Saturday, November 3, 2007

Job Market News

American workers and their employers have decidedly different views about the nation's overall economic health, according to two reports released Wednesday.

Anticipated job cuts rose to a 17-month high in June as U.S. companies announced plans to shed 110,996 jobs, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-area outplacement firm that tracks monthly job-cut announcements.

The auto and retailing industries were the hardest hit, with a combined 69,443 expected job cuts announced last month. Meanwhile, workers' confidence in the job market rebounded noticeably, rising to its highest reading since January.

But pockets of workers -- such as Atlantans -- aren't so sure about their jobs, finances or the job market, the latest monthly Hudson Employment Index shows. The index is a monthly measure of American workers' confidence in the job market.

Tampa residents were the most optimistic, at 112. Philadelphians were the least confident, at 86.8. The U.S. average is 103.

Atlantans fell in the middle, registering 102.5. Twenty-seven percent of Atlantans reported they were worried about losing a job, up from 20 percent in May.

"What you've got is some fundamental changes," said Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. "You have a stable economy and continued job losses."

Thurmond cited high gasoline prices, outsourcing and offshoring as contributing factors.

Atlanta has just had "an incredibly long run of bad luck," Wachovia Corp. senior economist Mark Vitner said.

"Even though Atlanta has one of the most diverse economies in the country, it has found itself behind the eight ball because

a number of key industries are struggling," Vitner said.

He warns not to put too much stock in Wednesday's reports.

Vitner says other reports provide a more accurate reading of the nation's job market: weekly first-time unemployment claims and the federal job openings and labor turnover survey, or JOLT.

The monthly jobs report, due out Friday, also provides some perspective. Most economists expect the report to be dramatically better than last month's dismal showing.

"There's a whole lot more information [about the job market] out there today than we've had in the past," Vitner said. "Unfortunately, the jobs outlook is a very mixed picture." The paradoxes are numerous:

* Atlanta is home to the world's busiest airport at a time when airlines are suffering their worst financial crisis.

* The region has grown tremendously because companies moved or expanded here, but that has not been the case in the last few years.

Increased regulatory scrutiny has made companies less willing to take risks. "If they're less willing to take on risk, they're less likely to expand, carry more inventory or hire more workers."

Vitner also noted some pluses in metro Atlanta :

* Office leasing is up, indicating "hiring is picking up."

* The logistics industries of trucking, rail and shipping, all significant to Atlanta , are booming.

* Layoffs in general have been subsiding across the country.

"The economy's moving in the right direction," Vitner said. "It's just not moving fast enough to make everybody happy

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