Reports show that the national job picture continues its slow improvement

12/31/1840 7:00 PM

06/04/2014 7:45 PM

For the first time in more than six years, there were fewer than two unemployed people for every advertised job vacancy in April, according to a report published Wednesday.

The Conference Board said that although labor demand remains fairly flat so far this year, there are fewer jobless workers. That caused the national supply/demand rate to fall to 1.98 in April.

There were 9.8 million unemployed workers, or about 4.8 million more unemployed than the number of advertised job openings, according to the Conference Board analysis.

“That is good news for many workers,” said June Shelp, a Conference Board vice president, but she also noted that employers haven’t ramped up job creation.

The Gallup organization’s Job Creation Index also published positive news Wednesday. The index reached a new high in a six-year trend that tracks employee reports of hiring activity at their places of employment.

The May index indicated that 40 percent of employees said their employers were hiring and expanding their workforce. On the downside, 41 percent reported no change in staffing and 13 percent reported downsizing.

The Gallup index has been on a predominantly upward trajectory since 2009 after collapsing precipitously in 2008.

The payroll processing company ADP released its national employment figure for May, indicating that job growth in its client-based study grew by 180,000.

That was the 51st straight month that ADP tracked private payroll growth, and payroll employment now is 2.1 percent above its year-earlier level.

ADP noted, though, that the payroll growth was less than the 210,000 expected. Many analysts have been predicting that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will report payroll growth of 215,000 when it reveals the May numbers on Friday.

Finally, an outlook by TrimTabs Investment Research, a Stern & Co. affiliate, estimates that May job growth will come in at 229,000 jobs.

“The labor market has been gradually improving early this year,” said David Santschi, CEO at TrimTabs. “Employment growth has exceeded 200,000 jobs for three consecutive months for the first time since the spring of 2011.”

On Friday, the Labor Department will issue its jobs report for May. Economists in one survey estimated, on average, that companies hired 220,000 workers last month and that the unemployment rate remained steady at 6.3 percent.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to stafford@kcstar.com.

Service firms, trade deficit grow; productivity drops

In other economic reports Wednesday:

The Institute for Supply Management said its service sector index rose to 56.3 in May, the best reading since August 2013, as production, hiring and new orders increased. The reading was 55.2 in April. Any figure above 50 indicates expansion.

The U.S. trade deficit jumped 6.9 percent in April to $47.2 billion, a two-year high. Exports dropped for the fourth month in the past five, falling 0.2 percent to $195.4 billion. Imports climbed 1.2 percent to an all-time high of $240.6 billion, reflecting record shipments of foreign-made cars, food, computers and other goods.

U.S. productivity fell even more than previously thought in the January-March period while labor costs rose at a faster pace. Productivity, the amount of output per hour of work, declined at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the first quarter, the weakest showing since the beginning months of the recession in 2008. Unit labor costs rose at a 5.7 percent rate, the fastest pace in more than a year.

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