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    U.S. Job Openings Dropped in October

    The News:Job openings fell considerably in October, hitting the lowest level since March 2021, the Labor Department announced on Tuesday.There were 8.7 million job openings in October, down significantly from 9.3 million in September, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. That was lower than economists’ expectations of 9.3 million openings.The rate of layoffs was little changed, as was the rate of quitting, which generally reflects workers’ confidence in their ability to find new employment.Job openings declined significantly in October, the Labor Department said.Tony Cenicola/The New York TimesWhy It Matters: The state of the labor market affects interest rate policy.The labor market is closely watched by the Federal Reserve as it mulls its interest rate policy. A cooling labor market tends to fuel predictions that the Fed will not further increase rates, which have risen to a range of 5.25 to 5.5 percent from nearly zero in March 2022.The labor market has been surprisingly resilient since the Fed started its rate increases in a campaign to tame inflation. But as the job market shows signs of cooling, so has consumer spending. Many companies told investors that in the most recent quarter customers were pulling back and spending less on products and more on services and experiences. The Fed’s preferred inflation measure confirmed that consumer spending slowed in October.At the same time, investors are increasingly hopeful that the Fed is done raising rates. Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, recently suggested in a speech that the central bank would leave rates steady if data continued to point to a cooling economy. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield fell on Tuesday, reaching its lowest point since September, as investors expected interest rates to fall in the future.A reduction in job opportunities discourages the Fed from raising rates or keeping them high too long because such a trend often foreshadows a recession. “With this evidence coming in that the labor market is cooling substantially, I think it’s raising the chances that the Fed is done with the rate hikes,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter.Background: Unemployment and openings have reverted to earlier levels.Though the labor market is slowing, it remains a healthy landscape for workers. The unemployment rate ticked up in October, to nearly 4 percent, which is in line with prepandemic levels.Job openings reached a record of more than 12 million in March 2022 and have trended down since. The last time job openings hovered around nine million — where it is now — was in the spring of 2021.There are still ample opportunities for workers. The rate of hiring remained steady in October despite the decline in openings.One difference is that layoffs are lower than they were before the pandemic. That probably reflects companies’ decisions to reduce staffing by natural attrition rather than cuts.“This is perhaps the biggest sign that we still have a strong economy and labor market,” said Sonu Varghese, a strategist at Carson Group, a financial advisory firm.Though inflation has slowed significantly since the Fed started raising rates in March 2022, it remains above the central bank’s 2 percent target.The Fed’s preferred inflation measure fell to 3 percent in October from a year earlier. But without including food and fuel prices, which are volatile and less sensitive to the Fed’s policy actions, the rate was 3.5 percent.What’s next: The November jobs report comes on Friday.The November jobs report will be released on Friday by the Labor Department. Economists forecast that the unemployment rate will stay around 4 percent, with a gain of about 180,000 jobs.That report will be one of the last insights into the state of the labor market before the Fed’s next policy meeting on Dec. 12 and 13. More

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    Vermont May Be the Face of a Long-Term U.S. Labor Shortage

    At Lake Champlain Chocolates, the owners take shifts stacking boxes in the warehouse. At Burlington Bagel Bakery, a sign in the window advertises wages starting at $25 an hour. Central Vermont Medical Center is training administrative employees to become nurses. Cabot Creamery is bringing workers from out of state to package its signature blocks of Cheddar cheese.The root of the staffing challenge is simple: Vermont’s population is rapidly aging. More than a fifth of Vermonters are 65 or older, and more than 35 percent are over 54, the age at which Americans typically begin to exit the work force. No state has a smaller share of its residents in their prime working years.Vermont offers an early look at where the rest of the country could be headed. The baby boom population is aging out of the work force, and subsequent generations aren’t large enough to fully replace it. Immigration slumped during the pandemic, and though it has since rebounded, it is unclear how long that will last, given a lack of broad political support for higher immigration. Birthrates are falling.“All of these things point in the direction of prolonged labor scarcity,” said David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has studied long-term work force trends.Eric Lampman, right, the president and co-owner of Lake Champlain Chocolates, has revamped its production schedule to reduce its reliance on seasonal help.Lockers at Lake Champlain Chocolates. While other states have helped buttress their work forces through immigration, Vermont’s foreign-born population has remained small.Vermont’s unemployment rate was 1.9 percent in September, among the lowest in the country, and the labor force is still thousands of people smaller than before the pandemic. Employers are fighting over scarce workers, offering wage increases, signing bonuses and child care subsidies, alongside enticements such as free ski passes. When those tactics fail, many are limiting operating hours and scaling back product offerings.A rural state — Burlington, with a population under 45,000, is the smallest “biggest city” in the country — Vermont has for decades seen young people leave for better opportunities. And while other states have helped buttress their work forces through immigration, Vermont’s foreign-born population has remained small.But demographics are at the root of the problem.“We knew where we were headed — we just maybe got there a little bit quicker than we were expecting,” said Michael Harrington, the state’s labor commissioner. “There just aren’t enough Vermonters to meet the needs of our state and our employers in the future.”Gray Mountain StateA disproportionate share of Vermonters are in or near their retirement years. But the overall U.S. population is also aging.

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    Percentage of 2022 population by age group
    Source: Census BureauBy The New York TimesThere were similar shortages across the country in 2021 and 2022, as demand — for both goods and workers — surged after pandemic lockdowns. The overall labor market has become more balanced as demand has cooled and Americans have returned to the work force. But economists and demographers say shortages will re-emerge as the population ages.“It seems to be happening slowly enough that we’re not seeing it as a crisis,” said Diana Elliott, vice president for U.S. programs at the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit research organization. “It’s happening in slow motion.”Long-run labor scarcity will look different from the acute shortages of the pandemic era. Businesses will find ways to adapt, either by paying workers more or by adapting their operations to require fewer of them. Those that can’t adapt will lose ground to those that can.“It’s just going to be a new equilibrium,” said Jacob Vigdor, an economist at the University of Washington, adding that businesses that built their operations on the availability of relatively cheap labor may struggle.“You may discover that that business model doesn’t work for you anymore,” he said. “There are going to be disruptions. There are going to be winners and losers.”Higher Wages, More OpportunityCentral Vermont Medical Center built a classroom and simulation lab for its training programs. A trainee practiced a procedure using a dummy.The winners are the workers. When workers are scarce, employers have an incentive to broaden their searches — considering people with less formal education, or those with disabilities — and to give existing employees opportunities for advancement.At Central Vermont Medical Center, as at rural hospitals across the country, the pandemic compounded an existing nursing shortage. An aging population means that demand for health care will only grow.So the medical center has teamed up with two local colleges on a program enabling hospital employees to train as nurses while working full time. The hospital built a classroom and simulation lab on site, and lent out its nurses to serve as faculty. Students spend 12 of their paid working hours each week studying — and if they stay on as nurses for three years after completing the program, their student debt is forgiven.The program has graduated 27 licensed practical nurses and eight registered nurses since 2021; some previously had administrative jobs. The hospital is expanding the training to roles like respiratory technicians and phlebotomists.Other businesses are finding their own ways to accommodate workers. Lake Champlain Chocolates, a high-end chocolate maker outside Burlington, has revamped its production schedule to reduce its reliance on seasonal help. It has also begun bringing former employees out of retirement, hiring them part time during the holiday season.The medical center has teamed up with two local colleges on a program enabling hospital employees to train as nurses while working full time.“We’ve adapted,” said Allyson Myers, the company’s marketing director. “Prepandemic we never would have said, oh, come and work in the fulfillment department one day a week or two days a week. We wouldn’t have offered that as an option.”Then there is the most straightforward way to attract workers: paying them more. Lake Champlain has raised starting wages for its factory and retail workers 20 to 35 percent over the past two years.Charles Goodhart, a British economist, said the aging of the population would tend to lead to lower inequality — albeit at the cost of higher prices.“Since the available supply of workers will go down, relative to demand, workers will demand and get higher wages,” Mr. Goodhart, who in 2020 published a book on the economic consequences of aging societies, wrote in an email.Robots and HousingCabot Creamery is in a rural area where cellphone coverage is spotty and many roads are unpaved. The county has only about 700 unemployed people, according to Vermont’s Labor Department.When Walmart reached out to Cabot Creamery about increasing distribution of its Greek yogurt, Jason Martin hesitated — he wasn’t sure he could find enough workers to meet the extra demand.Mr. Martin is senior vice president of operations for Agri-Mark, the agricultural cooperative that owns Cabot Creamery, the nationally distributed brand that employs close to 700 people in Vermont. When the company’s leadership talks about adding a product or expanding production, he said, labor is nearly always the first topic.“As I present products to our board of directors, in the back of my mind I always think, ‘I’m going to need to find the people,’” Mr. Martin said.The labor challenge is evident at Cabot Creamery’s packaging plant in the company’s namesake town. Blocks of cheese weighing close to 700 pounds are fed into machines that cut them, for one product, into cracker-size slices. Employees in gloves and hairnets then drop the slices into plastic pouches, which are sealed and packaged together. Many of the workers are in their 50s and 60s, and have been with Cabot for decades.Cabot is over an hour from Burlington, in a rural area where cellphone coverage is spotty and many roads are unpaved. The county has only about 700 unemployed people, according to the state’s Labor Department, and while the company has raised pay and offers generous benefits — a recent marketing campaign cites perks including a defined-benefit pension plan, tuition reimbursement and, of course, free cheese — hiring remains difficult.Cabot has raised pay and offers generous benefits such as pension plan, tuition reimbursement and, of course, free cheese, but hiring remains difficult.Adding to the challenge is Vermont’s housing shortage. Cabot has contracted with a local college to use unoccupied dormitories to house temporary workers brought in from other states and — on guest-worker visas — from other countries.It is also investing in automation — not just to require fewer workers but also to make jobs less taxing for its aging employee base. New equipment will package cheese slices automatically.To economists, investments like Cabot’s are good news — a sign that companies are finding ways to make the people they have more productive.But ultimately, many economists say, Vermont — and the country as a whole — will simply need more workers. Some could come from the existing population, through companies’ efforts to tap into new labor pools and through government efforts to address larger issues like the opioid crisis, which has sidelined hundreds of thousands of working-age Americans.Not all economists think aging demographics are likely to drive a national labor shortage.The ranks of people in their prime working years was stagnant for years before the pandemic, but labor was often plentiful, said Adam Ozimek, the chief economist at Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan public policy organization. Increased immigration, he added, would add to demand as well as supply.Still, many economists argue that immigrants will be an important part of the solution, especially in fields, like elder care, that are rapidly growing and hard to automate.“We need to start looking at immigrants as a strategic resource, incredibly valuable parts of the economy,” said Ron Hetrick, senior labor economist at Lightcast, a labor market data firm.Workers WantedKevin Chu, the executive director of the Vermont Futures Project, sees the worker shortage as an imminent, long-term threat to the state’s economy.Kevin Chu has spent the past several months traveling around Vermont speaking to local business groups, elected officials, nonprofit organizations and pretty much anyone else who would listen. His message: Vermont needs more people.Mr. Chu is the executive director of the Vermont Futures Project, a nonprofit organization, backed by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, that sees the worker shortage as an imminent, long-term threat to the state’s economy.Mr. Chu grew up in Vermont after his parents immigrated from China in the mid-1980s, part of a wave of immigrants — many of them refugees — who came to the state during that period. He recalls attending Burlington High School at a time when it flew the flag of its students’ home countries, dozens in all.“I feel like I got a glimpse of what Vermont could be,” he said.Mr. Chu’s message has resonated with business leaders and state officials, but it has been a tougher sell with the population as a whole. A recent poll found that a plurality — but not a majority — of Vermonters supported increasing the population.The Futures Project has set a goal of increasing the population to 802,000 by 2035, from fewer than 650,000 today. That would also help bring down Vermont’s median age to 40, from 42.7.The state has a long way to go: Vermont added just 92 people from 2021 to 2022.The root of Vermont’s staffing challenge is simple: More than a quarter of its adults are 65 or older, and more than 40 percent are over 54. More

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    Job Growth Slows, Sowing a Mix of Concern and Calm

    U.S. employers added 150,000 workers in October, falling short of expectations, but the labor market retains spark nearly three years into a recovery.The labor market has been relentlessly hot since the U.S. economy began to recover from the shock of the pandemic. But there are signs of cooling as the holidays approach.Employers added 150,000 jobs in October on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Labor Department reported on Friday, a number that fell short of economists’ forecasts.Hiring figures for August and September were revised downward, subtracting more than 100,000 jobs from earlier reports. And the unemployment rate, based on a survey of households, rose to 3.9 percent from 3.8 percent in September.Unemployment ticked up in OctoberUnemployment rate More

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    JOLTS Report Shows U.S. Job Openings Steady in September

    The NewsJob openings changed little in September, the Labor Department announced on Wednesday.There were 9.6 million job openings in September, slightly up from August’s revised total of 9.5 million, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. The figure was greater than economists’ expectations of 9.3 million openings. The rate of workers quitting their jobs was flat, at 2.3 percent, for the third straight month.The Federal Reserve closely monitors job openings to understand whether the economy is running too hot.Jim Wilson/The New York TimesWhy It Matters: The Fed looks for signs of a soft landing.The Federal Reserve closely monitors job openings to understand whether the economy is running too hot. Since March 2022, the Fed has tried to fight inflation by raising interest rates to their highest level since 2001.The Fed has remained committed to hitting an annual inflation target of 2 percent without causing a significant spike in unemployment — a combined outcome known as a “soft landing.”Fed officials are expected to maintain a target range of 5.25 to 5.5 percent for interest rates when they meet on Wednesday. The overall trend of slowing job openings is a sign that rate increases have cooled the economy, according to experts.“All of this means the Fed probably doesn’t feel the need to raise rates further, but they’re not going to ease anytime soon,” said Sonu Varghese, global macro strategist at Carson Group, said of the report on job openings.Job openings, which reached a record of more than 12 million in March 2022, have trended down, as has the job-quitting rate, while separations have been flat. As openings rose slightly in September, the number of openings per unemployed worker was flat, at 1.5, the same as August.Less churn in the labor market indicates that rate increases are having an effect, said Julia Pollak, the chief economist at the job search website ZipRecruiter. ZipRecruiter’s latest survey of new employees found that the share of hires who received a pay increase, got a signing bonus or were recruited to their new jobs each fell.Background: ‘More wood to chop’ for the Fed.Job openings remain much higher than they were before the pandemic, and the number of unemployed workers per job opening is much lower. Both are signs of a tight labor market.Inflation also remains above the Fed’s 2 percent target. The Fed’s preferred inflation measure has fallen nearly four percentage points since the summer of 2022, to 3.4 percent.“The Fed’s primary focus remains inflation,” said Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo. “They’re reading the economy through the lens of ‘What does this mean for the path of inflation ahead?’”According to Stephen Juneau, an economist at Bank of America, the Fed still has “more wood to chop.” His team expects that the Fed will raise rates one more time, in December, to reach a soft landing.Economic growth in the third quarter accelerated, and another measure of wage growth grew faster than expected over the summer. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond, a key measure of long-term borrowing costs that undergirds nearly everything in the economy, has reached its highest level since 2007 as the outlook for growth has improved.What’s next: The October jobs report on Friday.The report on Wednesday morning kicked off an important few days in economic news. After Fed officials meet to decide whether to raise rates, October’s jobs report will be released on Friday by the Labor Department.The data is expected to show that hiring slowed, with the addition of 180,000 jobs, according to Bloomberg’s survey of economists, down from September’s 336,000. The unemployment rate is expected to tick up to 3.9 percent, after holding steady at 3.8 percent in September. More

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    Retailers’ Seasonal Hiring Plans Signal a Cooling Labor Market

    After scrambling to fill out work forces in recent years, many companies are reporting more modest goals for temporary employment.As the most important selling season for retailers approaches, job applicants may feel a chill.Macy’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods plan to hire fewer seasonal workers after a surge in the past two years, when shoppers thronged to stores after pandemic lockdowns and employers struggled to keep up. Many retailers have dropped the incentives they used over the past few years to bring workers in the doors, such as signing or referral bonuses and steeper employee discounts.The career site Indeed said that searches for seasonal jobs were up 19 percent from last year, but that listed positions were down 6 percent. Companies helping businesses find temporary workers note that major retailers have been slower to release hiring plans this year. And on Indeed, fewer job postings are described as urgent needs.Seasonal hiring helps retailers handle the increased shopping during the fourth quarter, often referred to as “peak season.” Sales in November and December can account for a quarter of some retailers’ annual revenue. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, foot traffic in stores and online shopping are usually at their height.Early estimates point to an increase in retail spending this holiday season, but not at the fast pace of recent years.Some economists and consultants see the trends in hiring and pay as a sign that the red-hot labor market of the past couple of years has cooled. Retailers’ work forces, unsteady throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, are starting to stabilize. As inflation erodes shoppers’ budgets and confidence — and savings from pandemic relief programs are drawn down — the hiring plans may be part of a cautious approach that extends to inventories and sales projections.“The seasonal hiring market looks a whole lot more like 2019 than those pandemic bounce-back years,” said Nick Bunker, director of North American economic research for Indeed. “I really do think this is emblematic broadly of what we’re seeing in the U.S. labor market, where demand for workers overall is fairly strong but down from where it was in the last year and a half.”Macy’s is aiming to hire 38,000 workers, 3,000 below its 2022 plan. In 2021, Macy’s said it aimed to hire 76,000 people — in both permanent roles and seasonal jobs — during the holiday season. Of those positions, 48,000 were temporary.Dick’s said it would hire up to 8,600 seasonal workers, down from targets of 9,000 last year and 10,000 in 2021 — and up only slightly from 8,000 in 2019.“The seasonal hiring market looks a whole lot more like 2019 than those pandemic bounce-back years,” said Nick Bunker, an economic researcher at Indeed.Nam Y. Huh/Associated PressTarget and United Parcel Service plan to hire the same number of workers as last year, about 100,000 each. In a statement, Target said its seasonal associates would supplement the hiring it had done throughout the year to staff up its stores and supply chain facilities.“This year, we are starting the season with stability in our work force and a continued commitment to scheduling flexibility for our team, which has helped us retain team members and create a more experienced work force,” the company said in a post on its blog.Walmart, the nation’s biggest retailer, echoed that sentiment.“I’m also excited that we’re staffed and ready to serve customers this holiday season,” Maren Dollwet Waggoner, senior vice president of people at Walmart U.S., said in a post on LinkedIn. “We’ve been hiring throughout the year to be sure we’re ready to serve customers however they want to shop.”A Walmart spokeswoman added that if a store had additional staffing needs during the holiday season, it would offer extra hours to current employees before looking externally. Walmart did not say how many seasonal workers it planned to hire this year, as it did in years past. (In 2022, it said it was looking to fill 40,000 seasonal positions, including truck drivers and call center workers.)Amazon is a notable exception, saying it will hire more seasonal workers this year — 250,000, up from 150,000 last year. It also said that a $1.3 billion investment would bring the average hourly wage of those jobs to more than $20.50 and that it would still offer signing bonuses in some locations.Matching staffing to demand helps ensure that retailers eke out as many sales as they can.Seasonal workers are “the folks that are on the front lines of their business,” said John Long, North America retail sector leader at the consulting firm Korn Ferry, adding that aside from a store’s inventory, they “are going to be the make-or-break piece of the equation of whether the retailer makes their numbers or they don’t.”Amazon said it planned to hire 250,000 seasonal workers, up from 150,000 last year.Karsten Moran for The New York TimesAfter paring their work forces during the worst of the pandemic, employers in the retail and hospitality industries scrambled to fill open positions as workers sought more flexibility, switched companies frequently or stood on the sidelines. To get back to prepandemic staffing, retailers have used evergreen requisitions — continually displayed postings advertising essential roles that often need to be filled — and have started hiring seasonal workers as early as August.They have also given more hours to part-time workers and relaxed qualifications. To reduce turnover, many companies have bumped up their base wages for hourly positions.These factors have complicated the explanation for reduced seasonal hiring this year, said Melissa Hassett, a vice president at Manpower Group who works with large retailers, logistics and distributors across the country.“If you’re always hiring, you’re just not going to see an increase in postings happen very often,” she said. “So sometimes when you look at the increase in postings for retail it’s not as accurate as you think it is.”But there is also a feeling that the leverage of retail job applicants will fade.“In the past it felt like the workers had a lot more upper hand in terms of being able to demand what they need,” Yong Kim, founder of the staffing platform Wonolo, said. That dynamic has changed, especially for temporary positions.“There is definitely more tightening around companies wanting to hold off on hiring unless they really need to” and waiting to see how the fourth quarter pans out, Mr. Kim said. More

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    Strong U.S. Job Growth Shows Economy Is Defying Challenges

    Employers added 336,000 jobs in September, almost double what experts had forecast and the biggest gain since January. Markets welcomed the report.In a sign of continued economic stamina, American payrolls grew by 336,000 in September on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Labor Department said on Friday.The increase, almost double what economists had forecast, confirmed the labor market’s vitality and the overall hardiness of an economy facing challenges from a variety of forces.It was the 33rd consecutive month of job growth, and the increase was the biggest since January.The unemployment rate, based on a survey of households, was steady at 3.8 percent. It has been below 4 percent for nearly two years, a stretch not achieved since the late 1960s.Unemployment was unchanged in SeptemberUnemployment rate More

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    Why the Jobs Report Might be Pivotal for a Jittery Stock Market

    Stocks are sliding, government bond yields are soaring, and investors are reacting strongly to incremental economic information, parsing it for even the slightest hints about the path ahead. .Such sensitivity among investors has left markets jittery — veering between fears that the economy is running too hot and worries about a downturn so sharp that the country tumbles into recession.The squeamishness is most apparent in the $25 trillion market for U.S. Treasuries, where yields on government bonds have risen to highs not seen since 2007. Though the jump in bond yields in part reflects bets on a strong economy, the moves have fanned out into the stock market, too. For stock investors, higher yields are generally a negative — and the S&P 500 index is on track for its fifth consecutive weekly decline.After the government reported on Friday that employers added 336,000 jobs in September, sharply higher than economists had expected, stock futures, which allow investors to bet on the market before the official start of trading, dropped and government bond yields rose near a 16-year high.It’s all about interest rates.There are many different interest rates that matter. There is the rate that the Federal Reserve sets, which is a target for overnight borrowing costs. There are consumer and corporate borrowing rates, like those on credit cards or mortgages. And then there are government debt yields, which partly track the Fed’s policy rate but stretch out over much longer periods and factor in other information such as inflation and economic growth.Arguably the most important of these rates is the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond, a measure of what it would cost the U.S. government to borrow money from investors for 10 years, but also a crucial input to virtually every other long-term interest rate in the world, making it a cornerstone of the global financial system.It also influences how companies are valued and, therefore, it holds sway over the stock market. Higher treasury yields indicate higher costs for consumers and businesses, which typically weigh on the market.This week, the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond rose above 4.80 percent, its highest level since 2007, from 4.57 percent at the end of last week. After coming off that high point in the days before the jobs data was released, the yield quickly snapped back above 4.8 percent after the report on Friday. S&P 500 futures pointed to another decline, adding to a 1.6 percent loss for the week. The S&P 500 is down about 7 percent in the more than two months that the yield has been rising.Rates have been rising for a while. What’s so scary now?The Fed has been raising interest rates for roughly 18 months, but the yield on 10-year Treasuries had remained fairly steady for the first half of 2023, oscillating in a range of 3.5 to 4 percent.Over that period, the S&P 500 rallied nearly 20 percent, buoyed by better-than-expected corporate profits, slowing inflation, a resilient economy and greater consensus about the end of the Fed’s rate-raising cycle.But persistently strong economic data has led to higher expectations for growth, while concerns that inflation could remain stubbornly too high have raised expectations that the Fed may have to keep rates elevated for longer than previously thought to finish the job of taming prices. As a result, in early August, the yield on the 10-year bond began a swift ascent.That move has upended some of the market’s long-held assumptions. After a period of relative stability, investors are re-evaluating what higher rates could mean for consumers and companies, catalyzing a sell-off in the stock market. The S&P 500 slumped nearly 5 percent in September, its worst month of the year so far.Add in a sharply appreciating dollar — also tied to rising interest rates — and wild swings in the cost of oil, and the outlook for the economy has become more uncertain.“All these things thrown into a blender — the uncertainty and the speed of how things are moving — is what has kept the market uneasy,” said George Goncalves, head of U.S. macro strategy at MUFG Securities.Is congressional turmoil a factor?The recent brush with a government shutdown and the removal of Kevin McCarthy as House speaker on Tuesday did not rattle markets on their own, but it did highlight the government’s instability, a few months after narrowly averting a potentially devastating debt default.Rising interest rates have compounded concerns about the government’s finances, with the prospect of high rates focusing attention on the rising costs of servicing the United States’ mammoth debt pile and persistent budget deficits.At the moment, unemployment is low and the economy is performing better than many expected. Should growth slow, the fiscal challenge facing Washington will intensify, said Ajay Rajadhyaksha, global chairman of research at Barclays.And assuming no cuts in spending and that rates remain elevated, Mr. Goncalves said, higher deficits could beget higher yields, which in turn could push deficits higher. More

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    Women Could Fill Truck Driver Jobs. Companies Won’t Let Them.

    Three women filed a discrimination complaint against a trucking company over its same-sex training policy, which they say prevented them from being hired.The trucking industry has complained for years that there is a dire shortage of workers willing to drive big rigs. But some women say many trucking companies have made it effectively impossible for them to get those jobs.Trucking companies often refuse to hire women if the businesses do not have women available to train them. And because fewer than 5 percent of truck drivers in the United States are women, there are few female trainers to go around.The same-sex training policies are common across the industry, truckers and legal experts say, even though a federal judge ruled in 2014 that it was unlawful for a trucking company to require that female job candidates be paired only with female trainers.Ashli Streeter of Killeen, Texas, said she had borrowed $7,000 to attend a truck driving school and earn her commercial driving license in hopes of landing a job that would pay more than the warehouse work she had done. But she said Stevens Transport, a Dallas-based company, had told her that she couldn’t be hired because the business had no women to train her. Other trucking companies turned her down for the same reason.“I got licensed, and I clearly could drive,” Ms. Streeter said. “It was disheartening.”Ms. Streeter and two other women filed a complaint against Stevens Transport with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Thursday, contending that the company’s same-sex training policy unfairly denied them driving jobs. The commission investigates allegations made against employers, and, if it determines a violation has occurred, it may bring its own lawsuit. The commission had brought the lawsuit that resulted in the 2014 federal court decision against similar policies at another trucking company, Prime.Critics of the industry said the persistence of same-sex training nearly a decade after that ruling, which did not set national legal precedent, was evidence that trucking companies had not done enough to hire women who could help solve their labor woes.“It’s frustrating to see that we have not evolved at all,” said Desiree Wood, a trucker who is the president and founder of Real Women in Trucking, a nonprofit.Ms. Wood’s group is joining the three women in their E.E.O.C. complaint against Stevens, which was filed by Peter Romer-Friedman, a labor lawyer in Washington, and the National Women’s Law Center.Companies that insist on using women to train female applicants generally do so because they want to avoid claims of sexual harassment. Trainers typically spend weeks alone with trainees on the road, where the two often have to sleep in the same cab.Critics of same-sex training acknowledge that sexual harassment is a problem, but they say trucking companies should address it with better vetting and anti-harassment programs. Employers could reduce the risk of harassment by paying for trainees to sleep in a hotel room, which some companies already do.Women made up 4.8 percent of the 1.37 million truck drivers in the United States in 2021, according to the most recent government statistics, up from 4 percent a decade earlier.Long-haul truck driving can be a demanding job. Drivers are away from home for days. Yet some women say they are attracted to it because it can pay around $50,000 a year, with experienced drivers making a lot more. Truck driving generally pays more than many other jobs that don’t require a college degree, including those in retail stores, warehouses or child care centers.Women made up 4.8 percent of truck drivers in 2021, according to the most recent government statistics.Mikayla Whitmore for The New York TimesThe infrastructure act of 2021 required the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to set up an advisory board to support women pursuing trucking careers and identify practices that keep women out of the profession.Robin Hutcheson, the administrator of the agency, said requiring same-sex training would appear to be a barrier to entry. “If that is happening, that would be something that we would want to take a look at,” she said in an interview.Ms. Streeter, a mother of three, said she had applied to Stevens because it hired people straight out of trucking school. She told Stevens representatives that she was willing to be trained by a man, but to no avail.Bruce Dean, general counsel at Stevens, denied the allegations in the suit. “The fundamental premise in the charge — that Stevens Transport Inc. only allows women trainers to train women trainees — is false,” he said in a statement, adding that the company “has had a cross-gender training program, where both men and women trainers train female trainees, for decades.”Some legal experts said that, although same-sex training was ruled unlawful in only one federal court, trucking companies would struggle to defend such policies before other judges. Under federal employment discrimination law, employers can seek special legal exemptions to treat women differently from men, but courts have granted them very rarely.“Basically, what the law says is that a company needs to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” said Deborah Brake, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh who specializes in employment and gender law. “They need to be able to give women equal employment opportunities and prevent and remedy sexual harassment.”Ms. Streeter said she had made meager earnings from infrequent truck driving gigs while hoping to get a position at Stevens. Later this month, she will become a driver in the trucking fleet of a large retailer.Kim Howard, one of the other women who filed the E.E.O.C. complaint against Stevens, said she was attracted to truck driving by the prospect of a steady wage after working for decades as an actor in New York.“It was very much a blow,” she said of being rejected because of the training policy. “I honestly don’t know how I financially made it through.”Ms. Howard, who is now employed at another trucking company, said she had worked briefly at a company where she was trained by two men who treated her well. “It’s quite possible for a woman to be trained by a man, and a man to be a professional about what the job is,” she said.Other female drivers said they had been mistreated by male trainers who could be relentlessly dismissive and sometimes refused to teach them important skills, like reversing a truck with a large trailer attached.Rowan Kannard, a truck driver from Wisconsin who is not involved in the complaint against Stevens, said a male trainer had spent little time training her on a run to California in 2019.At a truck stop where she felt unsafe, Ms. Kannard said, the trainer demanded that she leave the cab — and then locked her out. She asked to stop the training and was flown back to Wisconsin. Yet she said she did not believe that same-sex training for women was necessary. “Some of these men that are training, they should probably go through a course.”Desiree Wood, the president of Real Women in Trucking, says the trucking industry has not evolved to hire and train more women.Mikayla Whitmore for The New York TimesMs. Wood, of Real Women in Trucking, said trucking companies’ training policies were misguided for another reason — there is no guarantee that a woman will treat another woman better than a male trainer. She said a female trainer had once hurled racist abuse at her and told her to drive dangerously.“I’m Mexican — she hated Mexicans and wanted to tell me all about it the whole time I was on the truck,” Ms. Wood said, “She screamed at me to speed in zones where it was not safe.”Still, some women support same-sex training policies.Ellen Voie, who founded the nonprofit Women in Trucking, said truck driving should be treated differently from other professions because trainers and trainees spent so much time together in close quarters.“I do not know of any other mode of transportation that confines men and women in an area that has sleeping quarters,” Ms. Voie said.Lawyers for Prime, the company that lost the E.E.O.C. suit in 2014 challenging its same-sex training policy, called Ms. Voie as an expert witness to defend the practice. In her testimony, she contended that women who were passed over by companies that didn’t have female trainers available could have found work at other trucking companies. She still believes that.But Ms. Voie added that trucking companies also needed to do more to improve training for women, including placing cameras in cabs to monitor bad behavior and paying for hotel rooms so trainers and trainees can sleep separately.Steve Rush, who recently sold his New Jersey trucking company, stopped using sleeper cabs over a decade ago, sending drivers to hotels. He said fewer of his drivers quit compared with the rest of the industry, as a result.“What woman in her right mind wants to go out and learn how to drive a truck and have to jump into the sleeper that some guy’s just crawled out of,” he said.Ben Casselman More