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The Work Blog

News on Arkansas careers, including the latest job postings and hints, tips and advice on working better. E-mail tips and feedback to Lead Writer Mark Carter here.
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Unemployment Benefits Extended: Finger in the Dike?

A man's gotta eat...

Unemployed? Reduced to emoting for food? You just got a two-month extension on your benefits.

But is this just another finger in the dike?

President Obama last week signed into law the Continuing Extension Act of 2010 that will temporarily extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and Federal Additional Compensation (FAC) programs that provide unemployment benefits.

According to the folks at the Department of Workforce Services, FAC provides an additional $25 a week for those receiving regular unemployment insurance benefits, emergency unemployment compensation or trade readjustment allowances. EUC provides three levels of additional unemployment insurance benefits to those who have exhausted their regular unemployment insurance benefits, are still unemployed and are still looking for work.

Here's a breakdown of how EUC will be impacted, courtesy of DWS:

Regular Unemployment Insurance Claims: Claimants who exhaust their Regular Unemployment Insurance claims on or before the week ending May 22, 2010, may be eligible for up to 20 weeks of EUC Tier 1.

Current EUC recipients: Claimants who exhaust their current EUC Tier 1 or EUC Tier 2 benefits on or before the week ending May 29, 2010, may be eligible to move to the next tier of EUC.

Those filing new claims for Tier 1 benefits should report to their nearest Department of Workforce Services office. To see a list of office locations click here. Those exhausting Tier 1 or 2 will automatically be moved to the next tier if they qualify.

More from DWS:

During the recent period when the EUC benefits were not available, however, DWS encouraged claimants to go ahead and file for the Tier 1 benefits anyway with the anticipation that Congress would pass an extension and make it retroactive. Claimants who did that beginning April 5, 2010 through April 15, 2010, as well as those who would have automatically moved to the next tier, received notices saying the EUC period was not in effect.

Now that the benefits have been extended, DWS staff will review their claims, and should the claimants be eligible for the benefits, they will receive a letter notifying them. There is no need for them to report to their local office, as their information was already captured. Benefits for those who are eligible will be paid retroactively.

DWS says the additional benefits and costs to administer the EUC and FAC programs are financed by federal funding and will not affect Arkansas’ Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund or employers’ unemployment tax rates. The state is in the hole pretty deep to the feds on that one already.

Other interesting tidbits:

According to WebCPA, the act "also would ensure Medicare beneficiaries and military service members and their families could continue to see their doctors and prevent Americans living in poverty from losing access to vital safety-net services. Additionally, the bill would extend and restore other programs, including small business loan assistance, satellite television licensing and national flood insurance.The Senate has approved a two-month extension of eligibility for unemployment benefits and tax credits to help cover the cost of health insurance premiums for the unemployed."

The bill also would extend the current Medicare payment rates for physicians -- thus preventing a 21 percent payment reduction -- through May 31 while ensuring certain doctors remain eligible for health information technology payments under Medicare and Medicaid.

And doctors are paying close attention to that pending 21 percent Medicare cut.

In addition, the bill "will continue funding for loan programs that provide small businesses with extra capital. The bill would extend funding to reduce or eliminate fees under the Small Business Administration’s 7(a) loan guarantee program and the 504 loan program through May 31."

So the unemployed get a reprieve. But this new finger plugging that hole in the dike won't last forever. You might want to hone up on your emoting, just in case.

UA Teams Dominate Business Plan Competition

Brooms have been prominent on the Hill lately. A day after the Diamond Hogs finished off a three-game SEC set from Georgia to give them consecutive league sweeps, aspiring entrepreneurs from the University of Arkansas swept the top awards at the 2010 Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup business-plan competition Monday in Little Rock.

About 800 or so packed the Wally Allen Ballroom of the Statehouse Convention Center for the awards luncheon, presented by Arkansas Capital Corporation. Attendees heard from Gov. Mike Beebe and retired Wal-Mart COO Donald Soderquist, each of whom took turns bragging on Arkansas -- its environment for entrepreneurs and recent progress made in the areas of per-capita income and education.

And who could argue? In terms of per-capita income, and thanks to organizations like Innovate Arkansas, the state has jumped three spots to 45th in the last three years, Beebe reported (hey, it's progress).

Soderquist further noted educational progress. A course in economics is now required of all Arkansas high-school students to graduate, and the course will include sections on entrepreneurship. Arkansas is the 21st state in the union to mandate economics as part of the high-school cirriculum.

The state is beginning to truly foster an environment for entrepreneurship, leading the way to tech-based, higher paying jobs that not only will attract workers to Arkansas, but entice native Arkansans to stay.

Based on the student entrepreneurs who participated in the 2010 Governor's Cup, Arkansas' future is bright. Top winners Monday were from the Hill -- Arkansas Auto-fluff and InnerVision. The former recycles end-of-life plastics from the automotive industry. The latter has developed a smart turbine blade that could cut maintenance costs by millions of dollars.

The UA continues to crank out winning business plans. BiologicsMD, a medication development firm, took home second in the grad school division on Monday and won the elevator pitch competition as well. In addition, it won the prestigious Rice University competition held recently in Houston.

Winning the undergrad elevator pitch was ICE -- Interactive Convenience Electronics. Another UA team, ICE develops software that enables casino-go'ers to keep gambling while they visit the buffet. You know, roll the dice while you hit the rolls ...

Fifty entries were submitted to this year's competition from 14 state colleges and universities, including three junior colleges -- Pulaski Tech, Northark and ASU-Beebe.

Last year, Arkansas teams led by a UA contingent fared well at the 2009 Reynolds Tri-State competition in Las Vegas. Tri-State pits the top four winners from each of the Governor's Cup competitions in Arkansas, Nevada and Oklahoma.

Check out more from Monday's event, which featured an innovative new component, thanks to the handiwork of Little Rock startup Sumotext.

Advice to Entrepreneurs: Aim High, Baby

For entrepreneurs, it doesn't make sense to aim low. The chances of long-term success are slim at best -- maybe 25 percent. So why not aim high? We all strike out -- may as well do so swinging for the fence. Taking that called third strike ... not a good feeling.

In outlining his 4 Laws of Enduring Innovation, the Complete Innovator charges entrepreneurs to be ambitious. 

Rounding out the four are luck, focus and embracing new ideas.

For more entrepreneur-ish goodies, check out the INOV8 blog at Innovate Arkansas.

Entrepreneurship: Where There's Always a Job Opening

Image by Mike Pirnique

Karl Hills (left) of Capsearch and MeritBuilder's Dustin Henderson unwind with some foosball after some hard core white-board brainstorming. Capsearch and MeritBuilder, two promising Little Rock startups, share downtown office space.

The economy may be in recovery mode, but jobs continue to lag. Not all of us are back to work just yet.

One place where the jobs sun always shines is the land of Entrepreneurship. Of course, that sun may ultimately supernova, collapsing into a bottomless black vacuum of self-doubt and despair ... but we digress. Point is, jobs are always available there. Opportunity thrives, economy be darned (and possibly socks) -- sometimes because of that lagging economy.

What you do with that opportunity is what entrepreneurship is all about.

Arkansas Business -- you know, that little Monday shopper -- is all about entrepreneurship this week. From how Everett Buick GMC carved out a niche in tough economic times to become one of the country's most successful dealerships, to how Little Rock's own gardening guru P. Allen Smith literally grew an empire, to why more Arkansas students are studying entrepreneurship and starting their own businesses, to where aspiring tech-based entrepreneurs can find funding, and the scoop on a new program designed to help entrepreneurs in the Delta, it's in AB this week.

Looking for a job doesn't have to entail scouring the want ads. (But please feel free to peruse the AB jobs board.) If you can't find the right job, then make the right job. Then you can play foosball all day like the folks at two promising Little Rock startups, Capsearch and MeritBuilder.

Actually, they don't play ALL day... They do a lot of brainstorming, building, networking, growing, pitching. And they're pretty much always on the clock. But they do get to wear flip flops if they want.

Which, after all, is enticement No. 1 to the prospect of being your own boss. And the foosball table is always an option.

Oh, and check out these commentaries as well from Connect Arkansas' Michelle Stockman and University of Arkansas entrepreneurship expert Jeff Amerine, who writes the critically acclaimed Techpreneurship series in the INOV8 blog at Innovate Arkansas.

Forbes Magazine Senior Editor To Discuss U.S. Economy Today (April 12)

Neil Weinberg

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock's College of Business will feature Neil Weinberg, Forbes Media senior editor, as he presents “Ethical Failure: How Rampant Corruption is Wrecking the U.S. Economy.” The presentation is at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 12 in the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business Atrium, 2801 S. University Ave., Little Rock. It's free and open to the public.

Weinberg has been featured as a keynote speaker by professional societies, universities, and at numerous corporate events. His talks focus on business ethics, white-collar crime, executive pay, and the boom and bust cycles in financial markets and personal finance.

For more information call (501) 569-3356 or click here.

The Job Interview: What They Really Want to Know

Job seekers, check this out. Specialized staffing guru Robert Half (surely he has a brother who could join him so they could become the firm of Half & Half) identifies below some really good interview questions and some responses that may help you ace that next interview.

These answers, Half says, are what employers really are looking for (if I had ever been asked No. 5 in an interview, it's possible I would have gotten up and walked out ... or maybe I would've just gone Rain Man and reeled off "22").

Point is, be more aware of what potential employers really are looking for when they ask certain questions:

1. What interests you about this job?

What they’re looking for: They want to know that you’re being somewhat selective in your job search and are genuinely interested in the role and the company.

Your strategy: Your response should illustrate that you’ve done your research. This is an opportune time to describe how your skills are a match for the position.

2. Why did you leave your last job, and what have you been doing since then?

What they’re looking for: They want to know why you are seeking a new job. If you are unemployed, they want to see that you’ve been spending your time productively.

Your strategy: Succinctly describe why you intend to move on. Focus on the future and what you hope to accomplish more than the past. If you’re unemployed and have been taking classes, doing volunteer work or participating in some other relevant activity, be sure to mention it.

3. What is your greatest career achievement?

What they’re looking for: They don’t only want to know what that achievement is, they’re also looking for information on how you define success: Was it an award you won, collaborating with a team on a project, or saving the firm money?

Your strategy: Think about your achievements and be able to describe why that particular success was so gratifying. Focus on successes that boosted the bottom line.

4. What are your greatest weaknesses?

What they’re looking for: They don’t want to know that you’re a workaholic -- a cliched response. Instead, they want to get a sense of how honest and self-aware you are as well as how you work to correct known weaknesses.

Your strategy: Focus on a genuine weakness that doesn’t directly relate to key job duties and describe what you’ve done to overcome the situation.

5. How many times do a clock’s hands overlap in a day? (Or some variation)

What they’re looking for: With questions like these, companies are testing your critical thinking skills and ability to think on your feet.

Your strategy: The wrong answer won’t necessarily take you out of the running as long as it’s well reasoned. Don’t be shy about thinking out loud as you construct a logical solution.

6. Describe a situation in which you had to deal with a professional disagreement or conflict.

What they’re looking for: With behavioral interview questions like this, they want to know how you handle workplace challenges and that you are able to describe difficult situations diplomatically.

Your strategy: Don’t dodge the question or give a vague response. Think of a time when you had a genuine conflict and how you approached it. Look for an example that shows your ability to find common ground.

7. How would your last boss describe you?

What they’re looking for: They want to see that you are able to view yourself from someone else’s perspective and that you understand the importance of a positive manager/employee relationship. Many will compare your response to that of your previous manager when checking references.

Your strategy: Think of three key positive attributes your boss would use to describe you and describe how these were useful to your organization and valued by your manager.

8. What would you have changed about your last job, and why?

What they’re looking for: Candor is important here; few people wouldn’t change a thing. They also want to know what peeves and dislikes you have and whether you’re able to give constructive feedback.

Your strategy: Diplomatically describe a change that would have broad benefits, rather than just suiting you better.

(Founded in 1948, Robert Half International is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. A recognized leader in professional staffing and consulting, RHI was ranked number one in its industry on Fortune magazine's list of the World’s Most Admired Companies and named to the 2009 BusinessWeek 50 for the third consecutive year.)



Jobs: Good News, Bad News

The good news? More jobs were created last month than since the recession began. The bad news? The 162,000 jobs added nationwide in March were well below analysts' expectations of 190,000 new jobs.

The nation's jobless rate remained steady at 9.7 percent. (Arkansas' rate went up a hair to 7.7 percent.)

March's new jobs included 48,000 temporary workers hired for the 2010 U.S. census, also fewer than forecast.

The private sector added 123,000 new jobs last month, the most in almost two years. But don't expect it to overtake the gov't mule anytime soon...







Arkansas Jobless Rate Inches Up to 7.7 Percent

Seen this guy lately?

Arkansas' jobless rate inched up a 10th of a percentage point last month to 7.7 percent.

While the state remains well below the national rate of 9.7 percent, local economists tell us that the lagging unemployment makes it feel like we're still stuck in the recession.

The Department of Workforce Services reports Arkansas' February civilian labor force at 1,377,100 -- up 100 from January. Of those, 106,400 were unemployed. The largest jobs decline came in trade, transportation and utilities, which saw a drop of 2,600 jobs. Retail, perhaps still suffering from post-holiday hangover, saw a loss of 2,100 jobs.

In all, six major industry sectors lost jobs while five posted gains, according to DWS. Government provides the biggest Arkansas teat, reporting an increase of 3,800 jobs (although fed jobs were down by 200). State government accounted for the vast majority of the gains, with 3,600 new jobs. Local government -- city and county -- saw an increase of 400 jobs.

The other big winner was the manufacturing sector, which added 1,300 jobs. All growth was posted in durable goods, DWS reports, as facilities recalled workers or increased hiring.

Total non-farm payroll jobs are down 30,200 since February 2009. The biggest year-to-year losers are manufacturing (down 11,900), trade, transportation and utilities (also down 11,900), and construction (minus 4,400). The only two sectors to show growth over the past year are educational and health services (up 5,500) and government (up 1,400).

Meanwhile, Arkansas is one of 35 states currently receiving unemployment benefit advances from the federal government.

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About The Author
Mark Carter is Assistant Internet Editor for Arkansas Business Publishing Group. On The Work Blog, he covers the latest in careers news, tips and information. Carter also blogs on Innovation in Arkansas on the INOV8 Blog at
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