Make us your home page
Instagram

Jobs numbers show only modest improvement

WASHINGTON — Fewer people are filing claims for unemployment aid, new jobs are showing up in service industries, and companies are squeezing all they can from lean staffs and may need to hire soon.

Hopes for the job market brightened Thursday ahead of a closely watched report on the nation's employment picture — although experts cautioned that the economy probably isn't creating jobs as quickly as usual after a recession.

"While we will see a period of job growth, it is going to take a long time to get back the jobs we lost," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, who predicts the nation will not recover the 8 million jobs lost in the downturn until 2013.

Economists predict the May jobs report, due out this morning, will show the nation added 513,000 jobs in May. But most of them, as many as 400,000 by some estimates, will be temporary government jobs to help with the census.

The unemployment rate is expected to fall slightly, to 9.8 percent from 9.9 percent.

While analysts say layoffs will keep tapering off and companies will gradually hire more, a lack of strength throughout the economy complicates the recovery.

"We have a very mixed picture at the moment," said Nigel Gault, the chief U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight.

Gault said the economy is probably growing slightly faster now than in the first quarter of the year, but the boost is coming from temporary factors, like the home buyer tax credit that expired at the end of April.

"This is a very soft recovery compared to what you would normally see after such a deep recession," Gault said. "The financial crisis did bad things to balance sheets, and people are still working off the problems of that excess debt."

Hiring may pick up if businesses find they can't wring more work out of thinner ranks. Productivity grew 2.8 percent in the first quarter, the Labor Department said Thursday, the slowest annual pace in a year.

A separate report Thursday showed first-time claims for unemployment aid fell for a second straight week. Still, the decline came after a sharp increase three weeks ago.

And claims, considered a measure of how willing companies are to hire, remain at elevated levels. The four-week average of jobless claims is down only slightly from mid January.

The service sector, a broad category ranging from construction to retail to health care, accounts for about four of every five U.S. jobs outside of farms. It expanded in May for the fifth month in a row. And the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives that monitors the industry, said its jobs measure rose for the first time in more than two years.

Employers "are now starting to feel a bit more confidence as far as bringing back some jobs," said Anthony Nieves, a Hilton Worldwide executive who serves as chairman of the Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing business survey committee.

Economists still worry that the service sector, like most sectors outside of manufacturing, isn't expanding fast enough.

FAST FACTS

Hopeful signs

A pair of reports Thursday boosted hopes of a near-term decline in the U.S. jobless rate, currently at 9.9 percent:

• Productivity grew at a slower rate in the first three months of the year than previously thought, a possible sign that businesses are reaching the limits on how much work they can squeeze out of fewer workers. The Labor Department says productivity advanced at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the January-March period.

• New claims for unemployment insurance fell for the second straight week, fresh evidence the job market is slowly improving. The Labor Department said Thursday that initial claims for jobless benefits dropped last week by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 453,000. That nearly matches analysts' forecasts, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

Jobs numbers show only modest improvement 06/03/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 3, 2010 7:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  4. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  5. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]