Au­gust job open­ings off, still high

De­mand for work­ers strong in health care, con­struc­tion

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM - CHRISTO­PHER RUGABER

WASHINGTON — U.S. em­ploy­ers are ad­ver­tis­ing near-record lev­els of job open­ings, though the total slipped in Au­gust from July.

Job open­ings fell 0.9 per­cent in Au­gust to just un­der 6.1 mil­lion, the La­bor De­part­ment said Wed­nes­day, from 6.14 mil­lion in the pre­vi­ous month. July’s fig­ure was re­vised slightly lower but is still the largest num­ber of avail­able jobs since records be­gan in De­cem­ber 2000.

Job open­ings have risen as the num­ber of un­em­ployed has fallen to the low­est in a decade. The un­em­ploy­ment rate, cur­rently 4.2 per­cent, has hit a 16-year low. That has left busi­nesses strug­gling to fill open jobs.

Even so, av­er­age wage growth has been slug­gish, sug­gest­ing that com­pa­nies aren’t of­fer­ing suf­fi­ciently healthy pay to en­tice work­ers al­ready em­ployed to switch jobs.

Com­pa­nies also pulled back slightly on hir­ing, and the num­ber of peo­ple quit­ting their jobs also fell a bit. Over­all, the re­port sug­gests the job mar­ket was healthy but a lit­tle less ac­tive in Au­gust. The govern­ment re­ported last week that Hur­ri­canes Har­vey and Irma caused em­ploy­ers to shed 33,000 jobs in Septem­ber. Still, the un­em­ploy­ment rate fell from 4.4 per­cent to 4.2 per­cent, as many Amer­i­cans in parts of the coun­try un­af­fected by the storms found work. The pro­por­tion of Amer­i­cans with

jobs rose to the hi gh­est level in a decade.

The two hur­ri­canes are ex­pected to dent eco­nomic growth in the July-Septem­ber quar­ter, but most economists fore­cast a bounce-back in the fi­nal three months of the year. Re­build­ing and re­pair work should in­crease con­struc­tion hir­ing. And au­tomak­ers are al­ready re­port­ing higher sales as res­i­dents of Texas and Florida re­place cars de­stroyed by flood­ing.

Job open­ings rose in Au­gust in con­struc­tion, re­tail and health care. They fell in man­u­fac­tur­ing and in pro­fes­sional and busi­ness ser­vices, a broad cat­e­gory that in­cludes ac­coun­tants, engi­neers, and lawyers, as well as tem­po­rary work­ers.

Min­utes of the Fed­eral Re­serve’s Septem­ber meet­ing re­leased Wed­nes­day show that a group of Fed of­fi­cials are wor­ried that the na­tion’s low un­em­ploy­ment rate could re­sult in a quick re­bound in in­fla­tion.

Economists are split over whether the Fed will raise rates again in De­cem­ber. Some see an­other rate change as likely. Oth­ers think that if in­fla­tion does not start to climb, the Fed will re­main on hold.

The group wor­ried that low un­em­ploy­ment might spark higher wage de­mands. Rapidly ris­ing in­fla­tion pres­sures could then force the Fed to be­gin in­creas­ing rates more quickly and run the risk of push­ing the coun­try into a re­ces­sion.

This group also wor­ried that the low Fed rates could

also re­sult in bub­bles in as­set prices such as stocks, lead­ing to fi­nan­cial in­sta­bil­ity.

The Fed’s key rate is cur­rently at a still low level of 1 per­cent to 1.25 per­cent after two quar­ter-point rate in­creases this year in March and June.

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Martin Crutsinger of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

AP/ALAN DIAZ

Job seek­ers gather at a job fair booth on Oct. 3 in the Dol­phin Mall in Sweet­wa­ter, Fla. Au­gust job open­ings fell slightly to just un­der 6.1 mil­lion, the La­bor De­part­ment said Wed­nes­day, from 6.14 mil­lion in the pre­vi­ous month.

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