Interest rate increases have taken the edge off labor demand, but unemployment dipped in November, and wages rose more than expected.The U.S. economy continued to pump out jobs in November, suggesting there is still juice left in a labor market that has been slowing almost imperceptibly since last year’s pandemic rebound.Employers added 199,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department reported Friday, while the unemployment rate dropped to 3.7 percent, from 3.9 percent. The increase in employment includes tens of thousands of autoworkers and actors who returned to their jobs after strikes, and others in related businesses that had been stalled by the walkouts, meaning underlying job growth is slightly weaker.Even so, the report signals that the economy remains far from recession territory despite a year and a half of interest rate increases that have weighed on consumer spending and business investment. Reinforcing the picture of energetic labor demand, wages jumped 0.4 percent over the month, more than expected, and the workweek lengthened slightly.Wage growth held steady in NovemberYear-over-year percentage change in earnings vs. inflation More
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
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
Pandemic stimulus, a strong job market and climbing stock and home prices boosted net worth at a record pace, Federal Reserve data showed.American families saw the largest jump in their wealth on record between 2019 and 2022, according to Federal Reserve data released on Wednesday, as rising stock indexes, climbing home prices and repeated rounds of government stimulus left people’s finances healthier.Median net worth climbed 37 percent over those three years after adjusting for inflation, the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances showed — the biggest jump in records stretching back to 1989. At the same time, median family income increased 3 percent between 2018 and 2021 after subtracting out price increases.While income gains were most pronounced for the affluent, the data showed clearly that Americans made nearly across-the-board financial progress in the three years that include the pandemic. Savings rose. Credit card balances fell. Retirement accounts swelled.Other data, from both government and private-sector sources, hinted at those gains. But the Fed report, which is released every three years, is considered the gold standard in data about the financial circumstances of households. It offers the most comprehensive snapshot of everything from savings to stock ownership across racial, wealth and age groups.This is the first time the Fed report has been released since the onset of the coronavirus, and it offers a sense of how families fared during a tumultuous economic period. People lost jobs in mass numbers in early 2020, and the government tried to soften the blow with multiple relief packages.More recently, the job market has been booming, with very low unemployment and rapid wage growth that has helped to bolster incomes. At the same time, rapid inflation has eroded some of the gains by making everyday life more expensive.Without adjusting for inflation, median income would have risen 20 percent, for instance, based on the report released Wednesday.The job market has been booming, and at the same time, rapid inflation has eroded some of the gains by making everyday life more expensive.Hiroko Masuike/The New York TimesThe financial progress, particularly for poorer families, is especially remarkable when compared with the aftermath of the last recession, which lasted from 2007 to 2009. It took years for household wealth to rebound fully after that crisis, and for some families it never did.Income climbed across all groups between 2019 and 2022, though gains were biggest toward the top — meaning that income inequality widened.That made for a big difference between median income — the number at the midpoint among all households — and the average, which tallies all earnings and divides them by the number of households. Average income climbed 15 percent, one of the largest three-year pops on record.Wealth inequality was more complicated. Because the rich hold such a large share of financial assets in America, wealth gaps tend to grow in absolute terms when stocks, bonds and houses are climbing in price. True to that, wealth climbed much more in dollar terms for rich families.But in the three years covered by the survey, growth in wealth was actually the largest in percentage terms for poorer families. People in the bottom quarter had a net worth of $3,500 in 2022, up from $400 in 2019. Among families in the top 10 percent, median net worth climbed to $3.79 million, up from $3.01 million three years earlier.Because of the way the data is measured, it is difficult to break out just how much pandemic-related payments would have mattered to the figures. To the extent that families saved one-time checks and other help they received during the pandemic, those would have been included in the measures of net worth.Families were also still receiving some pandemic payments when the income measures were collected in 2021, which means that things like enhanced unemployment insurance probably factored into the data.Some Americans appear to have taken advantage of their improved financial positions to invest in stocks for the first time: 21 percent of families owned stocks directly in 2022, up from 15 percent in 2019, the largest change on record. Many of those new stock owners appear to have been relatively small investors, likely reflecting at least in part Americans’ enthusiasm for “meme stocks” like GameStop during the pandemic.The Fed’s newly released figures show that significant gaps in income and wealth persist across racial groups, although Black and Hispanic families saw the largest percentage gains in net worth during the pandemic period.Black families’ median net worth climbed 60 percent, to $44,900. That was a bigger jump than the 31 percent increase for white families, which lifted their household wealth to $285,000. Hispanic families saw a 47 percent increase in net worth.At the same time, racial and ethnic minorities saw slower income gains in the period through 2021. Black and Hispanic households saw small declines in earnings after adjusting for inflation, while white families saw a modest increase.For the first time, the report included data on Asian families, who had the highest median net worth of any racial or ethnic group.While the data in the report is slightly dated, it underscores what a strong position American families were in as they exited the pandemic. Solid net worth and growing incomes have helped people to continue spending into 2023, which has helped to keep the economy growing at a solid pace even when the Fed has been lifting interest rates to cool it down.That resilience has stoked hope that the Fed might be able to pull off a “soft landing,” one in which it slows the economy gently without crushing consumers so much that it plunges America into a recession. More
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
Three of the country’s major automakers are facing an expanding strike that started on Sept. 15. Hollywood producers and screenwriters reached a contract agreement late last month to end a 148-day walkout, but striking actors are still locked in negotiations.How all that is reflected in government employment data is complicated.The government counts workers who go on strike as “employed but not at work.” That means the strikers should not have a direct effect on the unemployment rate. But the impact of the strikes could be seen in the monthly jobs report’s separate count of payroll jobs. And the walkouts can cause what analysts describe as collateral damage.For example, companies that provide services to film crews may be idled, and automakers’ suppliers could see a decline in orders, prompting layoffs.The jobs data counts anyone who was paid during the survey’s reference week — in this case, the week of Sept. 10 — as being at work. But if the auto dispute is not resolved by mid-October, the impact could begin to show up in the next jobs report. More
Pedro Alvarez never imagined his high school job delivering filet mignon and sautéed lobster tail to rooms at the Tropicana Las Vegas would turn into a longtime career.But in a city that sells itself as a place to disappear into decadence, if for only a weekend, providing room service to tourists along the Strip proved to be a stable job, at times even a lucrative one, for more than 30 years.“Movie stars and thousands of dollars in tips,” Mr. Alvarez, 53, said. “If it was up to me, I was never going to leave.”Yet when the Strip shut down for more than two months early in the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Alvarez became one of tens of thousands of hospitality workers in Nevada to lose their jobs. After the hotel reopened, managers told him that they were discontinuing room service, at least for a while. Since then, he has bounced between jobs, working in concessions and banquets.“It’s been an uphill climb to find full-time work,” he said.Nevada is an outlier in the pandemic recovery. While the U.S. economy has bounced back and weathered a steep ratcheting-up of interest rates — and even as many Americans catch up on vacation travel that the coronavirus derailed — the Silver State has been left behind.Job numbers nationwide have continued to increase every month for more than two years, but the unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high in Nevada, a political swing state whose economic outlook often has national implications.The state has had the highest unemployment rate in the nation for the past year, currently at 5.4 percent, compared with the national rate of 3.6 percent; in Las Vegas, it’s around 6 percent.Because of Nevada’s reliance on gambling, tourism and hospitality — a lack of economic diversity that worries elected officials amid fears of a nationwide recession — the state was exceptionally hard hit during the shutdowns on the Strip. Unemployment in the state reached 30 percent in April 2020.And although the situation has improved drastically since then — over the past year, employment increased 4 percent, among the highest rates in the country — Nevada was in a deeper hole than other states.“This leads to a bit of a paradox,” said David Schmidt, the chief economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. “We are seeing rapid job gains, but have unemployment that is higher than other states.”Nearly a quarter of jobs in Nevada are in leisure and hospitality, and international travel to Las Vegas is down by about 40 percent since 2019, including drops in visits from China, where the economy is slowing, and the United Kingdom, according to an estimate from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.Tourists on the Strip. International travel to Las Vegas is down about 40 percent from 2019.Gabriella Angotti-Jones for The New York TimesTo-go drinks for sale outside Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Resort & Casino. Gabriella Angotti-Jones for The New York TimesUnion officials say there are about 20 percent fewer hospitality workers in the city than before the pandemic.Gov. Joe Lombardo acknowledged the state’s high unemployment in a statement, saying that “many of our businesses and much of our work force are still recovering from the turmoil of the pandemic.”“The long-term economic solution to Nevada’s employment and work force challenges begins with diversifying our economy, investing in work force development and training,” said Mr. Lombardo, a Republican, who unseated a Democrat last year in a tight race in which he attacked his opponent and President Biden over the economy.The state is making progress toward those diversification goals, Mr. Lombardo said, citing Elon Musk’s announcement in January that Tesla would invest $3.6 billion in the company’s Gigafactory outside Reno to produce electric semi trucks and advanced battery cells, vowing to add 3,000 jobs.Major League Baseball is preparing for the relocation of the Oakland Athletics to Las Vegas, where a stadium to be built adjacent to the Strip will, by some projections, create 14,000 construction jobs. The Las Vegas Grand Prix — signifying Formula 1 racing’s return to the city for the first time since the 1980s — is expected to draw huge crowds this fall, as is the Super Bowl in 2024.Despite the state’s unemployment rate, the fact that the economy is trending in the right direction, both locally and nationally, bodes well for Mr. Biden’s chances in the state as the 2024 campaign begins, said Dan Lee, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.“Should it remain on the right track,” Mr. Lee said, “that’s clearly good for the incumbent.”But a potential complication lies ahead.The Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which represents 60,000 hotel workers, has been in talks since April on a new contract to replace the five-year agreement that expired in June. The union could take a strike authorization vote this fall in an attempt to pressure major hotels, including MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and other casino companies, to give pay raises and bring back more full-time jobs.More than a potential strike, the union, which estimates it has 10,000 members who remain out of work since the pandemic started, is a critical bloc of Mr. Biden’s Democratic base in Nevada. In 2020, Mr. Biden won the state by roughly two percentage points in part because of a huge ground operation by the culinary union. Those members could be difficult to organize should a shaky economic climate in the state persist.“Companies cut workers during the pandemic, and now these same companies are making record profits but don’t want to bring back enough workers to do the work,” said Ted Pappageorge, the head of the local, which is affiliated with the union UNITE HERE. “Workload issues are impacting all departments.”Juanita Miles has struggled to find steady income since the pandemic hit.Gabriella Angotti-Jones for The New York TimesFor Juanita Miles, landing a stable, full-time job has been challenging.For much of the past decade, she worked as a security guard, patching together gigs at several hotels and restaurants. But when the pandemic hit and businesses closed, she realized she would need to pivot.“I’m now looking anywhere, for anything,” Ms. Miles, 49, recalled.In late 2020, she took a $19-an-hour job as a part-time dishwasher at the Wynn Las Vegas, Ms. Miles said, but the hotel soon reduced its staff and she lost her job. She returned, for a time, to working security at hotel pools, nightclubs and apartment complexes.But Ms. Miles started to feel increasingly unsafe on the job during her night shifts, she said, recounting the time a man who appeared to be high on drugs followed her onto her bus home early one morning after a shift.“I was no longer willing to risk my life,” Ms. Miles said inside an air-conditioned casino along the Strip where she had stopped for a respite from the 110-degree heat outside.As slot machines clanged in the background and people packed around craps tables, Ms. Miles reflected on the job interview she had just come from at a nearby Walgreens.She thought it had gone well, she said, and she hoped it would pan out. The $15-an-hour pay would help cover her $1,400 rent, as well as the other monthly bills — cellphone, $103; utilities, $200; groceries, $300 — that she splits with her husband, who works at a call center.“Things are going to be tight no matter what,” Ms. Miles said, adding that if offered the job, she still hoped to eventually find something with higher pay.Her dream, she said, is to open a day care center — a fulfilling job that would allow her to alleviate some of the pressure she knows rests on many parents.A worker busing a table at a restaurant inside a hotel. Nearly a quarter of jobs in Nevada are in leisure and hospitality.Gabriella Angotti-Jones for The New York TimesCarey Nash performed “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men for tourists on the Strip.Gabriella Angotti-Jones for The New York TimesFor Mr. Alvarez, the longtime Tropicana employee, any hope of returning to the job he long enjoyed is increasingly fleeting. The hotel, which opened in 1957, is on track to be demolished to make space for the new Athletics baseball stadium.“The city and the state seem to be on the rise,” he said. “But workers cannot be left behind.”After he lost his job at the Tropicana, Mr. Alvarez started working at Allegiant Stadium when it opened to fans in fall 2020.He helped set up platters of food in the stadium’s suites during football games, but the work, which was part time, ended when the season was over.“I was putting together two and sometimes three jobs, just to make enough to live,” he said.Several times during the pandemic, he said, he has feared he might lose his home in North Las Vegas, which he bought in 2008. (Eviction filings in the Las Vegas area in April were up 49 percent from before the pandemic, according to a report from The Eviction Lab at Princeton University.)He filed for unemployment benefits and eventually found part-time work at the Park MGM as a doorman. On a recent morning, Mr. Alvarez put on his gray vest and tie and prepared to begin his midday shift there.In June, the Vegas Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup finals at the T-Mobile Arena next door to the Park MGM. Witnessing the joy and celebration that swept through the hotel reminded him of why he had stayed in the industry.“Helping people and bringing them joy is what this city is all about,” he said. “I just hope I can keep doing this work.” More
Economists had been wary of strong economic data, worried that it meant inflation might stay high. Now they are starting to embrace it.Good news is bad news: It had been the mantra in economic circles ever since inflation took off in early 2021. A strong job market and rapid consumer spending risked fueling further price increases and evoking a more aggressive response from the Federal Reserve. So every positive report was widely interpreted as a negative development.But suddenly, good news is starting to feel good again.Inflation has finally begun to moderate in earnest, even as economic growth has remained positive and the labor market has continued to chug along. But instead of interpreting that solid momentum as a sign that conditions are too hot, top economists are increasingly seeing it as evidence that America’s economy is resilient. It is capable of making it through rapidly changing conditions and higher Fed interest rates, allowing inflation to cool gradually without inflicting widespread job losses.A soft economic landing is not guaranteed. The economy could still be in for a big slowdown as the full impact of the Fed’s higher borrowing costs is felt. But recent data have been encouraging, suggesting that consumers remain ready to spend and employers ready to hire at the same time as price increases for used cars, gas, groceries and a range of other products and services slow or stop altogether — a recipe for a gentle cool-down.“If you go back six months, we were in the ‘good news is bad news’ kind of camp because it didn’t look like inflation was going to come down,” said Jay Bryson, chief economist at Wells Fargo. Now, he said, inflation is cooling faster than some economists expected — and good news is increasingly, well, positive.
Year-over-year percentage change in the Personal Consumption Expenditures index
Source: Bureau of Economic AnalysisBy The New York TimesMarkets seem to agree. Stocks climbed on Friday, for instance, when a spate of strong economic data showed that consumers continued to spend as wages and price increases moderated — suggesting that the economy retains strength despite cooling around the edges. Even the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, has suggested that evidence of consumer resilience is welcome as long as it does not get out of hand.“The overall resilience of the economy, the fact that we’ve been able to achieve disinflation so far without any meaningful negative impact on the labor market, the strength of the economy overall, that’s a good thing,” Mr. Powell said during a news conference last week. But he said the Fed was closely watching to make sure that stronger growth did not lead to higher inflation, which “would require an appropriate response for monetary policy.”Mr. Powell’s comments underline the fundamental tension in the economy right now. Signs of an economy that is growing modestly are welcome. Signs of rip-roaring growth are not.In other words, economists and investors are no longer rooting for bad news, but they aren’t precisely rooting for good news either. What they are really rooting for is normalization, for signs that the economy is moving past pandemic disruptions and returning to something that looks more like the prepandemic economy, when the labor market was strong and inflation was low.As the economy reopened from its pandemic shutdown, demand — for goods and services, and for workers — outstripped supply by so much that even many progressive economists were hoping for a slowdown. Job openings shot up, with too few unemployed workers to fill them.
Monthly job openings per unemployed worker
Note: Data is up to June 2023 and is seasonally adjusted.Source: Bureau of Labor StatisticsBy The New York TimesBut now the economy is coming into better balance, even though growth hasn’t ground to a standstill.“There’s a difference between things decelerating and normalizing versus actually crashing,” said Mike Konczal, director of macroeconomic analysis at the Roosevelt Institute, a liberal research organization. “You could cheer for a normalization coming out of these crazy past couple years without going the next step and cheering for a crash.”That is why many economists seem to be happy as employers continue to hire, consumers splurge on Taylor Swift and Beyoncé concert tickets, and vacationers pay for expensive overseas trips — resilience is not universally seen as inflationary.Still, Kristin Forbes, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said it was too simple to argue that all signs of strength were welcome. “It depends on what the good news is,” she said.For instance, sustained rapid wage growth would still be a problem, because it could make it hard for the Fed to lower inflation completely. That’s because companies that are still paying more are likely to try to charge customers more to cover their growing labor bills.And if consumer demand springs back strongly and in a sustained way, that could also make it hard for the Fed to fully stamp out inflation. While price increases have moderated notably, they remain more than twice the central bank’s target growth rate after stripping out food and fuel prices, which bounce around for reasons that have little to do with economic policy.“We are closer to normal now,” said Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “It makes it seem like good news is good news again — and that’s certainly how investors feel. But the more that good news becomes good news, the higher the likelihood of a recession.”Mr. Strain explained that if stocks and other markets responded positively to signs of economic strength, those more growth-stoking financial conditions could keep prices rising. That could prod the Fed to react more aggressively by raising rates higher down the road. And the higher borrowing costs go, the bigger the chance that the economy stalls out sharply instead of settling gently into a slower growth path.Jan Hatzius, the chief economist at Goldman Sachs, thinks the United States will pull off a soft landing — perhaps one so soft that the Fed might be able to lower inflation over time without unemployment having to rise.But he also thinks that growth needs to remain below its typical rate, and that wage growth must slow from well above 4 percent to something more like 3.5 percent to guarantee that inflation fully fades.“The room for above-trend growth is quite limited,” Mr. Hatzius said, explaining that if growth does come in strong he could see a scenario in which the Fed might lift interest rates further. Officials raised rates to a range of 5.25 to 5.5 percent at their meeting last month, and investors are watching to see whether they will follow through on the one final rate move that they had earlier forecast for 2023.Mr. Hatzius said he and his colleagues weren’t expecting any further rate moves this year, “but it wouldn’t take that much to put November back on the table.”One reason economists have become more optimistic in recent months is that they see signs that the supply side of the supply-demand equation has improved. Supply chains have returned mostly to normal. Business investment, especially factory construction, has boomed. The labor force is growing, thanks to both increased immigration and the return of workers who were sidelined during the pandemic.Increased supply — of workers and the goods and services they produce — is helpful because it means the economy can come back into balance without the Fed having to do as much to reduce demand. If there are more workers, companies can keep hiring without raising wages. If more cars are available, dealers can sell more without raising prices. The economy can grow faster without causing inflation.And that, by any definition, would be good news. More
The NewsJob turnover decreased in June, the Labor Department reported on Tuesday, suggesting that the American labor market continues to slow down from its meteoric ascent after the pandemic lockdowns.A flier advertising open positions at a job fair in Minneapolis.Tim Gruber for The New York TimesThe NumbersThere were 9.6 million job openings in June, roughly the same as a month earlier, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).Employers have tightened the screws on hiring in recent months, with job openings falling to their lowest level since April 2021 as the economy responds to tightening monetary policy.The most notable changes in June were not in job openings but in hiring and quitting. There were 5.9 million hires in June, down from 6.2 million in May. And the quits rate, a measure of workers’ confidence in the job market and bargaining power, decreased to 2.4 percent, from 2.6 percent in May and down from a record of 3 percent in April 2022. The number of workers laid off was 1.5 million, about the same as in May.Quotable: ‘The labor market is unbalanced.’“We’re still in an economy where the labor market is unbalanced,” said Michael Strain, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, “with the demand for workers substantially outpacing the supply of workers.” There are roughly 1.6 job openings for each unemployed worker.Why It Matters: The economy moves closer to a ‘soft landing.’Over the past 16 months, as they have sought to curb inflation and make sure the economy does not overheat, Federal Reserve policymakers have pursued the coveted “soft landing.” That means bringing down inflation to the Fed’s target of 2 percent by raising interest rates without causing a significant jump in unemployment, avoiding a recession.The June JOLTS report provides more optimism that the Fed is approaching that soft landing, as demand for workers remains robust while tapering gradually. Inflation remains high by historical standards — at 3 percent, according to the latest data — but has eased substantially.“This is a really strong labor market that is staying strong but slowing down,” said Preston Mui, a senior economist at Employ America, a research and advocacy group focused on the job market.At the end of their meeting last Wednesday, policymakers raised rates a quarter-point, and the Fed’s chair, Jerome H. Powell, said its staff economists were no longer projecting a recession for 2023. But Mr. Powell left the door open to further rate increases and said the economy still had “a long way to go” to 2 percent inflation.Background: It’s been a good time to be a worker.As the U.S. economy rapidly rose out of the Covid-19 recession in 2020, a powerful narrative built: “Nobody wants to work.” There was some truth to that hyperbole. Employers had a hard time finding workers, and workers reaped the rewards, quitting their jobs to find better-paying ones (and succeeding).With quit rates falling in recent months, the so-called great resignation appears to be over, if not receding, and the continued downward trajectory of job openings implies that employers are less eager to fill staffing shortages.Employers are not hiring with the fervor they were a few months ago, but they are not yet casting aside workers, who might not lose the gains they have achieved during the pandemic recovery.What’s Next: The July jobs report lands on Friday.The Labor Department will release the July employment report on Friday. The unemployment rate for June sat at 3.6 percent, a dip from 3.7 percent in May but higher than the 3.4 percent recorded in January and April, the lowest jobless rate since 1969.June was the 30th consecutive month of gains in U.S. payrolls, as the economy added 209,000 jobs, and economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected the economy to have added another 200,000 jobs in July. Fed policymakers will be watching the report closely, but one more month’s data will arrive before they next convene Sept. 19-20. More