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    Job Openings Ease, but Layoffs Are Little Changed

    Government data for October shows the labor market is still strong, though cooling slightly.Employers continued to pull back in October on the number of jobs they were looking to fill, the latest sign that the labor market is strong but gradually cooling.About 10.3 million positions were open on the last day of October, the Labor Department said Wednesday, down from 10.7 million the previous month. Vacant positions in October effectively equaled the level in August, seasonally adjusted.Reductions in job openings occurred in a broad range of industries including manufacturing, construction, professional and businesses services, and state and local government. Still, openings in every major industry remained above prepandemic levels, underscoring the persistent strength in the labor market despite higher borrowing costs.The Federal Reserve is trying to constrain hiring in its efforts to tame inflation, concerned that a hot job market is forcing employers to raise wages, contributing to soaring prices.Other measures in the report — the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS — affirm the labor market’s resilience. There were roughly 1.7 posted jobs for every unemployed worker, still extraordinarily high by historical standards.In recent weeks, a number of technology companies have announced sweeping layoffs. Elon Musk, Twitter’s new owner, slashed the company’s work force in half in early November. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, shed 11,000 people, or about 13 percent of its workers.Even as the job cuts in the technology industry have dominated the headlines, however, layoffs across the entire economy in October were largely unchanged at 1.4 million, low by historical standards, suggesting that employers remain hesitant to part with workers after the pandemic-era hiring frenzy.The number of workers voluntarily quitting their jobs — an indicator of how confident workers are that they will be able to find better employment opportunities — ticked down but only slightly.Although the report overall pointed to continued elevated demand for workers, there were undeniable signs that the labor market is weakening.After a surprise jump in September, job openings resumed their march lower. There were four million quits in October, continuing the downward trend from the “Great Resignation” peak last year. The rate of people quitting their jobs — the number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs divided by total employment — was the lowest it had been since May 2021, at 2.6 percent.“Today’s JOLTS report shows that the job market is gradually slowing,” said Daniel Zhao, an economist at the career site Glassdoor. “And that’s in line with what we have been seeing in other data as well.”A more up-to-date readout of the economy will come on Friday, when the Labor Department releases data on monthly job growth and unemployment in November. Employers added 261,000 jobs in October. More

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    Tech’s Talent Wars Have Come Back to Bite It

    Hiring the best, the brightest and the highest number of employees was a badge of honor at tech companies. Not anymore as layoffs surge.When Stripe, a payments start-up valued at $74 billion, laid off more than 1,000 employees this month, its co-founders blamed themselves. “We overhired for the world we’re in,” they wrote. “We were much too optimistic.”After Elon Musk, Twitter’s new owner, slashed the company’s staffing in half last week, Jack Dorsey, a founder and former chief executive of the social media service, claimed responsibility. “I grew the company size too quickly,” he wrote on Twitter.And on Wednesday, when Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, shed 11,000 people, or about 13 percent of its work force, Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, blamed overzealous expansion. “I made the decision to significantly increase our investments,” he wrote in a letter to employees. “Unfortunately, this did not play out the way I expected.”The chorus of conceding by tech executives that they hired too many people is ricocheting across Silicon Valley as the industry rushes to make cuts, blaming a worsening economy.But at least part of the surge in layoffs was self-inflicted. When the companies enjoyed soaring profits and a belief that the pandemic-fueled boom times would keep going, they aggressively expanded by hoarding the most fought-over and expensive resource in the software business: talent.Silicon Valley tech companies have long seen hiring as more than just filling openings. The industry’s fierce talent wars showed that companies like Google and Meta were gaining the best and brightest. Ballooning staffs and a long reign atop lists of the most-desired jobs for college graduates were emblems of growth, deep pockets and prestige. And to employees, the work became something larger — it was an identity.The Austin, Texas, campus of Google, a veteran of the tech industry’s hiring wars.Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York TimesThis mentality became ingrained at the largest tech companies, which offer numerous perks on lavish corporate campuses that rival universities. It was echoed by smaller start-ups, which dangle a chance at life-changing wealth in the form of stock options.Now these practices are giving the tech industry indigestion.“When times are flush, you get excesses, and excesses lead to overhiring and optimism,” said Josh Wolfe, an investor at Lux Capital. “For the past 10 years, the abundance of cash led to an abundance of hiring.”More than 100,000 tech workers have lost their jobs this year, according to, a site that tracks layoffs. The cuts range from well-known publicly traded companies like Meta, Salesforce, and Lyft to highly valued private start-ups such as the Gopuff delivery service and the Chime and Brex financial platforms.More on Big TechMeta Layoffs: The parent of Facebook said it was laying off more than 11,000 people, or about 13 percent of its work force, in what amounted to the company’s most significant job cuts.Seeking Alternatives: Since Elon Musk bought Twitter, some of its users have sought out other social media platforms. Here is a closer look at Mastodon, one of the most popular alternatives.An Empire in Danger: U.S. lawmakers’ objections to an obscure Chinese semiconductor company and tough Covid-19 restrictions are hurting Apple’s ability to make new iPhones in China.Big Tech’s Slowdown: Amid inflation and rising interest rates, Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies are signaling that tough days may be ahead. Some have already announced hiring freezes and job cuts.Many of the job losses have taken place in tech’s most experimental areas. Astra, a rocket company, cut 16 percent of its staff this week after tripling its head count last year. In the cryptocurrency industry, which has suffered a meltdown this year, high-value companies including,, OpenSea and Dapper Labs have cut hundreds of workers in recent months.Tech leaders were too slow to react to signs of an economic slowdown that emerged this spring, after many of the companies had already been on hiring sprees for several years, tech analysts said.Meta, whose valuation soared past $1 trillion, doubled its staff to 87,314 people over the past three years. Robinhood, the stock trading app, expanded its work force nearly sixfold in 2020 and 2021.“They’ve charged ahead with these plans that are no longer based on reality,” said Caitlyn Metteer, director of recruiting at Lever, a provider of recruiting software.For many, it’s a moment of shock. “Are we in a bubble” panics in the tech industry over the last decade have always been short-lived, followed by a rapid return to even frothier good times. Even those who predicted that pandemic behaviors enabled by the likes of Zoom, Peloton, Netflix and Shopify would ebb now say they underestimated the extent.Many believe this downturn will last longer because of the macroeconomic factors that created it. For the past decade, low interest rates pushed investors into riskier assets that offered higher returns. Those investors valued fast growth over profits and rewarded companies that took big risks.Jack Dorsey wrote on Twitter, which he helped start, that he had expanded the company too quickly.Marco Bello/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesIn recent years, tech companies responded to the flood of cash from investors and a rapidly growing business by pouring money into expansion via sales and marketing, hiring, acquisitions and experimental projects. The excess capital encouraged companies to staff up, adding fuel to the war for talent.“The pressure is to just spend the money quick enough so you can grow fast enough to justify the kinds of investments V.C.s want to make,” said Eric Rachlin, an entrepreneur who co-founded Body Labs, an artificial intelligence software company that Amazon bought.Expanding head count was also a way for managers to advance their careers. “Getting more people on the team is easier than telling everyone to just work super hard,” Mr. Rachlin said.That led the tech industry to gain a reputation for corporate bloat. Rumors often circulated of highly compensated workers who clocked just a few hours of work a day or juggled multiple remote jobs at once, alongside elaborate office perks like free laundry, massages and renowned cafeteria chefs. This spring, Meta scaled back its perks, including laundry service.In the past, tech workers could quickly change jobs or land on their feet if they were cut because of the plethora of open positions, but “I don’t think we know yet if everyone in this wave of layoffs will be able to do that,” Mr. Rachlin said.Some people see a chance to help those entering a difficult job market for the first time. Stephen Courson recently left a career in sales and strategy at Gartner, the research and consulting firm, and Salesforce to create financial content. He initially planned to focus on time management, but after many of his friends went through painful layoffs he began working on a course that helps people prepare for job interviews. It’s a skill that many of today’s job hunters never had to hone in flush times.“This isn’t going to get better quickly,” he said.Amid the drumbeat of layoff announcements, investors see an opportunity. They are quick to point out that well-known successes of the last decade — companies like Airbnb, Uber, Dropbox — were created in the aftermath of the Great Recession.This week, Day One Ventures, a venture capital firm, announced Funded Not Fired, a program that aims to invest $100,000 into 20 new start-ups where at least one founder was laid off from a tech company. Within 24 hours, hundreds of people had applied, said Masha Bucher, founder of the firm.“Some of the people are saying, ‘This is a sign I’ve been waiting for,’” she said. “It really gives people hope.”In the meantime, there may be more layoff announcements — delivered through the now standard form of a letter from the chief executive posted to a company blog.These letters have taken on a familiar format. The bosses explain the grim economic outlook, citing inflation, “energy shocks,” interest rates, “one of the most challenging real estate markets in 40 years” or “probable recession.” They take the blame for growing too fast. They offer up support to those affected — severance, visa help, health care, career guidance. They express sadness and thank everyone.And they reaffirm the company’s mission. More

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    Job Openings Rose in September Despite Higher Interest Rates

    The labor market has remained stronger than expected even as the Federal Reserve has tried to get inflation under control.The nation’s extreme shortage of job seekers worsened in September, the Labor Department reported Tuesday, after easing the previous month.Employers had 10.7 million positions open as summer ended, up from 10.3 million in August. That left roughly 1.9 posted jobs for every unemployed worker, a persistently high ratio even as the economy appears to be decelerating because the Federal Reserve is working to quell inflation.Pulling down job postings — or holding off on new ones — is usually the first step that employers take as the economy weakens, in hopes that hiring more conservatively could avoid the need to lay people off later. But the labor market has been slow to respond to rising interest rates, even as other indicators point toward an impending recession.The report is the last piece of significant economic data to land before policymakers at the Fed meet on Wednesday, and only reinforces the likely outcome. Most analysts expect the central bank to raise its benchmark interest rate by 0.75 percentage points, even if job openings tumbled in Tuesday’s Labor Department report.“What if all the JOLTS dropped to zero?” said Dana Peterson, chief economist at the Conference Board, using shorthand for the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. “I don’t think that would cause them to not go 75 basis points, because they’re focused on inflation. They’ve already said there’s going to be some pain, and pain is code for the labor market.”The State of Jobs in the United StatesEconomists have been surprised by recent strength in the labor market, as the Federal Reserve tries to engineer a slowdown and tame inflation.September Jobs Report: Job growth eased slightly in September but remained robust, indicating that the economy was maintaining momentum despite higher interest rates.A Cooling Market?: Unemployment is low and hiring is strong, but there are signs that the red-hot labor market may be coming off its boiling point.Disabled Workers: With Covid prompting more employers to consider remote arrangements, employment has soared among adults with disabilities.A Feast or Famine Career: America’s port truck drivers are a nearly-invisible yet crucial part of the global supply chain. And they are sinking into desperation.The number of open jobs is consistent with surveys of businesses, which have continued to report difficulty hiring. The National Federation of Independent Business found in its September survey that 23 percent of its members planned to create new jobs in the next three months, and of those, 89 percent said they had few qualified applicants.The jump in job openings was largely due to huge increases at hotels and restaurants, which added 215,000 postings. And the health care and social assistance sector was looking for 115,000 more workers than the previous month, reaching 2.1 million openings total, the highest level on record.At the same time, the number of people hired declined to about 6.1 million, continuing a downward slide that began this spring. That could be a consequence of employers having a tougher time finding qualified applicants, or deciding to hold positions open longer as they wait for the economic dust to settle.The number of people quitting their jobs voluntarily, usually a sign that workers have confidence they’ll be able to find a better one, declined slightly to about 4.1 million. As a share of total employment, that was about level with recent months but down from record highs at the end of 2021.Inflation has forced some workers to find ways to increase their earnings — whether by asking for raises or finding other jobs. At the same time, fear of a looming recession has prompted some workers to stay put unless they have another offer in hand.Quitting fell most in industries that are facing the strongest headwinds from higher interest rates and weakening consumer spending, including construction, transportation and warehousing, and manufacturing.The number of layoffs also declined from recent months. That’s in line with the weekly reports of initial claims for unemployment insurance, which have remained near record lows. After hiring aggressively over the past year — and often at higher salaries — employers may be less eager to let people go, even as business wavers.In an August survey of hiring managers by the polling firm Morning Consult, about 57 percent of respondents said they were retaining more employees than they normally would because of how difficult it was to replace people. That may lead to a reversal of the typical “last-in, first-out” pattern that has been common in other downturns.“If you spent a lot of money attracting workers, you don’t want to let them go right away, because then all that money just goes down the drain,” Ms. Peterson said. “Six months later you have to find them again, and they might be asking for a different asking price. You want to keep all your talent, but if you think about it, it’s very expensive to let go of those workers you just hired and invested a lot in.” More

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    For Disabled Workers, a Tight Labor Market Opens New Doors

    With Covid prompting more employers to consider remote arrangements, employment has soared among adults with disabilities.The strong late-pandemic labor market is giving a lift to a group often left on the margins of the economy: workers with disabilities.Employers, desperate for workers, are reconsidering job requirements, overhauling hiring processes and working with nonprofit groups to recruit candidates they might once have overlooked. At the same time, companies’ newfound openness to remote work has led to opportunities for people whose disabilities make in-person work — and the taxing daily commute it requires — difficult or impossible.As a result, the share of disabled adults who are working has soared in the past two years, far surpassing its prepandemic level and outpacing gains among people without disabilities.

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    Share employed, change since Jan. 2020
    Note: Includes workers between 18 and 64 years old. Data is not seasonally adjusted.Source: Current Population Survey, via IPUMSBy The New York TimesIn interviews and surveys, people with disabilities report that they are getting not only more job offers, but better ones, with higher pay, more flexibility and more openness to providing accommodations that once would have required a fight, if they were offered at all.“The new world we live in has opened the door a little bit more,” said Gene Boes, president and chief executive of the Northwest Center, a Seattle organization that helps people with disabilities become more independent. “The doors are opening wider because there’s just more demand for labor.”Samir Patel, who lives in the Seattle area, has a college degree and certifications in accounting. But he also has autism spectrum disorder, which has made it difficult for him to find steady work. He has spent most of his career in temporary jobs found through staffing agencies. His longest job lasted a little over a year; many lasted only a few months.This summer, however, Mr. Patel, 42, got a full-time, permanent job as an accountant for a local nonprofit group. The job brought a 30 percent raise, along with retirement benefits, more predictable hours and other perks. Now he is thinking about buying a home, traveling and dating — steps that seemed impossible without the stability of a steady job.“It’s a boost in confidence,” he said. “There were times when I felt like I was behind.”Mr. Patel, whose disability affects his speech and can make conversation difficult, worked with an employment coach at the Northwest Center to help him request accommodations both during the interview process and once he started the job. And while Mr. Patel usually prefers to work in the office, his new employer also allows him to work remotely when he needs to — a big help on days when he finds the sensory overload of the office overwhelming.“If I have my bad days, I just pick up the laptop and work from home,” he said.Workers with disabilities have long seen their fortunes ebb and flow with the economy. Federal law prohibits most employers from discriminating against people with disabilities, and it requires them to make reasonable accommodations. But research has found that discrimination remains common: One 2017 study found that job applications that disclosed a disability were 26 percent less likely to receive interest from prospective employers. And even when they can find jobs, workers with disabilities frequently encounter barriers to success, from bathroom doors they cannot open without assistance to hostile co-workers.The State of Jobs in the United StatesEconomists have been surprised by recent strength in the labor market, as the Federal Reserve tries to engineer a slowdown and tame inflation.September Jobs Report: Job growth eased slightly in September but remained robust, indicating that the economy was maintaining momentum despite higher interest rates.A Cooling Market?: Unemployment is low and hiring is strong, but there are signs that the red-hot labor market may be coming off its boiling point.Factory Jobs: American manufacturers have now added enough jobs to regain all that they shed during the pandemic — and then some.Missing Workers: The labor market appears hot, but the supply of labor has fallen short, holding back the economy. Here is why.Workers with disabilities — like other groups that face obstacles to employment, such as those with criminal records — tend to benefit disproportionately from strong job markets, when employers have more of an incentive to seek out untapped pools of talent. But when recessions hit, those opportunities quickly dry up.“We have a last-in, first-out labor market, and disabled people are often among the last in and the first out,” said Adam Ozimek, chief economist at the Economic Innovation Group, a Washington research organization.Remote work, however, has the potential to break that cycle, at least for some workers. In a new study, Mr. Ozimek found that employment had risen for workers with disabilities across industries as the labor market improved, consistent with the usual pattern. But it has improved especially rapidly in industries and occupations where remote work is more common. And many economists believe that the shift toward remote work, unlike the red-hot labor market, is likely to prove lasting.More than 35 percent of disabled Americans ages 18 to 64 had jobs in September. That was up from 31 percent just before the pandemic and is a record in the 15 years the government has kept track. Among adults without disabilities, 78 percent had jobs, but their employment rates have only just returned to the level before the pandemic.“Disabled adults have seen employment rates recover much faster,” Mr. Ozimek said. “That’s good news, and it’s important to understand whether that’s a temporary thing or a permanent thing. And my conclusion is that not only is it a permanent thing, but it’s going to improve.”Before the pandemic, Kathryn Wiltz repeatedly asked her employer to let her work from home because of her disability, a chronic autoimmune disorder whose symptoms include pain and severe fatigue. Her requests were denied.Ms. Wiltz’s new job allows her to work from home permanently.Sarah Rice for The New York TimesWhen the pandemic hit, however, the hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., where Ms. Wiltz worked in the medical billing department sent her home along with many of her colleagues. Last month, she started a job with a new employer, an insurance company, in which she will be permanently able to work remotely.Being able to work from home was a high priority for Ms. Wiltz, 31, because the treatments she receives suppress her immune system, leaving her vulnerable to the coronavirus. And even if that risk subsides, she said, she finds in-person work taxing: Getting ready for work, commuting to the office and interacting with colleagues all drain energy reserves that are thin to begin with. As she struggled through one particularly difficult day recently, she said, she reflected on how hard it would have been to need to go into the office.“It would have been almost impossible,” she said. “I would have pushed myself and I would have pushed my body, and there’s a very real possibility that I would have ended up in the hospital.”There are also subtler benefits. Ms. Wiltz can get the monthly drug infusions she receives to treat her disorder during her lunch break, rather than taking time off work. She can turn down the lights to stave off migraines. She doesn’t have to worry that her colleagues are staring at her and wondering what is wrong. All of that, she said, makes her a more productive employee.“It makes me a lot more comfortable and able to think more clearly and do a better job anyway,” she said.The sudden embrace of remote work during the pandemic was met with some exasperation from some disability-rights leaders, who had spent years trying, mostly without success, to persuade employers to offer more flexibility to their employees.“Remote work and remote-work options are something that our community has been advocating for for decades, and it’s a little frustrating that for decades corporate America was saying it’s too complicated, we’ll lose productivity, and now suddenly it’s like, sure, let’s do it,” said Charles-Edouard Catherine, director of corporate and government relations for the National Organization on Disability.Still, he said the shift is a welcome one. For Mr. Catherine, who is blind, not needing to commute to work means not coming home with cuts on his forehead and bruises on his leg. And for people with more serious mobility limitations, remote work is the only option.Many employers are now scaling back remote work and are encouraging or requiring employees to return to the office. But experts expect remote and hybrid work to remain much more common and more widely accepted than it was before the pandemic. That may make it easier for disabled employees to continue to work remotely.The pandemic may also reshape the legal landscape. In the past, employers often resisted offering remote work as an accommodation to disabled workers, and judges rarely required them to do so. But that may change now that so many companies were able to adapt to remote work in 2020, said Arlene S. Kanter, director of the Disability Law and Policy Program at the Syracuse University law school.“If other people can show that they can perform their work well at home, as they did during Covid, then people with disabilities, as a matter of accommodation, shouldn’t be denied that right,” Ms. Kanter said.Ms. Kanter and other experts caution that not all people with disabilities want to work remotely. And many jobs cannot be done from home. A disproportionate share of workers with disabilities are employed in retail and other industries where remote work is uncommon. Despite recent gains, people with disabilities are still far less likely to have jobs, and more likely to live in poverty, than people without them.“When we say it’s historically high, that’s absolutely true, but we don’t want to send the wrong message and give ourselves a pat on the back,” Mr. Catherine said. “Because we’re still twice as likely to be unemployed and we’re still underpaid when we’re lucky enough to be employed.”Disability issues are likely to become more prominent in coming years because the pandemic has left potentially millions of adults dealing with a disability. A recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimated that close to two million working-age Americans had become disabled because of long Covid.Employers that don’t find ways to accommodate workers with disabilities — whether through remote work or other adjustments — are going to continue to struggle to find employees, said Mason Ameri, a Rutgers University business professor who studies disability.“Employers have to shape up,” he said. “Employers have to pivot. Otherwise this labor shortage may be more permanent.” More

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    Labor Hoarding Could be Good News for the Economy

    PROVO, Utah — Chad Pritchard and his colleagues are trying everything to staff their pizza shop and bistro, and as they do, they have turned to a new tactic: They avoid firing employees at all costs.Infractions that previously would have led to a quick dismissal no longer do at the chef’s two places, Fat Daddy’s Pizzeria and Bistro Provenance. Consistent transportation issues have ceased to be a deal breaker. Workers who show up drunk these days are sent home to sober up.Employers in Provo, a college town at the base of the Rocky Mountains where unemployment is near the lowest in the nation at 1.9 percent, have no room to lose workers. Bistro Provenance, which opened in September, has been unable to hire enough employees to open for lunch at all, or for dinner on Sundays and Mondays. The workers it has are often new to the industry, or young: On a recent Wednesday night, a 17-year-old could be found torching a crème brûlée.Down the street, Mr. Pritchard’s pizza shop is now relying on an outside cleaner to help his thin staff tidy up. And up and down the wide avenue that separates the two restaurants, storefronts display “Help Wanted” signs or announce that the businesses have had to temporarily reduce their hours.Provo’s desperation for workers is an intense version of the labor crunch that has plagued employers nationwide over the past two years — one that has prompted changes in hiring and layoff practices that could have big implications for the U.S. economy. Policymakers are hoping that after struggling through the worst labor shortages America has experienced in at least several decades, employers will be hesitant to lay off workers even when the economy cools.Mr. Pritchard cannot hire enough employees to open the bistro for lunch at all, or for dinner on Sundays or Mondays.That may help prevent the kind of painful recession the Federal Reserve is hoping to avoid as it tries to combat persistent inflation. America’s economy is facing a marked — and intentional — slowdown as the Fed raises interest rates to chill demand and drive down price increases, the kind of pullback that would usually result in notably higher unemployment. But officials are still hoping to achieve a soft landing in which growth moderates without causing widespread job losses. A few have speculated that today’s staffing woes will help them to pull it off, as companies try harder than they have in the past to weather a slowdown without cutting staff.“Businesses that experienced unprecedented challenges restoring or expanding their work forces following the pandemic may be more inclined to make greater efforts to retain their employees than they normally would when facing a slowdown in economic activity,” Lael Brainard, the Fed’s vice chair, said in a recent speech. “This may mean that slowing aggregate demand will lead to a smaller increase in unemployment than we have seen in previous recessions.”For now, the job market remains strong. Employers added 263,000 workers in September, fewer than in recent months but more than was normal before the pandemic. Unemployment is at 3.5 percent, matching the lowest level in 50 years, and average hourly earnings picked up at a solid 5 percent clip compared with a year earlier.But that is expected to change. When the Fed raises interest rates and slows down the economy, it also weakens the labor market. Wage gains slow, paving the way for inflation to cool down, and in the process, unemployment rises — potentially, significantly.The State of Jobs in the United StatesEconomists have been surprised by recent strength in the labor market, as the Federal Reserve tries to engineer a slowdown and tame inflation.September Jobs Report: Job growth eased slightly in September but remained robust, indicating that the economy was maintaining momentum despite higher interest rates.A Cooling Market?: Unemployment is low and hiring is strong, but there are signs that the red-hot labor market may be coming off its boiling point.Factory Jobs: American manufacturers have now added enough jobs to regain all that they shed during the pandemic — and then some.Missing Workers: The labor market appears hot, but the supply of labor has fallen short, holding back the economy. Here is why.In the 1980s, when inflation was faster than it is now and entrenched, the Fed lifted rates drastically to roughly 20 percent and sent unemployment to above 10 percent. Few economists expect an outcome that severe this time since today’s inflation burst has been shorter-lived and rates are not expected to climb nearly as much.Mr. Pritchard demonstrated how to stretch pizza dough in Fat Daddy’s Pizzeria, his other restaurant in Provo.Many of the workers Mr. Pritchard and his business partner, Janine Coons, have hired are new to the industry or young.Still, Fed officials themselves expect unemployment to rise nearly a full percentage point to 4.4 percent next year — and policymakers have admitted that is a mild estimate, given how much they are trying to slow down the economy. Some economists have penciled in worse outcomes. Deutsche Bank, for instance, predicts 5.6 percent joblessness by the end of 2023.Labor hoarding offers a glimmer of hope that could help the Fed’s more benign unemployment forecast to become reality: Employers who are loath to jettison workers may help the labor market to slow down and wage growth to moderate without a spike in joblessness.“Companies are still confronting this enormous churn and losing people, and they don’t know what to do to hang on to people,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist at the career site ZipRecruiter. “They’re definitely hanging on to workers for dear life just because they’re so scarce.”When the job market slows, employers will have recent, firsthand memories of how expensive it can be to recruit, and train, workers. Many employers may enter the slowdown still severely understaffed, particularly in industries like leisure and hospitality that have struggled to hire and retain workers since the start of the pandemic. Those factors may make them less likely to institute layoffs.And after long months of very tight labor markets — there are still nearly two open jobs for every unemployed worker — companies may be hesitant to believe that any uptick in worker availability will last.“There’s a lot of uncertainty about how big of a downturn are we facing,” said Benjamin Friedrich, an associate professor of strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “You kind of want to be ready when opportunities arise. The way I think about labor hoarding is, it has option value.”Employers in Provo, where unemployment is near the lowest in the nation at 1.9 percent, have no room to lose workers.Instead of firing, businesses may look for other ways to trim costs. Mr. Pritchard in Provo and his business partner, Janine Coons, said that if business fell off, their first resort would be to cut hours. Their second would be taking pay cuts themselves. Firing would be a last resort.The pizzeria didn’t lay off workers during the pandemic, but Mr. Pritchard and Ms. Coons witnessed how punishing it can be to hire — and since all of their competitors have been learning the same lesson, they do not expect them to let go of their employees easily even if demand pulls back.“People aren’t going to fire people,” Mr. Pritchard said.But economists warned that what employers think they will do before a slowdown and what they actually do when they start to experience financial pain could be two different things.The idea that a tight labor market may leave businesses gun-shy about layoffs is untested. Some economists said that they could not recall any other downturn where employers broadly resisted culling their work force.“It would be a pretty notable change to how employers responded in the past,” said Nick Bunker, director of North American economic research for the career site Indeed.And even if they do not fire their full-time employees, companies have been making increased use of temporary or just-in-time help in recent months. Gusto, a small-business payroll and benefits platform, conducted an analysis of its clients and found that the ratio of contractors per employee had increased more than 60 percent since 2019.If the economy slows, gigs for those temporary workers could dry up, prompting them to begin searching for full-time jobs — possibly causing unemployment or underemployment to rise even if nobody is officially fired.Policymakers know a soft landing is a long shot. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, acknowledged during his last news conference that the Fed’s own estimate of how much unemployment might rise in a downturn was a “modest increase in the unemployment rate from a historical perspective, given the expected decline in inflation.”But he also added that “we see the current situation as outside of historical experience.”Bistro Provenance opened in September.Dinner service at the restaurant.The reasons for hope extend beyond labor hoarding. Because job openings are so unusually high right now, policymakers hope that workers can move into available positions even if some firms do begin layoffs as the labor market slows. Companies that have been desperate to hire for months — like Utah State Hospital in Provo — may swoop in to pick up anyone who is displaced.Dallas Earnshaw and his colleagues at the psychiatric hospital have been struggling mightily to hire enough nurse’s aides and other workers, though raising pay and loosening recruitment standards have helped around the edges. Because he cannot hire enough people to expand in needed ways, Mr. Earnshaw is poised to snap up employees if the labor market cools.“We’re desperate,” Mr. Earnshaw said.But for the moment, workers remain hard to find. At the bistro and pizza shop in downtown Provo, what worries Mr. Pritchard is that labor will become so expensive that — combined with rapid ingredient inflation — it will be hard or impossible to make a profit without lifting prices on pizzas or prime rib so much that consumers cannot bear the change.“What scares me most is not the economic slowdown,” he said. “It’s the hiring shortage that we have.” More

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    U.S. Job Growth Eases, but Is Too Strong to Suit Investors

    The gain of 263,000 was shy of recent monthly totals but still robust. Stocks fell on fears of a harder, longer Fed campaign to fight inflation.Job growth eased slightly in September but remained robust, indicating that the economy was maintaining momentum despite higher interest rates. But the strong showing left many investors unhappy because they saw signs that the fight against inflation may become tougher and more prolonged.Employers added 263,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Labor Department said Friday, a decline from 315,000 in August. The number was the lowest since April 2021 but still solid by prepandemic standards. The unemployment rate fell to 3.5 percent, equaling a five-decade low.“If I had just woken up from a really long nap and seen these numbers, I would conclude that we still have one of the strongest job markets that we’ve ever enjoyed,” said Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust.Officials at the Federal Reserve have been keeping a close eye on hiring and wages as they proceed with a series of rate increases meant to combat inflation. The job data indicates that, for now, they are doing so without tipping the economy into a recession that would throw millions out of work.But it also increases the prospect that the effort to subdue price increases will be more extended. For investors, that came as bad news, since higher interest rates raise costs for companies and weigh on stock prices.The S&P 500 recorded its worst one-day performance since mid-September, falling 2.8 percent and eroding gains from earlier in the week.Fed officials have signaled in speeches this week that they remain resolute in trying to wrestle inflation lower, and that they are waiting for clear evidence that the economy is headed back toward price stability before they pull back.Wage growth has subsided somewhat, at least compared with the trend a year ago. Average hourly earnings climbed 5 percent from a year earlier, roughly matching economists’ expectations but slowing down slightly from the prior annual reading.Wages are still growing, but less rapidly in some sectorsPercent change in earnings for nonmanagers since January 2019 by sector More

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    Job Openings Fell in August, but Turnover Was Little Changed

    Government data showed 10.1 million openings, a decline from 11.2 million in July. Overall hiring, quitting and layoffs were fairly steady.Employers continued to ease off the number of jobs they were hiring for in August, but not by much, adding to the picture of a labor market that’s cooling but still short of available workers.About 10.1 million positions were open at the end of the summer, down from 11.2 million in July, the Labor Department reported Tuesday. That still left 1.7 unemployed workers for each available job, around the highest proportion on record.The job openings rate — calculated by dividing the number of job openings by the sum of employment and open jobs — was 6.2 percent, down from a revised 6.8 percent in July. The number and share of people being hired and leaving their jobs remained about level.Federal Reserve officials have theorized that rather than prompting employers to lay people off, rising interest rates would instead subdue the economy by simply reducing their need for additional workers. So far, that’s happening — but very slowly.“Our perspective is really distorted,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm KPMG. “It’s still not anything like what we saw prepandemic. It’s cooling from a boil to a rolling simmer. And that’s not enough.”Ms. Swonk referred to data released by the job search website Indeed, which shows a consistently elevated level of new job postings, even though demand for retail workers in particular has leveled off.“They’ve come off their peak, but they’re still plateauing at a high level,” Ms. Swonk said. The share of people quitting their jobs is also an indicator of workers’ confidence that employment opportunities abound. About 4.2 million people gave notice in August, slightly more than during the previous month. That left the rate of people quitting their jobs — the number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs divided by total employment — only slightly below the 3 percent it reached at the end of last year, the highest reading on record.One of the largest drops in openings came in the financial sector, where mortgage brokers have been losing work as rising interest rates are subduing the housing market, although openings in rental and leasing activities rose. Retail openings also dropped, as companies prepared for a softer holiday season.Even while slowing down job postings, companies have been holding on to workers. After rising slightly in the first half of the year, the number of initial claims for unemployment has been trending lower since midsummer as employers have tried to stay fully staffed. In the release by the Labor Department on Tuesday, layoffs ticked up slightly to 1.5 million in August, but remained lower than their historical average.“Simply put, companies slashed payrolls by more than was necessary during the height of the pandemic and are struggling to restore staffing levels to where they were before Covid-19 hit,” Bob Schwartz, an Oxford Economics senior economist, wrote in a note last week. More

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    Less Turnover, Smaller Raises: Hot Job Market May Be Losing Its Sizzle

    Unemployment is low, and hiring is strong. But there are signs that frenzied turnover and rapid wage growth are abating.Last year, Klaussner Home Furnishings was so desperate for workers that it began renting billboards near its headquarters in Asheboro, N.C., to advertise job openings. The steep competition for labor drove wages for employees on the furniture maker’s production floor up 12 to 20 percent. The company began offering $1,000 signing bonuses to sweeten the deal.“Consumer demand was through the roof,” said David Cybulski, Klaussner’s president and chief executive. “We just couldn’t get enough labor fast enough.”But in recent months, Mr. Cybulski has noticed that frenzy die down.Hiring for open positions has gotten easier, he said, and fewer Klaussner workers are leaving for other jobs. The company, which has about 1,100 employees, is testing performance rewards to keep workers happy rather than racing to increase wages. The $1,000 signing bonus ended in the spring.“No one is really chasing employees to the dollar anymore,” he said.By many measures, the labor market is still extraordinarily strong even as fears of a recession loom. The unemployment rate, which stood at 3.7 percent in August, remains near a five-decade low. There are twice as many job openings as unemployed workers available to fill them. Layoffs, despite some high-profile announcements in recent weeks, are close to a record low.But there are signs that the red-hot labor market may be coming off its boiling point.Major employers such as Walmart and Amazon have announced slowdowns in hiring; others, such as FedEx, have frozen hiring altogether.Americans in July quit their jobs at the lowest rate in more than a year, a sign that the period of rapid job switching, sometimes called the Great Resignation, may be nearing its end. Wage growth, which soared as companies competed for workers, has also slowed, particularly in industries like dining and travel where the job market was particularly hot last year.More broadly, many companies around the country say they are finding it less arduous to attract and retain employees — partly because many are paring their hiring plans, and partly because the pool of available workers has grown as more people come off the economy’s sidelines.The labor force grew by more than three-quarters of a million people in August, the biggest gain since the early months of the pandemic. Some executives expect hiring to keep getting easier as the economy slows and layoffs pick up.“Not that I wish ill on any people out there from a layoff perspective or whatever else, but I think there could be an opportunity for us to ramp some of that hiring over the coming months,” Eric Hart, then the chief financial officer at Expedia, told investors on the company’s earnings call in August.Taken together, those signals point to an economic environment in which employers may be regaining some of the leverage they ceded to workers during the pandemic months.The State of Jobs in the United StatesEconomists have been surprised by recent strength in the labor market, as the Federal Reserve tries to engineer a slowdown and tame inflation.August Jobs Report: Job growth slowed in August but stayed solid, suggesting that the labor market recovery remains resilient, even as companies pull back on hiring.Factory Jobs: American manufacturers have now added enough jobs to regain all that they shed during the pandemic — and then some.Missing Workers: The labor market appears hot, but the supply of labor has fallen short, holding back the economy. Here is why.Black Employment: Black workers saw wages and employment rates go up in the wake of the pandemic. But as the Federal Reserve tries to tame inflation, those gains could be eroded.That is bad news for workers, particularly those at the bottom of the pay ladder who have been able to take advantage of the hot labor market to demand higher pay, more flexible schedules and other benefits. With inflation still high, weaker wage growth will mean that more workers will find their standard of living slipping.But for employers — and for policymakers at the Federal Reserve — the calculation looks different. A modest cooling would be welcome after months in which employers struggled to find enough staff to meet strong demand, and in which rapid wage growth contributed to the fastest inflation in decades.Too pronounced a slowdown, however, could lead to a sharp rise in unemployment, which would almost certainly lead to a drop in consumer demand and create a new set of problems for employers.Leila and David Manshoory have struggled for months to recruit workers for their fast-growing skin care and beauty brand, Alleyoop. In recent weeks, however, that has begun to change. They have begun to get more applications from more qualified candidates, some of whom have been laid off by other e-commerce companies. And notably, applicants aren’t demanding the sky-high salaries they were last spring.“I think the tables are turning a little bit,” Mr. Manshoory said. “There are people who need to pay their bills and are realizing there might not be a million jobs out there.”Alleyoop, too, has pared its hiring plans somewhat in preparation for a possible recession. But not too much — Mr. Manshoory said he saw this as a moment to snap up talent that the three-year-old company might struggle to hire in a different economic environment.“You kind of want to lean in when other people are pulling back,” he said. “You just have more selection. There’s a lot of, unfortunately, talented people getting let go from really large companies.”The resilience of the labor market has surprised many economists, who expected companies to pull back on hiring as growth slowed and interest rates rose. Instead, employers have continued adding jobs at a rapid clip.Klaussner Home Furnishings, which has about 1,100 employees, is testing performance rewards to keep workers happy rather than racing to increase wages.Eamon Queeney for The New York Times“There are some signs in the labor market data that there’s been a bit of cooling since the beginning of the year, or even the spring, but it’s not a lot,” said Nick Bunker, director of North American economic research for the career site Indeed. “Maybe the temperature has ticked down a degree or two, but it’s still pretty high.”But Mr. Bunker said there was evidence that the frenzy that characterized the labor market over the past year and a half had begun to die down. Job openings have fallen steadily in Indeed’s data, which is more up to date than the government’s tally.And Mr. Bunker said the decline in voluntary quits was particularly notable because so much recent wage growth had come from workers moving between jobs in search of better pay.Recent research from economists at the Federal Reserve Banks of Dallas and St. Louis found that there had been a huge increase in poaching — companies hiring workers away from other jobs — during the recent hiring boom.If companies become less willing to recruit workers from competitors, and to pay the premium that doing so requires, or if workers become less likely to hop between jobs, that could lead wage growth to ease even if layoffs don’t pick up.There are hints that could be happening. A recent survey from another career site, ZipRecruiter, found that workers had become less confident in their ability to find a job and were putting more emphasis on finding a job they considered secure.“Workers and job seekers are feeling just a little bit less bold, a little bit more concerned about the future availability of jobs, a little bit more concerned about the stability of their own jobs,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter.Some businesses, meanwhile, are becoming a bit less frantic to hire. A survey of small businesses from the National Federation of Independent Business found that while many employers still had open positions, fewer of them expected to fill those jobs in the next three months.More clues about the strength of the labor market could come in the upcoming months, the time of year when companies, including retailers, traditionally ramp up hiring for the holiday season. Walmart said in September that this year it would hire a fraction of the workers it did during the last holiday season.The signs of a cool-down extend even to leisure and hospitality, the sector where hiring challenges have been most acute. Openings in the sector have fallen sharply from the record levels of last year, and hourly earnings growth slowed to less than 9 percent in August from a rate of more than 16 percent last year.Until recently, staffing shortages at Biggby Coffee were so severe that many of the chain’s 300-plus stores had to close early some days, or in some cases not open at all. But while hiring remains a challenge, the pressure has begun to ease, said Mike McFall, the company’s co-founder and co-chief executive. One franchisee recently told him that 22 of his 25 locations were fully staffed and that only one was experiencing a severe shortage.A Biggby Coffee store in Sterling Heights, Mich. Until recently, staffing shortages at some locations were so severe that many of the chain’s 300-plus stores had to close early some days.Sarah Rice for The New York Times“We are definitely feeling the burden is lifting in terms of getting people to take the job,” Mr. McFall said. “We’re getting more applications, we’re getting more people through training now.”The shift is a welcome one for business owners like Mr. McFall. Franchisees have had to raise wages 50 percent or more to attract and retain workers, he said — a cost increase they have offset by raising prices.“The expectation by the consumer is that you are raising prices, and so if you don’t take advantage of that moment, you are going to be in a pickle,” he said, referring to the pressure to increase wages. “So you manage it by raising prices.”So far, Mr. McFall said, higher prices haven’t deterred customers. Still, he said, the period of severe staffing shortages is not without its costs. He has seen a loss in sales, as well as a loss of efficiency and experienced workers. That will take time to rebuild, he said.“When we were in crisis, it was all we were focused on,” he said. “So now that it feels like the crisis is mitigating, that it’s getting a little better, we can now begin to focus on the culture in the stores and try to build that up again.” More