Saturday, December 4, 2021

U.S. employers shrugged off virus and stepped up recruitment

WASHINGTON (AP) – US employers accelerated hiring last month, adding lasting 531,000 jobs, the most since July, a sign that recovery from the pandemic recession is overcoming the virus-driven recession.

Friday’s Labor Department report also showed that the unemployment rate fell to 4.6% last month from 4.8% in September. This is a relatively low rate, although it is still well above the pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 3.5%. And job gains in August and September were not as weak as originally reported: the government increased its hiring estimate for the two months by as much as 235,000 jobs.

Overall, the numbers indicate the economy is steadily recovering from the pandemic recession, with healthy consumer spending prompting companies in nearly all industries to add workers. While the impact of COVID-19 continues to cause severe supply shortages, fuel inflation and keep many people out of work, employers are gradually doing better at filling near-record high job advertisements.

“This is the kind of recovery we can get if we don’t get left out by the surge in COVID cases,” said Nick Bunker, director of economic research at employment website Indeed. “The rate of employment growth has slowed at times this year, but the underlying dynamics of the US labor market is clear.”

Better-than-expected employment report was greeted on Wall Street, where investors pushed stocks even further into record territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 200 points, or about 0.6%, in Friday trading. Short-term Treasury yields rose as some investors raised their expectations about when the Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates. But long-term yields fell amid subdued expectations for long-term inflation.

According to most barometers, the economic recovery is on track. Companies providing services in areas such as retail, banking and warehousing reported a sharp jump in sales. New and existing home sales have skyrocketed last month. And consumer confidence rose in October after three straight falls.

At the same time, however, the country still has 4.2 million fewer jobs than it had before the pandemic flattened the economy in March 2020. The effects of the virus are still turning some people off from travel, shopping, eating out and going to entertainment. …

In October, the increase in hiring spread to almost all major industries, with only government employers reporting job loss, mostly in education. Shipping and warehouse companies added 54,000 jobs. The lost leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants, bars, hotels and entertainment venues, increased by 164,000 people. Manufacturers, despite struggling with supply shortages, added 60,000 units, the highest since June 2020.

And employers, who competed to fill jobs from a shrinking pool of job seekers, raised wages steadily, with average hourly wages jumping 4.9% in October from a year earlier, up from 4.6% in the previous month. However, even this strong growth is barely keeping pace with the recent surge in consumer inflation.

This price increase is a serious obstacle to the economy. Higher costs for food, heating oil, rents and furniture have become an onerous burden for millions of families. Prices rose 4.4% in September from 12 months earlier, the steepest jump in three decades.

Among people receiving pay increases, one of the biggest beneficiaries is the record number of people quitting their jobs to move on to new jobs. One of them is Christian Frink, who started as a business analyst at a digital consulting firm. In his new job, Frink, 27, from Ferndale, Michigan, helps business clients determine what technology they need.

Frink worked as a marketer earlier this year but left because, like many people during COVID, he felt burned. He then worked at Door Dash in the spring and summer to make money and look for a new job. Although employers have complained about a shortage of labor, some have told him that they will not hire anyone without a college degree. (Frink went to college but never graduated.)

Frink took programming lessons at Tech Elevator Bootcamp this summer and then took on a new position. He now makes 35% more money than his previous job and says he is “shocked” that he already has health insurance and doesn’t have to wait months to qualify.

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However, it is not only job changeers that receive salary increases. Chad Leibundgut, regional director of recruiting agency Robert Half in Tampa, said the job market is the strongest for workers he has seen in his 22-year career. Before the pandemic, Florida could find customer service jobs for $ 14 an hour, he said.

“Currently,” he said, “you have to be closer to $ 20 an hour because people have a choice.”

Job prospects are improving even for people who have not worked for a long time. The number of long-term unemployed – people who have been unemployed for six months or more – has plummeted in recent months to 2.3 million in October from 4.2 million in April. This is still double what it was before the recession. But this is an encouraging sign because employers are usually wary of hiring people who have not worked for a long time.

At the same time, labor market imbalances persist. The unemployment rate for blacks was unchanged in October at 7.9%, while for white workers it fell to 4% from 4.2%. The unemployment rate in Latin America fell from 6.3% to 5.9%.

While jobs in professional services such as information technology, engineering and architecture have almost returned to pre-pandemic employment levels, 1.4 million fewer jobs remain in the leisure and hospitality sector.

Hari Ravichandran, CEO of digital security provider Aura in Boston, says 140 jobs are open at his 800-person company, mostly in software development.

Ravichandran is ready to hire remote workers; Its 170 employees have never worked regularly in any of the company’s buildings. However, hiring is still as difficult as ever.

One disappointing point in Friday’s report is that the workforce – the number of people working or looking for work – remained unchanged in October. This suggests that the reopening of schools in September, the weakening of the virus, and the expiration of the $ 300 per week federal unemployment premium have yet to drive many people out of the job market in large numbers.

Generally, the return of many people to the workforce after a recession is a long process. There are currently 7.4 million officially unemployed, just 1.7 million more than in February 2020, before the pandemic hit the economy. However, millions of people who lost their jobs during the recession have given up looking for work, and employers may have to raise wages and benefits to get them back, said Aaron Sojourner, a labor economist at the University of Minnesota.

Despite this, some companies still cannot find enough workers. Many parents, especially mothers, did not return to work after leaving work during the pandemic to look after children or other relatives. However, last month there was evidence of a slight recovery: the proportion of women who were either working or looking for work rose after two months of decline.

Courtney Graves from Detroit was at work and out of work during the pandemic due to her parenting responsibilities. A year ago, she quit her job as assistant administrator because her kindergarten was closed and she had to look after her 5-year-old twin girls.

Graves, 27, was looking for work from home, but many employers were reluctant to give her the flexibility she needed.

“They don’t want you to take your kids out of school,” especially during training, she said. “For me, as for their mother, I cannot do this.” According to her, the father of her children, who works in the automotive industry, helps her financially.

But now that the girls are in kindergarten, Graves broadened her job search and took a job at a clothing store this week. She feels overly qualified given that she has worked in administrative positions for seven years. But she’s happy to work.

“They pay pretty well for retail,” she said. “It was definitely a struggle and a journey.”


This story has been corrected to remove the erroneous mention of a 25% increase in wages at Aura in the past nine months.

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