Job Ads, Factory Orders Rise

Posted by: Joe Weber on June 02

HelpWanted.jpgStepped up hiring and a modest jump in new orders from factories both point to more improvements in the economy.

The upbeat news on the job front comes from the Conference Board, which keeps track of help-wanted ads as a telling barometer of corporate economic health. Online advertised vacancies rose 250,000 to 3.367 million in May, the outfit reported on June 1. This gain was the first since last October, when the advertised vacancy count rose just 21,000.

“The May bounce in labor demand is a very welcome sign,” senior economist Gad Levanon said. “Over the last fours months, there are now about a half-dozen states where the drop in labor demand shows signs of leveling off and another handful of states show some very moderate increases.”

Indeed, the Conference Board research turned up a rise in online advertised vacancies in 43 states. The board singled out New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, Maryland and Hawaii, noting that drops in labor demand have either leveled off or turned around in those states.

Economists cautioned that the rises in ads don’t mean that we’ll see a slide in unemployment tallies yet. Hiring takes time, jobs are distributed unevenly around the country and the potential workforce continues to grow as people leave school. Even with this month’s rise in ads, online advertised vacancies remain down 1.152 million, or 25%, since last year.

“Even with the current positive signs, the likely outlook is for unemployment to continue to rise and employment to fall at more modest levels throughout the summer,” Levanon said. He added that, as of the latest counts by the government, there are some 10.6 million more unemployed workers than advertised vacancies.

However, progress on another front could eventually reduce the jobless tally. The Institute for Supply Management manufacturing survey for May showed a gain in factory conditions over May of last year. With a rise of 2.7 points, the index rose to 42.8, which economists at Northern Trust say suggests a slowdown in the contraction in the factory sector. The move suggests that the decline in factory conditions is slowing, economist Asha G. Bangalore reported in her Daily Global Commentary.

Rises were reported in indexes for new orders, production, supplier deliveries, exports and imports. Encouragingly, the index for new orders has risen 28 points in the last five months, putting it above the important 50 mark for the first time since November 2007.


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BusinessWeek’s Joe Weber, Patricia O'Connell, Michelle Conlin, Frederik Balfour, Peter Coy, Greg Spielberg and Roger Crockett examine The Case for Optimism by looking past the financial turmoil and economic unrest gripping the globe to focus on the promising future that lies on the other side of this storm. We’ll chronicle the forward thinkers investing in R&D, launching promising new products, entering new markets, or implementing management and leadership.

See why BusinessWeek Editor-In-Chief Stephen J. Adler is optimistic about the economy amid the sharpest downturn since the Great Depression.

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