U.S. job openings, hiring fall in May

FILE PHOTO: Job seekers line up at TechFair in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Monica Almeida

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. job openings fell in May, pulled down by declines in the construction and transportation industries, potentially flagging a slowdown in employment growth in the months ahead.

Job openings, a measure of labor demand, slipped by 49,000 to a seasonally adjusted 7.3 million in May, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS on Tuesday. The job openings rate dipped to 4.6% from 4.7% in April.

Hiring dropped by 266,000 to 5.7 million in May, with the biggest decrease in the professional and business services industry. The hiring rate fell to 3.8% from 4.0% in April.

Nonfarm payrolls surged by 224,000 jobs in June after increasing only by 72,000 in May, the government reported last Friday. The unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.7% as more people entered the labor market, a sign of confidence in their employment prospects.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

U.S. job openings dip as hiring hits record high

FILE PHOTO: Job seekers speak with potential employers at a City of Boston Neighborhood Career Fair on May Day in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. job openings fell slightly in April as hiring surged to a record high, government data showed on Monday.

Job openings, a measure of labor demand, slipped to a seasonally adjusted 7.4 million from 7.5 million in March, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS. The job openings rate was unchanged at 4.7%.

Hiring jumped by 240,000 jobs in April to 5.9 million, the highest level since the government started tracking the series in 2000. The hiring rate increased to 3.9% from 3.8% in March.

The economy created 75,000 jobs in May after adding 224,000 positions in April, the government reported last Friday.

The unemployment rate was unchanged near a 50-year low of 3.6%.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Susan Thomas)

U.S. job openings surge, point to tightening labor market

FILE PHOTO: Job seekers line up at TechFair in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Monica Almeida

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. job openings rebounded sharply in March, while the pace of hiring was little changed, pointing to a growing worker shortage that could slow employment growth this year.

Despite the tightening labor market conditions, the report from the Labor Department on Tuesday also showed workers still reluctant to voluntarily quit their jobs in droves to seek opportunities elsewhere. The scarcity of workers poses a risk to the economy’s growth prospects. The economy will mark 10 years of expansion in July, the longest in history.

“The risks right now for the economic outlook going forward is there is actually a danger that companies will run out of the help they need to produce goods or sell their services,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York.

“The U.S. economy has never faced a time when labor shortages might endanger or cut short a long economic expansion, but now it does.”

Job openings, a measure of labor demand, surged by 346,000 to a seasonally adjusted 7.5 million, the Labor Department’s monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, showed. The job openings rate rose to 4.7 percent from 4.5 percent in February.

Vacancies in the construction industry increased by 73,000 in March. There were 87,000 job openings in the transportation, warehousing and utilities sector, while real estate, rental and leasing companies had 57,000 unfilled position. Job openings in the federal government, however, decreased by 15,000 in March.

HIRING LAGGING

Hiring was little changed at 5.7 million in March. The hiring rate was steady at 3.8 percent. The lag in hiring suggests employers are experiencing difficulties finding qualified workers, a trend that implies a slowdown in job growth later this year.

There is growing anecdotal evidence of worker shortages, especially in the transportation, manufacturing and construction industries. The economy created 263,000 jobs in April, with the unemployment rate dropping two-tenths of a percentage point to 3.6 percent, the government reported last Friday.

Economists expect job growth to slow to about 150,000 per month this year, still well above the roughly 100,000 needed to keep pace with growth in the working age population.

In March, there were 0.83 job seekers for every job opening. Job openings exceeded the number of unemployed by 1.3 million. Vacancies have outpaced the unemployed for 13 straight months.

The number of workers voluntarily quitting their jobs was little changed at 3.4 million in March, keeping the quits rate at 2.3 percent for a 10th straight month.

The quits rate is viewed by policymakers and economists as a measure of job market confidence. The Federal Reserve last week kept interest rates unchanged and signaled little desire to adjust monetary policy anytime soon.

“You have to hand it to the business community. Despite being on the wrong side of the tight labor market, firms are managing to keep from a major bidding war for workers and are still not losing workers to competitors,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania.

Layoffs slipped in March, lowering the layoffs rate to 1.1 percent from 1.2 percent in the prior month. Layoffs fell in the government sector, but rose slightly in manufacturing and construction. The increase in manufacturing layoffs likely reflected redundancies in the automobile sector, which is experiencing slowing sales and an inventory overhang.

“Layoffs and discharges are extremely low, by historical standards, which reflects that employers need their workers and are prepared to make an effort to retain them,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist at employment marketplace ZipRecruiter.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrea Ricci)

U.S. job openings jump to record high in March US-USA-ECONOMY-JOBS

FILE PHOTO: Job seekers line up at TechFair in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Monica Almeida/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. job openings surged to a record high in March, suggesting that a recent slowdown in hiring was probably the result of employers having difficulties finding qualified workers.

Job openings, a measure of labor demand, increased by 472,000 to a seasonally adjusted 6.6 million, the Labor Department said on Tuesday in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS.

March’s job openings were the highest since the data series started in December 2000 and pushed the job openings rate up three-tenths of a percentage point to 4.2 percent. Job growth slowed in March and April after an outsized gain in February.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

U.S. hiring accelerates; annual wage growth strongest since 2009

Job seekers line up to apply during "Amazon Jobs Day," a job fair being held at 10 fulfillment centers across the United States aimed at filling more than 50,000 jobs, at the Amazon.com Fulfillment Center in Fall River, Massachusetts, U.S., August 2, 2017.

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. job growth surged in January and wages increased further, recording their largest annual gain in more than 8-1/2 years, bolstering expectations that inflation will push higher this year as the labor market hits full employment.

Nonfarm payrolls jumped by 200,000 jobs last month after rising 160,000 in December, the Labor Department said on Friday.

The unemployment rate was unchanged at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent. Average hourly earnings rose 0.3 percent in January to $26.74, building on December’s solid 0.4 percent gain.

That boosted the year-on-year increase in average hourly earnings to 2.9 percent, the largest rise since June 2009, from 2.7 percent in December. Workers, however, put in fewer hours last month. The average workweek fell to 34.3 hours, the shortest in four months, from 34.5 hours in December.

The robust employment report underscored the strong momentum in the economy, raising the possibility that the Federal Reserve could be a bit more aggressive in raising interest rates this year. The U.S. central bank has forecast three rate increases this year after raising borrowing costs three times in 2017.

“It definitely makes it a bit more likely that the Fed will have to do more than the three hikes that they’re currently planning for this year,” said Luke Bartholomew, investment strategist at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

Fed officials on Wednesday expressed optimism that inflation will rise toward its target this year. Policymakers, who voted to keep interest rates unchanged, described the labor market as having “continued to strengthen,” and economic activity as “rising at a solid rate.”

U.S. financial markets expect a rate hike in March. The dollar rose against a basket of currencies on the data. Prices for U.S. Treasuries fell, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year note rising to a four-year high. U.S. stock index futures slightly extended losses.

Economists say job gains are being driven by buoyant domestic and global demand.

Given that the labor market is almost at full employment, economists saw little boost to job growth from the Trump administration’s $1.5 billion tax cut package passed by the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress in December, in the biggest overhaul of the tax code in 30 years.

President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans have cast the fiscal stimulus, which includes a reduction in the corporate income tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, as creating jobs and boosting economic growth.

According to outplacement consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, only seven companies, including Apple, had announced plans to add roughly a combined 37,000 new jobs in response to the tax cuts as of the end of January.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast nonfarm payrolls rising by 180,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate unchanged at 4.1 percent. January’s jobs gains were above the monthly average of 192,000 over the past three months.

The economy needs to create 75,000 to 100,000 jobs per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population.

JOB GAINS SEEN SLOWING

Job growth is expected to slow this year as the labor market hits full employment. Companies are increasingly reporting difficulties finding qualified workers, which economists say will force some to significantly raise wages as they compete for scarce labor.

Wage growth last month was likely supported by increases in the minimum wage which came into effect in 18 states in January. They probably also got a lift from the tax cut. Companies like Starbucks Corp and FedEx Corp have said they will use some of the savings from lower taxes to boost wages for workers.

Further gains are expected in February when Walmart raises entry-level wages for hourly employees at its U.S. stores. Annual wage growth is now close to the 3 percent that economists say is needed to push inflation towards the Fed’s 2 percent target.

The January household survey data incorporated new population controls. The department also released annual revisions to the payrolls data from the survey of employers and introduced new factors to adjust for seasonal fluctuations.

It said the level of employment in March of last year was 146,000 higher than it had reported, on a seasonally adjusted basis. The unemployment rate dropped seven-tenths of a percentage point in 2017 and economists expect it to hit 3.5 percent by the end of the year.

Employment gains were widespread in January. Manufacturing payrolls increased by 15,000 last month after rising 21,000 in December. The sector is being supported by strong domestic and international demand. A weak dollar is also providing a boost to manufacturing by making U.S.-made goods more competitive on the international market.

Hiring at construction sites picked up last month despite unseasonably cold weather. Construction payrolls increased by 36,000 jobs after rising 33,000 in December. Retail employment rebounded by 15,400 jobs in January after slumping 25,600 the prior month.

Government employment increased by 4,000 jobs following two straight months of declines. There were also increases in payrolls for professional and business services, leisure and hospitality as well as healthcare and social assistance.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Strong U.S. jobs report bolsters case for further Fed tightening

Job seekers line up to apply during "Amazon Jobs Day," a job fair being held at 10 fulfillment centers across the United States aimed at filling more than 50,000 jobs, at the Amazon.com

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. employers hired more workers than expected in July and raised their wages, signs of labor market tightness that likely clears the way for the Federal Reserve to announce a plan to start shrinking its massive bond portfolio.

The Labor Department said on Friday that nonfarm payrolls increased by 209,000 jobs last month amid broad-based gains. June’s employment gain was revised up to 231,000 from the previously reported 222,000.

Average hourly earnings increased nine cents, or 0.3 percent, in July after rising 0.2 percent in June. That was the biggest rise in five months. On a year-on-year basis, wages increased 2.5 percent for the fourth straight month.

“The Fed set a low bar for balance sheet normalization to begin in September, and today’s number cleared that bar with elan,” said Michael Feroli, economist at JPMorgan in New York.

Although the economy is near full employment, wage growth has not been strong in part because many of the jobs being created are in low-wage industries. Last month, restaurants and bars added 53,100 jobs.

July’s monthly increase in earnings could, however, offer Fed policymakers some assurance that inflation will gradually rise to the U.S. central bank’s 2 percent target.

Economists expect the Fed will announce a plan to start reducing its $4.2 trillion portfolio of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities at its next policy meeting in September. The Fed bought these securities to lower interest rates in the wake of the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

Sluggish wage growth and the accompanying benign inflation, however, suggest the Fed will delay raising interest rates again until December. It has increased borrowing costs twice this year and its benchmark overnight interest rate is in a range of 1 percent to 1.25 percent.

The dollar rose and was set for its biggest one-day gain versus a basket of currencies this year, while prices for U.S. Treasuries fell. Stocks on Wall Street edged higher. [.N]Economists had forecast payrolls increasing by 183,000 jobs and wages rising 0.3 percent in July.

Republican President Donald Trump, who inherited a strong job market from the Obama administration, cheered Friday’s employment data. “Excellent Jobs Numbers just released – and I have only just begun,” Trump said on Twitter. “Many job stifling regulations continue to fall. Movement back to USA!”

Trump has pledged to sharply boost economic growth and further strengthen the labor market by slashing taxes, cutting regulation and boosting infrastructure spending.

But after six months in office the Trump administration has failed to pass any economic legislation and has yet to articulate a plan for much of its economic agenda.

 

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE FALLS

Wage growth is crucial to sustaining the U.S. economic expansion after output increased at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the second quarter, an acceleration from the January-March period’s pedestrian 1.2 percent pace.

The economy also got a boost from another report on Friday showing a sharp drop in the trade deficit in June.

The unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.3 percent in July, matching a 16-year low touched in May. It has declined five-tenths of a percentage point this year and is now at the most recent Fed median forecast for 2017.

“Stable year-on-year wage growth should decrease the perceived risk of further slowing in wages and prices,” said Andrew Hollenhorst, an economist at Citigroup in New York.

“Strong payroll gains that place downward pressure on the post-crisis low unemployment rate will keep the center of the Fed comfortable with increasing policy rates in December.”

July’s decline in the jobless rate came even as more people entered the labor force, underscoring job market strength.

The labor force participation rate, or the share of working-age Americans who are employed or at least looking for a job, rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 62.9 percent. The share of the population that is employed climbed to 60.2 percent, matching an eight-year high touched in April.

A broad measure of unemployment, which includes people who want to work but have given up searching and those working part time because they cannot find full-time employment, was unchanged at 8.6 percent last month. This alternative gauge of unemployment hit a 9-1/2-year low in May.

Monthly job growth this year has averaged 184,000, close to the 2016 average of 186,000. The economy needs to create 75,000 to 100,000 jobs per month just to keep up with growth in the working-age population.

Manufacturing payrolls advanced by 16,000 jobs in July, the largest gain since February. Employment in the automobile sector rose by 1,600 despite slowing sales and bloated inventories that have forced manufacturers to cut back on production.

U.S. auto sales fell 6.1 percent in July from a year ago to a seasonally adjusted rate of 16.73 million units. General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co have both said they will cut production in the second half of the year.

Construction payrolls rose 6,000 last month as hiring at homebuilding sites increased 5,100. The professional and business services sector added 49,000 workers last month.

Retail employment rose by 900 as hiring at motor vehicle and parts dealerships as well as online retailers offset a drop of 10,000 in employment at clothing stores.

Companies like major online retailer Amazon are creating jobs at warehouses and distribution centers. Amazon this week held a series of job fairs to hire about 50,000 workers. Government payrolls rose by 4,000 in July.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by James Dalgleish and Paul Simao)

 

Trump to seek changes in visa program to encourage hiring Americans

President Trump waves as he boards Air Force One. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday will sign an executive order directing federal agencies to recommend changes to a temporary visa program used to bring foreign workers to the United States to fill high-skilled jobs.

Two senior Trump administration officials who briefed reporters at the White House said Trump will also use the “buy American and hire American” order to seek changes in government procurement practices to increase the purchase of American products in federal contracts.

Trump is to sign the order when he visits the world headquarters of Snap-On Inc, a tool manufacturer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The order is an attempt by Trump to carry out his “America First” campaign pledges to reform U.S. immigration policies and encourage purchases of American products. As he nears the 100-day benchmark of his presidency, Trump has no major legislative achievements to tout but has used executive orders to seek regulatory changes to help the U.S. economy.

The order he will sign on Tuesday will call for “the strict enforcement of all laws governing entry into the United States of labor from abroad for the stated purpose of creating higher wages and higher employment rates for workers in the United States,” one of the senior officials said.

It will call on the departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security and State to take action to crack down on what the official called “fraud and abuse” in the U.S. immigration system to protect American workers.

The order will call on those four federal departments to propose reforms to ensure H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest paid applicant.

H-1B visas are intended for foreign nationals in “specialty” occupations that generally require higher education, which according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) includes, but is not limited to, scientists, engineers or computer programmers. The government uses a lottery to award 65,000 visas every year and randomly distributes another 20,000 to graduate student workers.

The number of applications for H-1B visas fell to 199,000 this year from 236,000 in 2016, according U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Companies say they use visas to recruit top talent. More than 15 percent of Facebook Inc’s U.S. employees in 2016 used a temporary work visa, according to a Reuters analysis of U.S. Labor Department filings.

Facebook, Microsoft Corp and Apple Inc were not immediately available for a comment outside normal business hours.

A majority of the H-1B visas are, however, awarded to outsourcing firms, sparking criticism by skeptics who say those firms use the visas to fill lower-level information technology jobs. Critics also say the lottery system benefits outsourcing firms that flood the system with mass applications.

The senior official said the end result of how the system currently works is that foreign workers are often brought in at less pay to replace American workers, “violating the principle of the program.”

Indian nationals are by far the largest group of recipients of the H-1B visas issued each year to new applicants.

NASSCOM, the Indian IT service industry’s main lobby group, said it supports efforts to root out any abuses occurring in the H-1B system, but slammed allegations against the sector, saying the idea that H-1B visa holders are cheap labor, is inaccurate and a campaign to discredit the sector.

It warned that any onerous additional restrictions to the visa program would “hurt thousands of U.S. businesses and their efforts to be more competitive,” by hindering access to needed talent. NASSCOM said it would comment further when there are specific proposals under consideration.

The Indian commerce ministry, which has been liaising with the United States on the visa issue, declined to comment. A senior ministry official said it would wait for “actual action” before making any official comment. India had urged the U.S. to be open minded on admitting skilled Indian workers.

India’s No. 2 IT Services firm Infosys has said it is ramping up work on on-site development centers in the United States to train local talent in a bid to address the visa regulation changes under consideration.

Infosys also warned on an investor call last week that its operating margin forecast for fiscal 2018 may get impacted by onerous changes to U.S. visa rules.

Trump’s new executive order will also ask federal agencies to look at how to get rid of loopholes in the government procurement process.

Specifically, the review will take into account whether waivers in free-trade agreements are leading to unfair trade by allowing foreign companies to undercut American companies in the global government procurement market.

“If it turns out America is a net loser because of those free-trade agreement waivers, which apply to almost 60 countries, these waivers may be promptly renegotiated or revoked,” the second official said.

(Writing by Steve Holland and Euan Rocha; Additional reporting by Eric Beech in Washington, David Ingram in San Francisco, Sankalp Phartiyal in Mumbai and Manoj Kumar in New Delhi; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Himani Sarkar)