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Fed: Economy Expanded Modestly; Staffing Firms Drive Hiring

American Staffing Association (12/03/15)

Reports from the 12 districts of the Federal Reserve System indicated that economic activity increased at a modest pace in most regions of the country from October through mid-November, according to the Federal Reserve Board’s latest report on regional economies (known as the “beige book”). Labor markets continued to tighten modestly, and many districts indicated that increased hiring was driven by temporary and entry-level positions that were being fulfilled by staffing firms. Difficulties finding skilled workers persisted but varied by location and occupation. Most districts reported that wage pressures increased only for skilled occupations and for workers who were in short supply, although a few districts saw broader pressure.

November Job Cuts Lowest in 14 Months

Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. News Release (12/02/15)

Planned layoffs in November fell to the lowest level in more than a year, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Employers announced workforce reductions totaling 30,953 in November, 39% fewer than the 50,504 planned job cuts in October. The November total was 14% lower than a year ago, when 35,940 job cuts were reported.

To date, employers have announced 574,888 job cuts in 2015, 28% more than the 450,531 job cuts announced through November 2014. With just one month remaining in the year, job cuts are on pace to be the heaviest since 2009, when 1.3 million layoffs were announced. The energy, government, and retail sectors have announced the most job cuts this year.

U.S. Wages Show Signs of Breaking Out

Wall Street Journal (12/02/15) David Harrison

American workers are starting to see distinct wage growth after years of sluggish gains, indicating that a tightening job market may be pressuring employers to improve pay packages, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The numbers show that inflation-adjusted hourly compensation for the nonfarm business sector grew 3.4% in the third quarter, compared with the same quarter a year ago, marking the second-largest jump since the third quarter of 2009. Higher pay has also taken hold in the manufacturing sector, where real compensation climbed 3.5% in the third quarter from a year ago. Productivity has simultaneously been showing signs of improvement, growing at annualized rates of 2.2% in the third quarter, and 3.5% in the second.

Jobless Claims Climb 9,000 to 269,000

MarketWatch (12/03/15) Jeffry Bartash

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits rose by 9,000 to 269,000 in the week ended Nov. 28, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Weekly initial jobless claims dropped below 300,000 in February and are now at the lowest level since 2000. The average of new claims over the past month fell by 1,750 to 269,250.

Yellen Signals Fed on Track to Raise Rates in December

Wall Street Journal (12/02/15) Jon Hilsenrath; David Harrison

Janet Yellen, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, has signaled that she is ready to raise short-term interest rates this month, barring a surprise that shakes her confidence in the economy. She also suggested that there is dissension among officials, which could complicate moves to raise rates. In addition to some regional Fed bank presidents, two Fed governors have expressed hesitance about raising rates, though the consensus appears to be against them. Yellen says she does not need unanimity, and that the Fed will have to tolerate some dissent.

The Fed has said it would raise its benchmark federal-funds rate from near-zero after it saw further improvement in the job market and became reasonably confident inflation would rise toward the 2% target. Yellen yesterday described an economic backdrop fitting the desired parameters, suggesting she is leaning toward lifting rates soon. She also warned that delaying a rate increase could hurt the economy.

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