Job market picking up, but 'too slowly'

Pamphlets with information about unemployment are displayed at Eastbay Works Oakland One-Stop Career Center in Oakland, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: There was some news today that helps make the case that a double-dip recession probably isn't in the cards and that things are actually slowly getting better. The number of people filling out initial claims for unemployment was down again this week -- to the lowest it's been in more than two months. At the same time, though, there were more layoffs announced today, the kind of thing we saw a lot of a year ago. FedEx, in the process of announcing a nice quarterly profit, is going to cut 1,700 positions.

Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman sorts it all out.


Mitchell Hartman: Even with the downsizing announcements by FedEx and another from Boeing recently, it really does appear the employment situation's turning around, says Bernard Baumohl of the Economic Outlook Group. Claims for unemployment benefits are down; job openings at private companies are up.

Bernard Baumohl: We are getting some very early signs that the job market is improving, albeit too slowly.

"Too slowly" because at the current rate it'll take years to dig out from the recession's eight million layoffs. Still, Baumohl predicts job growth will accelerate next year, and he says big companies are mostly done with mass layoffs.

Baumohl: They have not only cut to the bone, but they've realized that they may have made a mistake by nearly amputating certain sections of their company, and they're now reversing course.

That could lead to competition to hire workers -- something we haven't seen for years. Patrick Riley runs Modern Survey, an HR firm in Minneapolis. Every few months, he hosts a meeting of hiring managers from mid-sized manufacturing and service firms.

Patrick Riley: They've been putting out job offers for some of their key hires, people have been passing on those opportunities and even going to the competition. First time they've seen anything like that in 18 months. So there's this sudden kind of wake-up call, "Whoa, things might be changing out there, and we're not going to have that pick of the litter."

Riley says right now there's more competition for top-level managers who can take these companies forward out of the recession. But if the economy keeps growing, job prospects will eventually improve for lower-level workers as well.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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