Dee DePass has been a Star Tribune business reporter since 1993, covering small business, financial institutions, manufacturing and, most recently, the economy. Originally from New York, Dee came to Minnesota after earning her master's in journalism at the University of Maryland and her undergraduate degree at Vassar College.

Posts about Unemployment

Summer teen hiring finally sees a boost

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: June 4, 2012 - 1:30 PM

Employers hired 157,000 U.S. teenagers in May, marking for one of the strongest starts for summer hiring in years, according to U.S. Labor Department statistics released Friday.

If it continues, the trend will mark good news for a segment of the workforce that has been significantly marginalized by the recession and subsequent slow recovery.

May's hiring of 16-to-19 year olds was the best since 2006, according to an analysis by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Its review found that the 157,000 jump in teen job holders last month was "more than double the 71,000 jobs won by 16- to 19-year-olds in May 2011."

Teen employment has been hampered for several years by recessionary layoffs that pushed thousands of experienced workers into the jobs market.

Many laid-off workers were desperate to replace income and grabbed entry-level jobs normally scooped by teens. They also were willing to work for lower than normal wages.That combined with weak job creation during the last four years boded ill for teenagers looking to get their first job.

Mass layoffs continue, but numbers fall to 2006 levels.

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: May 16, 2012 - 5:16 PM

A U.S. Department of Labor report Wednesday shows the economy is making progress but that worried workers are not completely out of danger just yet. The Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the following:

• Employers in the private nonfarm sector initiated 1,077 mass layoff events in the first quarter of 2012, resulting in the separation of 182,101 workers from their jobs for at least 31 days.

• Compared to a year ago, total mass layoff events and associated worker separations are down from 1,490 and 225,456, respectively.

• Total layoff events reached their lowest first quarter levels since 2006.

• Mass layoff events in the manufacturing sector declined to their lowest levels in the history of data collection, which dates to 1995.

HR guide gives corporations tips on hiring vets

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: April 30, 2012 - 3:45 PM

In the name of eradicating the oxymoronic duo known as "the job skills gap" and "unemployed vet syndrome,"  the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)  issued its "Military-Veteran Hiring Toolkit for Employers" on Monday.

The free toolkit provides 10 tips in 32 pages on ways HR managers can successfully find, recruit, and retain military veterans in the civilian workplace. The brochure is chock full of dandy tips many companies may not be aware of.

A recent SHRM survey of employers who hired returning veterans found 90 percent valued the technical skills the veterans brought to the job and learned their new employees 

  •  Had a strong sense of responsibility.
  •  Worked well in a team and under pressure
  •  Showed a high degree of professionalism.
  •  Worked tasks to completion.
  •  Had strong leadership and problem solving skills.
  •  Were adaptable

 Sadly, much of the above maybe a secret to the corporate world, which is just beginning to thaw from long-held hiring freezes.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:about 12 percent of Gulf War-era II veterans were unemployed, compared to the 5.7 jobless rate in Minnesota.  Veterans ages 18 to 24 suffer a whopping 30.2 percent unemployment rate. That's nearly twice the 16.1 percent rate for non-veterans in that age group.

Determined to narrow the gap, SHRM officials said the toolkit just might help companies do more to support returning veterans. That will be important. Some 33,000 troops will be looking for civilian jobs after they return from Afghanistan between now and September 2012.

Wonder what your HR department might do? Take a look at  . It suggests tax credits,  job fairs, ways to evaluate applicable job skills and general tips for successfully integrating a veteran into the corporate setting.



Jobless? What's a friend to say?

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: April 24, 2012 - 6:54 PM

Apparently, even well meaning friends can turn completely stupid when in the proximity of hardship.

Gotta friend who's lost their job? Please, please, please don't say:

"Enjoy your fun-employment!" or

"You're lucky. I hate my job."

These little gems of hoof-in-mouth disease are brought to you this week courtesy of AARP.  

In the name of uncomfortable chatter, AARP has had the grace to come out with a tip sheet to help you through the discomfort of cheering a friend who has been slapped with a pink slip and shown the door.  

AARP's Aaron Crowe wrote a wonderful ditty called  "How to talk to an unemployed friend." 

Turns out people have been saying the wrong thing for so long that we don't even recognize it.

Crowe says certain expressions of sympathy should just be kept to yourself. He offers these as evidence:

"At least you have your health" (Not helpful)

"Everything happens for a reason."  (That one just makes you sound clueless).

"Where one door closes, another one opens"  (Too cliche)

"It's too bad I don't have time to stop by." (Clearly signals your avoidance)

 So what do you say? What should you do?  Try these:

"I'm sorry. How can I help?"  (Same as helping someone in mourning).

"It's on me. This is for your job search."  (A $25 gift card to a coffee shop won't pay the mortgage but can help your friend prep for an interview and get out of the house.). 

Run an errand. Do a chore. Crowe says job hunting is a full time job. So offer to take the kids for a spell, rake leaves, cook a meal.  

Take your friend to lunch, a movie, a museum. (Human contact matters). 

Give your friend a job contact or invite them to a networking event. Networking helps people work. 


 There are still 14 million unemployed Americans and 161,000 jobless Minnesotans. Crowe's advice just may come in handy.


Tax day doesn't have to scare the jobless

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: April 2, 2012 - 1:57 PM

Combining the words "unemployment" and "tax day" in the same sentence may seem like an oxymoron, but it actually makes for smart tax planning and perhaps some relief, say officials from the employment pros at Challenger Gray Christmas.

If you've been laid off, there are tax breaks waiting in the wings if you know where to look. So America's 13.7 million jobseekers and Minnesota's 161,000 unemployed: listen up.

"It is critical that these individuals seek out any financial advantage they can achieve while between jobs,” said CEO John Challenger.  He admits that  it's "undoubtedly an overwhelming task" for most people to figure out eligibility for a particular deduction or credit.  But "for the unemployed it can be even more daunting, since their top priority is to find a job, not a tax credit."

But soldier on, you must. Luckily, there's help.

Across the Twin Cities, many public libraries host free tax clinics that are staffed with volunteers. (Hint. Call first to make an appointment). Separately, the IRS has said it's willing to work with the unemployed, Challenger said.

What's important to remember is that the unemployed may be able to write off expenses associated with continuing education classes taken to keep their skills fresh. And they may be able to deduct travel expenses associated with job interviews or maintaining a home office for doing freelance assignments, Challenger said. 

“The Internal Revenue Service recognizes the difficulties [of] those who have been unemployed.... and has announced measures to help those who cannot meet their financial obligations,”  Challenger said. In some cases, the IRS will consider settling a debt for less than the full amount. In other cases, the IRS is willing to wave late penalties (but not interest) for up to six months.

The IRS said it will hold three Saturday Open Houses at select IRS offices around the country this month. Taxpayers can find the location, telephone number and business hours of the nearest assistance center by visiting the Contact My Local Office page on

Besides, individual meetings, the unemployed and job seeking tax payers can find miscellaneous deductions from Publication 529 on the IRS website.

Challenger also suggested that full- and part-time workers consider deducting eligible job-related expenses that exceed two percent of adjusted gross income.

These types of miscellaneous deductions may include unreimbursed employee expenses such as: dues paid to professional organizations; depreciation on a business computer or cell phone; licenses and regulatory fees; home office used exclusively in one’s work; subscriptions to professional and trade magazines; travel, transportation, entertainment and gift expenses related to one’s work; union dues and expenses; and work-related education.

Get Jobs Job Fair set for Eagan on March 29

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: March 15, 2012 - 12:08 PM

The state of Minnesota will hold its annual Get Jobs Job Fair in Eagan on Thursday March 29.

The job fair will feature 60 companies, colleges and agencies looking to hire, train or coach job seekers.

For more information, go to or call Mike.lang at 952-895-7641. 


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