Staffing & Employment News
Respectively Healthy Improvement
Before the revolutions started driving oil prices up, there was some heady optimism. It persists despite the anticipated impacts of expensive oil. Americans must be feeling optimistic, “auto sales reportedly rose 27% in February”, NPR reported, “as the economic recovery continued and consumers felt more comfortable taking on a car payment.”
The jobs report today showed a “respectively healthy gain” for the month of February, at 192,000, and December and January revisions were up a net 58,000. Professional and business services, health care, transportation & warehousing, construction, mining, and manufacturing all showed increases. ADP estimated yesterday that February’s private payrolls increased by 217,000 (a little higher than today’s report), and the Monster employment index went up 7 points to 129 in February with a sharp pick-up in online job recruitment.
The unemployment rate dipped more than expected; the household survey indicates 8.9% (down from January’s 9.0%), whereas forecasters had anticipated 9.1% according to the jobs report. New unemployment benefit applications went down in February; the four-week average was the lowest seen in 2.5 years last week. The number of benefits currently being paid also went down substantially; at 3.79 million this is the lowest number since October 2008.
The new Professional Employment Report by Robert Half International Inc. reports that 5% net of executives plan on increased hiring in Q2. The largest increases are reported in the Mountain West (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming). The Executive Job Creation Index by ExecuNet was positive for the 13th month in a row. “Hiring activity at the management level has increased in recent months in part because of how the broader US economy has fared, but in some cases reflects an upgrade of talent for existing executive roles,” says Mark Anderson, President and Chief Economist of ExecuNet.
In February, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index hit 70.4 from January’s 64.8. The index is “now at a three-year high (Feb. 2008, 76.4), due to growing optimism about the short-term future,” said Lynn Franco, director of consumer research at The Conference Board.
The Fed is encouraged too, reporting in the beige book that the economy grew in early 2011, albeit at a moderate pace and that the jobs market improved, slowly. The most recent forecast by the Survey of Professional Forecasters anticipates the U.S. GDP to increase between 3.4% and 3.9% this year. Their forecast is a brighter outlook for unemployment; projections are for an average of 9.1% in 2011, 8.5% in 2012, 7.8% in 2013, and 7.3% in 2014. That’s progress.
Bernanke finds recent indicators encouraging but reiterates that the job market recovery is slow. The 2010 gain of 1 million jobs did little to alleviate the loss of 8.75 million in 2008 – 2009. He has a positive outlook over the next few quarters, citing the December and January declines in the unemployment rate, and the increasingly positive hiring plans in the private sector.
Of course a lot can happen between forecasts. Many economists are wary of massive budget cuts causing job losses if indeed the legislature cuts billions in spending. The chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, Mark Zandi, released a report that predicts that proposed GOP spending cuts would lead to job losses of up to 700,000 through 2012.