Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Job Openings in U.S. Fell by 156,000 in November

Bob Willis
Job openings in the U.S. fell in November, a sign employers are reluctant to expand staff even as payroll reductions waned from earlier last year.

Openings declined by 156,000 to 2.42 million, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The number of unfilled positions was down 50 percent since peaking in June 2007.

Payrolls dropped more than anticipated in December after revisions showed a gain in the prior month that was the first since the recession began. Unemployment that’s forecast to stay above 10 percent for the first half of the year may make it harder for consumer spending to accelerate.

“There is little in the way of job creation going on in the economy,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in New York, said before the report. “Coming out of a recession, companies stop firing before they start hiring, but this time it looks like stage two is going to take a while longer to develop.”

The rate of job openings in November dropped to 1.8 percent from 1.9 percent, while the pace of hiring accelerated to 3.2 percent from 3.1 percent.

The separations rate, which includes dismissals and those who quit their jobs, rose to 3.3 percent from 3.2 percent the prior month.

Payrolls fell by 85,000 last month after a 4,000 increase in November that was the first gain since December 2007, according to Labor Department figures released on Jan. 8. The unemployment rate held at 10 percent, near the 26-year high of 10.1 percent that was reached in October.

‘Reluctant to Hire’

Companies “are still reluctant to invest and hire,” partly because they’re awaiting government changes to health care, tax and climate-change policies, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said yesterday.

“There’s a limit to what monetary policy can do” to improve the labor market, Lockhart told reporters after a speech in Atlanta. The prospects for employment “will come back with credit growing.”

The government may need to continue “targeted” programs to stimulate the economy even as growth in the first half of this year will likely be enough to create jobs, President Barack Obama’s chief economist said.

“We are getting closer to stability in employment,” Christina Romer, the head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said Jan. 10 on ABC News’s “This Week” program. “The next step is to finally start adding jobs. I think we are on the path of steady progress.”

Cuts at UPS

United Parcel Service Inc., the world’s largest package- delivery company, said Jan. 8 that it plans to cut 1,800 jobs as it shrinks management at a U.S. unit. Atlanta-based UPS said it will reduce the number of U.S. operating districts to 20 from 46 to streamline management of its small-package unit.

AOL Inc., the Internet company spun off from Time Warner Inc. in December, this week said it started involuntary job cuts after 1,100 employees accepted buyout packages as part of a restructuring.

Among companies considering adding workers, Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest maker of bulldozers, aims to bring back some laid-off workers this year, Chief Executive Officer Jim Owens said last month.

“We’ll gradually begin to call people back and to rebuild our overall sales and ability to ship product,” Owens said in a Dec. 11 interview with Bloomberg Television. “It will gradually begin to pick up as 2010 unfolds.”

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