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How Is China’s Economy Doing? Not Nearly as Well as China Says It Is

Forget the cardboard box and security-guard escort. Some employers are giving workers advance notice of their layoffs so they can look for a new job.

By Daniel H. Rosen
Tue, Dec 12, 2023 9:11amGrey Clock 4 min

Chris Pinner, a 42-year-old technical writer in Cleveland, knows his last day on the job is Dec. 29. The software company where he works told him so back in April.

At first, Pinner was puzzled by the supersize notice that his job would be eliminated. But the advance warning has given him more time to look for a new position, which Pinner said he appreciates. He is still in job-search mode as his end date draws closer.

Pinner and many other workers facing termination are experiencing a different kind of corporate cutting—layoffs with a long runway that can take weeks or months to finally come to pass. Wells Fargo and Disney are among large employers that have done some long goodbyes instead of more-traditional, abrupt ones, in which laid-off workers learn they are cut and leave on the same day, often escorted out by security.

The old way protected companies from security problems or lost clients as laid-off workers walked out the door, and workers had little recourse. Now employers are trying to appear transparent and compassionate when cutting, several executives and leadership consultants said.

“Companies can’t lay people off on the quiet anymore,” said Sarah Rodehorst, chief executive of Onwards HR, a software platform that helps companies with legal compliance during employee terminations. “Whatever they do is much more under a microscope. They have to hold themselves to a higher standard.”

Avoiding a backlash

Demand for white-collar workers has taken a big hit this year, as companies acknowledge they over hired during the pandemic and job openings dry up. The tightening job market means employers are piling on layers of new requirements and lengthy, additional rounds of interviews for a few coveted jobs, dragging out the hiring process as they grow more selective about whom they bring on.

Layoffs that are seen as insensitively done can spark backlash on social media, with laid-off employees venting online and circulating internal details, said George Penn, a managing vice president at Gartner who advises companies on staff restructuring.

“Layoffs became not only a legal but a reputational nightmare for some organisations,” he said.

Federal law requires employers of a certain size to give 60 days’ notice to workers when conducting big layoffs. Some companies have gotten around advance warning by paying terminated workers a lump sum to cover that period.

Some affected employees said they would still receive severance pay after their long layoff notice periods, though it would be reduced if they left before their designated end dates.

In the Houston area, James Ridgway Jr., 40, is working at Huntsman, a chemical company, after learning in August that he would lose his job at the end of the year. The father of two children with another on the way said the news was initially an “existential gut punch.” He said the long lead time has given him more time to network and tighten family finances.

“It’s not a great place to be in, but I appreciate that I do have that runway,” said Ridgway, adding that the notice is helping him as he hands off responsibilities to co-workers.

Ridgway, a communications manager, is still looking for another full-time job. Because his colleagues know he is job-hunting, ducking out for interviews is less awkward than feigning doctors’ appointments, he said.

Wade Rogers, Huntsman’s senior vice president of global human resources, said giving laid-off employees months of notice shows remaining and prospective workers that the company treats its people well. That approach, he said, could help the company recruit and retain good hires in the future.

“How we handle ourselves and how we handle our relationships with our associates matters,” he said.

‘Take every advantage’

Not all workers want to stick around after a layoff. A Wells Fargo employee said staying motivated after being terminated was tough. She was told months ago that her job would be eliminated. No precise date was given, making it hard to plan her job search.

“Every day, you go in, and you’re like, is it going to be today?” she said.

Wells Fargo said it periodically needs to adjust its staffing levels according to business needs. During layoffs, “We always treat our employees respectfully, including giving them reasonable time to prepare,” the bank said.

At Disney, a former corporate employee who was given several months’ notice this past spring said she was annoyed that she was expected to keep doing her job even though it was ending, until her manager said she could stay home and stop working. Two other Disney employees said they weren’t asked to work during their advance-notice period; they used the time to consider next career steps.

Earlier this year, a laid-off Disney marketing executive was given two months’ notice of his layoff. While he collected paychecks, he used the time to job-hunt and made use of his employee benefits. He took his children to Disneyland free several times.

“I am going to take every advantage of this as possible,” the former executive recalled thinking.

Disney declined to comment.

Some companies simply can’t give employees much warning, but some of those are trying to soften the blow.

“If you’re dealing in an environment where you have confidential patents or access to business plans, you just want to protect your company assets,” said Tashia Mallette, a longtime human-resources executive who conducted layoffs last year at Therabody, a wellness-technology company.

Mallette said that workers were notified on the day they had to leave but that Therabody encouraged managers to check on them and created an alumni Slack channel so people didn’t feel abruptly cut off. Mallette herself has left the company.

Companies don’t want workers to feel burned during a layoff. If anything, they want workers to feel that they would rejoin the company if given the chance.

Jennifer Bender managed layoffs of hundreds of people during her years at Change Healthcare, where until this past spring she was a senior vice president of human resources. The company had to trim staff during acquisitions and project and client fluctuations, and it also had to fill hundreds of openings a month, she said.

The company decided to tell people two to four weeks ahead of their layoff dates, she said. It felt more compassionate to workers, and it also made it easier to redeploy some people into other roles the company needed to fill, which was a benefit to the company and employees who were interested in staying on.

While longer notice periods involve risks, including security issues or unmotivated people who don’t want to work during that time, Bender said the company let employees know that performance issues could still result in corrective action, including termination for cause. That meant, she added, that it wasn’t much of an issue.

“It’s really a best practice at this point,” Bender said.

—Ben Eisen contributed to this article.



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These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

By KEN SHREVE
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .