Job-hunt time shrinks in US from record high
Vicki Cook, 52, landed a job two weeks ago at a trucking company after applying for 50 positions in almost four months. "It was a blessing," said the Okarche, Oklahoma, woman, whose previous job had been eliminated.
For 13 million out-of-work Americans, record spells of joblessness are abating. The median duration fell to 16 weeks in January from 25 weeks in June 2010, Labor Department data show. Fewer people compete for each opening as hiring expands, and persistent long-term unemployment is starting to mend.
A job seekers wait to see recruiters at a job fair in New York. Employers added about 160,000 jobs in February, and the unemployment rate remained at 7.9 percent, according to median estimates of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News ahead of a Labor Department report March 8.
The progress supports Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke's view that America's labor market remains flexible and isn't succumbing to hysteresis, or permanently higher joblessness, similar to Europe in the 1980s, said Dale Mortensen, a professor of economics at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and 2010 Nobel laureate. That suggests continued monetary stimulus can bring about a faster healing.
"There is little threat that aggressive monetary policy will be inflationary," said Mortensen, who pioneered the study of how workers search for jobs. "The market will return to normal as household consumption does. That will still take more time but seems to be happening." Less slack in the labor market will raise demand for temporary staffing companies, said Jeffrey M. Silber, BMO Capital Markets senior analyst in New York, who rates Manpower Inc. (MAN), On Assignment Inc. (ASGN) and Robert Half International Inc. (RHI) as "outperform."