April 2022 TogetHR Times

Jobless Claims Lowest Since 1969

In the most recent Jobs Report (week ending March 19) states reported that 187,000 workers filed for new unemployment benefits, the lowest level since 1969. New jobless claims have held at pre-pandemic levels since the end of 2021. In contrast, one year ago, over 750,000 workers were initiating new unemployment claims.

The total number of workers continuing to claim unemployment benefits—1.3 million—is well below its pre-pandemic average of 1.7 million and is at the lowest level since 1970.

The latest labor market reporting shows the U.S. unemployment rate at 3.8 percent, a near-record level of job openings and steadily climbing labor force participation in a very tight labor market.

FYI- Montana’s unemployment rate is 2.7%, California’s unemployment rate is 3.7%, New York’s unemployment rate is 2.4%, Texas’s unemployment rate is 2.3%, Florida’s unemployment rate is 2.6%, Idaho’s unemployment rate is 3.2%, Washington’s unemployment rate is 3.4%. The highest unemployment rate in the US is Alaska at 6.1%. The lowest unemployment rate is 2.3% in Vermont, South Carolina and Utah.

Death From Overworking?

How often have you heard a coworker, friend or boss say I am just so overworked!!? Japanese policymakers passed the Work Style Reform Legislation in 2018 to address “karoshi,” or death from overwork. The overtime limits became effective for large employers—generally those with more than 50 employees—in April 2019 and for small employers in April 2020.

Due to the law, monthly average working hours per employee declined from 142.2 to 139.1 in 2019 and further to 135.1 in 2020. For comparison, in the US, the average monthly working hours are 173.33.

Among other steps, the law also requires employees who have accrued more than 10 days of unused annual leave to take at least five days off, and mandates that employers track hours on the job for all workers, not just nonexempt employees, as the law previously specified.

The overtime measure allows for criminal and civil penalties for noncompliance against employers and certain individuals, such as managers, in charge of a company’s working hours. Violations could bring up to six months imprisonment or fines up 300,000 yen (approximately US $2,597).

One part of the overtime law has yet to become effective. In April 2023, smaller employers will be required to pay workers 1.5 times their regular rate for overtime exceeding 60 hours a month, as large companies must do now. Employers are required to pay 1.25 times for overtime up to 60 hours.

Additionally, Japan passed a new law and it took effect in April 2020, a revision to the Labor Standards Act, extending the statute of limitations for bringing claims for unpaid wages, including overtime. The statute of limitations has been extended from two years to three years and is expected to eventually be stretched to five years.

April 2022 HR Compliance Deadlines

  • April 15th  – Tax Day (filing deadline for personal tax returns & C corporations)
      • Tax Day: Day in which income tax returns are due to be submitted to the federal government.
  • April 15th  – Forms 7004 and 8928 Filing Deadline
      • IRS Form 7004: Request an automatic six-month extension of time to file certain  business income tax, information, and other returns.
      • IRS Form 8928: Employer self report COBRA administration compliance failures.
  • April 18th – Individual Income Tax Returns Filing Deadline
  • April 30th  – Quarterly Form 941 & 720 due
  • April 30th  – Summary Plan Description (SPD)
    • SPD: Documentation employers must give employees in retirement plans or health benefit plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

COVID Corner

  • The federal Food and Drug Administration has authorized a second dose of Pfizer and Moderna booster shots for Americans age 50 and older.
  • As COVID-19 cases dwindle, the future of federal pandemic-related funding is unclear.
  • What’s going on with that Omicron subvariant, BA.2? Here’s one explainer.
  • Montana’s reported COVID-19 cases have been trending downward since late January, with the daily average dropping more than 50% in the last two weeks. Rates of hospitalizations and deaths are also down significantly.
  • As of Wednesday, March 29, the state tallied 342 active cases. 29 Montanans were reported as hospitalized due to the virus.

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