Job openings in the U.S. dropped to a five-month low in
September, signaling uneven progress in the labor market may
extend through year-end.
The number of positions waiting to be filled declined by 100,000
to 3.56 million from the prior month, the Labor Department said
today in a statement.
Openings have cooled since reaching a peak this year of 3.74
million in March.
A slowing global economy and the risk Congress won’t avert $607
billion in automatic federal tax increases and spending cuts
next year represent obstacles for American companies as they
assess hiring plans. Today’s figures show the October jump in
private payrolls, the biggest in eight months, may be difficult
to sustain without faster economic growth.
“We’re looking at a very subdued pace of employment,” said
Michelle Girard, senior U.S. economist at RBS Securities Inc. in
Stamford, Connecticut. “The economy is growing, but growing too
slowly. Firms want more clarity on the outlook before they’re
actually going to step up their hiring pace.”
Stocks gained for a second day as Americans headed to the polls
to decide between giving President Barack Obama another four
years or replacing him with Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 0.8 percent to 1,428.39
at the close of trading in New York.
Talking to customers, “what we’re hearing is that they’re not
hiring, they’re not investing right now,” Greg Lehmkuhl,
president of Con-way Freight Inc., said during a Nov. 1 call
with analysts. “They’re waiting for some more stability in the
political and fiscal policies. Hopefully after the election and
with the dealing of the fiscal cliff our customers will feel
more confident in investing in their businesses.”
Europe’s economy showed more signs of strain, according to
figures today. German factory orders fell in September by the
most in a year as Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis and slowing
economic growth prompted companies to reduce investment. Orders,
adjusted for seasonal swings and inflation, slumped 3.3 percent
from August, when they dropped a revised 0.8 percent, the
Economy Ministry in Berlin said. That’s the second straight drop
and the biggest since September 2011.
The number of Americans hired in September dropped to 4.19
million, pushing down the hiring rate to 3.1 percent from 3.3
percent, according to today’s Labor Department report.
Without more openings, Cheryl Boyd from Columbus, Ohio, will
have a harder time with the search she started in January. The
55-year-old said she enrolled in community-college classes and
career counseling and has been attending job fairs -- so far
without success. She has interviewed for four positions,
including one at a casino.
To make ends meet in the meantime, Boyd said she’s been taking
freelance photography jobs, babysitting for friends and using
her credit card.
“I would take part time, full-time -- I would take something
below my qualification, anything,” Boyd said. “It’s just been an
odd job search. I think what I’ve noticed is that it’s the
Today’s U.S. Labor Department report helps illuminate the
government’s monthly employment figures.
In October, payrolls expanded by 171,000 workers after a 148,000
gain in September that was larger than first estimated, a report
showed Nov. 2. Private payrolls rose by 184,000, the most since
February. The jobless rate increased to 7.9 percent as more
people began looking for work.
Increases in payrolls so far this year have averaged 157,000 a
month, little changed from the 153,000 average for 2011.
“The labor market is on a knife’s edge,” Neil Dutta, head of
U.S. economics at Renaissance Macro Research LLC in New York,
said in a note to clients.
“Ongoing improvement in employment will require a stronger rate
Declines in job openings at professional and business services,
government and manufacturing accounted for much of the decrease
in available employment.
Openings increased in education and health services as well as
the trade, transportation and utilities industries.
Total firings, which exclude retirements and those who left
their job voluntarily, decreased to 1.7 million from 1.85
million a month before, today’s report showed.
About another 1.98 million people quit their jobs in September,
down from 2.15 million in the prior month. That drove the total
separations rate to 3 percent from 3.3 percent.
In the 12 months ended in September, the economy created a net
1.8 million jobs, representing 51.6 million hires and about 49.8
Considering the 12.09 million Americans who were unemployed in
September, today’s figures indicate there were about 3.4 people
vying for every opening, up from about 1.8 when the recession
began in December 2007.