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Job market tightens but still challenging

Mitchell Hartman Nov 12, 2015
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The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics will be released for September on Thursday. It has shown slow improvement through the economic recovery; in hiring; in quits (the rate at which job-holders leave their jobs voluntarily to seek new jobs); and in the ratio of job-seekers to jobs-available. Job openings however are now above pre-recession levels. 

Michael Gritton at KentuckianaWorks, the workforce agency in Louisville , Kentucky, said local employers are working with his group on job-training and preparedness, as they scramble to find the skilled workers they need.

“Big companies like General Electric have stated publicly in the last two weeks they consider the situation to be a crisis,” Gritton said. “Multiple employers in health care, manufacturing, information technology are looking for entry-level workers, and are frustrated at what they’re finding.”

In some sectors, such as health care, finance and insurance, and professional and business services, there are now more job openings than job-seekers in the labor market, according to JOLTS data for August analyzed by the Economic Policy Institute. Meanwhile, EPI reports that the odds are still stacked against job-seekers in sectors that were hit hard in the recession and have been slow to recover, including construction, teaching, and some manufacturing fields.

Prominent low-wage employers in the retail sector, meanwhile — such as Amazon, McDonald’s, and Walmart — are raising starting salaries. Economist Harry Holzer at Georgetown University said that’s only partly because they’re finding it harder to attract the workers they need.

“Those firms have gotten some bad press,” said Holzer. “Raising the average wage by a buck an hour relieves them of some of that, and makes them more attractive to job applicants.”