Fed’s Powell on jobs needed to fix labor market

There are a near-record 10.4 million job openings

The American economy is going to need consistent employment growth to help fill the near-record 10.43 million job openings vexing employers

On Friday, the Labor Department reported 531,000 positions were created in October, an improvement from September’s 194,000.

But to really move the needle, a steady flow of larger numbers is needed, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell who ballparked a range on Wednesday. 

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"Once the delta variant really does continue to decline what’s going to happen to employment? Are we going to start to see over the winter significant increases in jobs again? If you look back to 3-6-9 month average, job creation is between 550,000-600,000 … if we can get back on that path we would be making good progress," he explained during his press conference following the November meeting. 

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Job creation was hot in June and July with 938,000 and 943,000 positions added, but growth tapered to 366,000 and 194,000 in August and September. This as workers are also quitting in record numbers, according to the most recent JOLTS report which listed the "quits rate" at a series high of 2.9%.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
UBER UBER TECHNOLOGIES INC. 28.75 +0.41 +1.45%
AMZN AMAZON.COM INC. 94.13 -1.37 -1.43%
WMT WALMART INC. 153.15 -0.30 -0.20%

Hiring remains tough across most industries with Uber, Amazon, Walmart and Sam’s Club posting the most jobs in September according to ZipRecruiter. 

Others including UPS are looking for 60,000 workers to help over the holidays, while Target is forking out an extra $2 per hour for the 100,000 workers its needs to meet the seasonal rush. 

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Ticker Security Last Change Change %
UPS UNITED PARCEL SERVICE INC. 189.41 -0.95 -0.50%
TGT TARGET CORP. 164.12 -0.96 -0.58%

October's unemployment rate dropped to 4.6% from 4.8% which would be the lowest since March 2020, but some economists suggest that it is falling because fewer people are looking for work. 

"People are staying out of the labor market because of caretaking and because of fear of COVID to a significant extent. You know, we thought that schools reopening elapsing unemployment benefits would produce some sort of additional labor supply. That doesn't seem to have been the case, interestingly. So I think there's room for a whole lot of humility here as we try to think about what maximum employment would be," Powell noted. 

In September 2019, unemployment hit a 50-year low of 3.5%. Months later, in March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic began to shatter the global economy. 

*This story, originally published on 11/04/21 has been updated.