Telecommuting On The Rise, Jobless Claims Fall

Increased traffic congestion, higher gas prices and rising rents for office space could spike interest in telecommuting as companies continue to seek ways to contain costs. A new report out today shows that traffic congestion is beginning to climb back toward pre-recession levels. The Texas Transportation Institute estimates that traffic cost the U.S. economy nearly $115 billion in time and fuel in 2009. That figure probably increased further in 2010 as the economy continued to improve. Meanwhile, in the fourth quarter of 2010 Manhattan office rents rose for the first time in more than two years, according to brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield. Employers and employees are also facing rising gasoline prices. At least one employer sees the cost-benefit of increased telecommuting. In December, President Obama signed the Telework Enhancement Act, which will encourage telecommuting for federal employees through a number of measures. What are the biggest obstacles blocking increased adoption of telecommuting? What are the challenges of implementing a broader telecommuting strategy? What are the pros and cons of telecommuting?

Weekly jobless claims fell by 37,000 to 400,000 last week, the largest weekly drop since the week ending February 6. The four-week moving average dropped to 411,750, larger than expected possibly due to the holiday season skewing results. Most economists agree that weekly jobless claims have to drop below 400,000 before the job market begins to see significant improvement, as hiring remains slow. Which industries could see an uptick in hiring in the coming months? Will announced job cuts continue to trend downward? Is the job market on the cusp of experiencing greater and faster improvement?

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