new generation of self-powered and smart IoT devices powered by an energy source that is largely untapped. The combination of high efficiency and low cost with non-toxic materials for indoor photovoltaics is of paramount importance to IoT sustainability,” says Freitag.

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“COVID-19 a reminder of the challenge of emerging infectious diseases”

The emergence and rapid increase in cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus, pose complex challenges to the global public health, research and medical communities, write federal scientists from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Their commentary appears in The New England Journal of Medicine.

NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID Deputy Director for Clinical Research and Special Projects H. Clifford Lane, M.D., and CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D., shared their observations in the context of a recently published report on the early transmission dynamics of COVID-19. The report provided detailed clinical and epidemiological information about the first 425 cases to arise in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

In response to the outbreak, the United States and other countries instituted temporary travel restrictions, which may have slowed the spread of COVID-19 somewhat, the authors note. However, given the apparent efficiency of virus transmission, everyone should be prepared for COVID-19 to gain a foothold throughout the world, including in the United States, they add. If the disease begins to spread in U.S. communities, containment may no longer be a realistic goal and response efforts likely will need to transition to various mitigation strategies, which could include isolating ill people at home, closing schools and encouraging telework, the officials write.

Drs. Fauci, Lane and Redfield point to the many research efforts now underway to address COVID-19. These include numerous vaccine candidates proceeding toward early-stage clinical trials as well as clinical trials already underway to test candidate therapeutics, including an NIAID-sponsored trial of the experimental antiviral drug remdesivir that began enrolling participants on February 21, 2020.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is a stark reminder of the ongoing challenge of emerging and re-emerging infectious pathogens and the need for constant surveillance, prompt diagnosis and robust research to understand the basic biology of new organisms and our susceptibilities to them, as well as to develop effective countermeasures,” the authors conclude.

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The Industrials:

“Job insecurity negatively affects your personality”

New research shows that experiencing chronic job insecurity can change your personality for the worse.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, found those exposed to job insecurity over more than four years became less emotionally stable, less agreeable, and less conscientious.

Report co-author Dr Lena Wang from RMIT University’s School of Management said the study built on a growing evidence base about the negative consequences of job insecurity.

“Traditionally, we’ve thought about the short-term consequences of job insecurity — that it hurts your well-being, physical health, sense of self-esteem,” Wang said.

“But now we are looking at how that actually changes who you are as a person over time, a long-term consequence that you may not even be aware of.”

The study used nationally representative data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey in relation to answers about job security and personality for 1,046 employees over a nine-year period.

It applied a well-established personality framework known as the Big Five, which categorizes human personality into five broad traits: emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion and openness.

The study results showed that long-term job insecurity negatively affected the first three traits, which relate to a person’s tendency to reliably achieve goals, get along with others, and cope with stress.

Wang said the results went against some assumptions about job insecurity.

“Some might believe that insecure work increases productivity because workers will work harder to keep their jobs, but our research suggests this may not be the case if job insecurity persists,” Wang said.

“We found that those chronically exposed to job insecurity are in fact more likely to withdraw their effort and shy away from building strong, positive working relationships, which can undermine their productivity in the long run.”

Previous research has shown that insecure work — including labour hire practices, contract and casual work, and underemployment — is on the rise in Australia and globally.

The HILDA data drew on responses from employees from a broad cross-section of professions and jobs, who were asked about how secure they perceived their jobs to be.

Study lead author Professor Chia-Huei Wu from Leeds University Business School said types of job insecurity might include short-term contracts or casual work, jobs threatened by automation, and positions that could be in line for a redundancy.

Importantly, said Wu, there are ways that employers can support workers who are feeling worried about their jobs.

“This is as much about perceived job insecurity as actual insecure contracts,” Wu said.

“Some people simply feel daunted by the changing nature of their roles or fear they’ll be replaced by automation.

“But while some existing jobs can be replaced by automation, new jobs will be created.

“So employers have the ability to reduce that perception, for example by investing in professional development, skills and training, or by giving career guidance.”

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