US Job Openings Top All Forecasts as White-Collar Positions Jump

 US job openings unexpectedly increased in August, fueled by a surge in white-collar postings, highlighting the durability of labor demand.

The number of available positions increased to 9.61 million from a revised 8.92 million in July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, showed Tuesday. Hiring edged up, while layoffs remained low.

The level of openings topped all estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Treasury yields rose and the S&P 500 declined after the report.

The so-called quits rate, which measures voluntary job leavers as a share of total employment, held at 2.3%, matching the lowest since 2020. Fewer quits implies Americans are less confident in their ability to find another job in the current market.

The pickup in openings reflected a more than half-million increase in professional and business services as well as more postings in finance and insurance, education, and non-durable goods manufacturing.

The rebound in vacancies points to how resilient demand is underpinning staffing needs. While an improvement in workforce participation and consistent wage increases have helped ease worker shortages, challenges remain.

The ratio of openings to unemployed people was little changed at 1.5. At its peak in 2022, the ratio was 2 to 1.

The Federal Reserve is closely watching the progress of the re-balancing happening in the labor market. Central bank officials expect this trend to continue, helping to ease price pressures. Persistent strength in the job market, however, could lead the Federal Open Market Committee to pursue another rate hike.

“With job openings remaining well above levels recorded prior to the pandemic and moving in the wrong direction in August, these data support a higher for longer message on rates from the Fed and will likely keep the FOMC open to another rate hike this year,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief US economist at High-Frequency Economics, said in a note.

Data out last week showed a key gauge of underlying inflation rose in August at the slowest monthly pace since late 2020.

Hiring Pace

Hires increased for the first time in three months, but barely so and remain below levels seen earlier this year. The gain reflected a pickup in accommodation and food services. Meanwhile, the low level of layoffs shows how companies remain reluctant to discharge employees.

The data precede Friday’s monthly jobs report, which is currently forecast to show employers added 170,000 jobs in September. The unemployment rate is expected to decrease slightly after a pickup in participation in August boosted the measure in the prior period.

What Bloomberg Economics Says...

“August’s surge in job openings does little to change our view that the labor market is loosening. Skills mismatch appears to be an increasingly difficult problem for firms with job openings, as hiring and wage growth have been slowing even with vacancies still high. We expect the Fed to look at the larger trend across a host of labor-market indicators, which indicate softening.”

- Stuart Paul

Some economists have questioned the reliability of the JOLTS statistics given the survey’s low response rate. That skepticism has been compounded by stories of employers “ghosting” jobseekers, a function of firms posting jobs they don’t actually intend to fill.

Scientists Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus, and Aleksey Ekimov won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discovery of tiny clusters of atoms known as quantum dots, widely used today to create colors in flat screens, light emitting diode (LED) lamps and devices that help surgeons see blood vessels in tumors.

The prize-awarding academy said that the research of the three U.S.-based scientists on quantum dots, which in size ratio have the same relationship to a football as a football to Earth, had "added color to nanotechnology."

"Researchers believe that in the future they could contribute to flexible electronics, tiny sensors, thinner solar cells, and encrypted quantum communication," the academy said in a statement.

The more than century-old prize is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and is worth 11 million Swedish crowns ($1 million).

One of the "fascinating and unusual properties" of quantum dots is that they change light colour depending on the particle size, while keeping the atomic structure unchanged, said Johan Aqvist, Chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.

Bawendi said he felt "very surprised, sleepy, shocked, unexpected and very honored" by the award. Brus said it was so unexpected that he ignored the first half a dozen phone calls he received from people trying to break the news to him.

Earlier on Wednesday, the academy appeared to have inadvertently shared the prize winners' names.

"It was very unfortunate that the press release got out and we still don't know why it happened," said Hans Ellegren, the academy's secretary general. He added it did not affect the choice of laureates.

The quantum dot technology, which enabled high-definition QLED TVs sold by Samsung (005930.KS), Sony (6758.T) or TCL (000100.SZ), traces its roots to early 1980s work by Ekimov.

"I could never have thought you could make these things at such a large commercial scale," Bawendi said in a press conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he is a professor.

Ekimov was a pioneer, discovering that the colour of glass changes with the size of copper chloride molecules contained in it and that sub-atomic forces were at play.

Speaking to Reuters on the phone, 78-year-old Ekimov, who was born in the Soviet Union and later moved to the U.S., marveled at the latest flat-screen technology, something he did not envision during his work in the 1980s. "Remember what a TV was back then!" he said, laughing.

A few years later, Brus extended the work to microscopic particles suspended in liquids.

"It's a collaborative effort," Brus said in an interview at his home in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. "There's not a single 'eureka!' moment."

In 1993, Bawendi revolutionized the production of quantum dots and improved their quality.

Among other uses, the research enabled LEDs that shine more like natural sunlight, avoiding the bluish light they were previously shunned for.

Brus is a professor emeritus at Columbia University and Ekimov works for Nanocrystals Technology Inc, both in New York.

Brus was hired by AT&T Bell Labs in 1972 where he spent 23 years, devoting much of the time to studying nanocrystals.

"It's not that I'm a genius, I'm very far from being a genius," Brus said. "But what's important is to try to find the problem that other people don't realize is important and aren't working on."

Bawendi, who was born in Paris, was a student when he went to Bell Labs for a summer, where he met Brus, who became his mentor. "It was a cauldron of energy and science," Bawendi said.

He also described flunking his first chemistry exam as a first-year undergraduate student. "I got 20 out of 100, it was the lowest grade in the class, and I thought, 'Oh no, this is the end of me, what am I doing here?'" he said.

The third of this year's crop of awards, the chemistry Nobel follows those for medicine and physics announced this week.

Established in the will of Swedish dynamite inventor and chemist Alfred Nobel, the prizes for achievements in science, literature, and peace have been awarded since 1901.

While the chemistry awards are sometimes overshadowed by the physics prize and its famous winners such as Albert Einstein, chemistry laureates include many scientific greats, including radioactivity pioneer Ernest Rutherford and Marie Curie, who also won the physics prize.

Workers in California will soon receive a minimum of five days of paid sick leave annually, instead of three, under a new law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Wednesday.

The law, which takes effect in January, also increases the amount of sick leave workers can carry over into the following year. Newsom said it demonstrates that prioritizing the health and well-being of workers “is of the utmost importance for California’s future."

“Too many folks are still having to choose between skipping a day’s pay and taking care of themselves or their family members when they get sick,” Newsom said in a statement announcing his action.

It was one of more than a dozen bills the Democratic governor signed Wednesday. He has until mid-October to act on all the legislation sent to him this year. He can sign, veto or let bills become law without his signature.

Beyond preventing workers from choosing between taking a day off or getting paid, proponents of the sick day legislation argue it will help curb the spread of diseases and make sure employees can be productive at work. But the California Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses across the state, said it will be burdensome for small businesses.

“Far too many small employers simply cannot absorb this new cost, especially when viewed in the context of all of California’s other leaves and paid benefits, and they will have to reduce jobs, cut wages, or raise consumer prices to deal with this mandate,” Jennifer Barrera, the group's president, said in a statement.

The law was among several major labor initiatives in the Legislature this year, including proposals to raise the wages of healthcare workers and allow legislative staffers to unionize. Newsom already signed a law to raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 an hour. But he vetoed a bill Saturday that would have given unemployment benefits to striking workers, saying the fund the state would use is approaching nearly $20 billion in debt.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council, which supported the sick day legislation, said the law will help prevent the spread of deadly diseases.

“Five paid sick days is a step in the right direction and workers will be less likely forced to risk their livelihoods to do the right thing and stay home when they’re sick because of this bill,” Andrea Zinder, president of the group's Local 324 chapter, said in a statement.

Newsom also signed a law Wednesday to ban local government from manually counting ballots in most cases, a direct response to a rural Northern California county’s plan to stop using machines to count votes.

Shasta County’s board of supervisors, controlled by a conservative majority, voted earlier this year to end its contract with Dominion Voting Systems, a company that has been subject to unfounded allegations of fraud pushed by former Republican President Donald Trump and his allies. County leaders said there was a loss of public confidence in the company's machines.

At the time, local leaders did not have a plan for how the county would conduct future elections for its 111,000 registered voters. The county had been preparing to count ballots by hand for its next election on Nov. 7, 2023, to fill seats on the school board and fire district board and decide the fate of two ballot measures.

The new law, which takes effect immediately, halts Shasta County officials’ plans. The only exceptions under the law are for regularly scheduled elections with fewer than 1,000 eligible registered voters and special elections where there are fewer than 5,000 eligible voters.

Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, a Democrat from Santa Cruz who authored the law and is a former local elections official, said the law creates necessary guardrails around elections. The law also requires local governments to use state-certified voting machines.

The legislation “ensures that no California voter will be disenfranchised by the actions and decisions of ill-informed political actors,” she said in a statement.

The legislation has divided the rural county. Shasta County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen, a Democrat, called the law a “commonsense protection for all California voters.”

Despite the county getting rid of its Dominion voting machines, local leaders gave her permission to purchase equipment needed to comply with federal laws for voters with disabilities. The system that was purchased, made by Hart InterCivic, includes scanners capable of tabulating votes electronically. The equipment will be used to tabulate votes in upcoming elections, Darling Allen said.

Shasta County Board of Supervisors chair Patrick Henry Jones told The Associated Press in September the county would sue to block the law, adding that state officials “cannot guarantee that these machines haven’t been manipulated.” Jones didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Newsom signing the bill into law.

While hand counts of ballots occur in parts of the United States, this typically happens in small jurisdictions with small numbers of registered voters. Hand counts, however, are commonly used as part of post-election tests to check that machines are counting ballots correctly, but only a small portion of the ballots are counted manually.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post