Some pockets of hiring exist amid slowdown
AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON – Even with most U.S. businesses still reluctant to add new employees, some pockets of hiring are emerging in industries such as accounting, information technology and restaurants, government data show.
Signs of hope are also evident in some private surveys. Nearly a third of manufacturing companies plan to add employees in August, the highest proportion since October, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.
Still, the percentages of both manufacturing and service-sector companies planning to hire is down from a year ago, the group said.
Other surveys indicate that hiring isn’t likely to be widespread anytime soon. The Conference Board’s employment trends index, released Monday, was flat in July for the third straight month. And it’s down 20 percent from a year ago.
Economists caution that businesses will likely be reluctant to add workers until they are sure the economy is recovering. Many analysts expect the U.S. economy will grow in the current July-September quarter, after shrinking for four quarters in a row.
But the unemployment rate, which dipped in July to 9.4 percent, is still expected to rise to 10 percent by the end of the year. That’s partly because more people are expected to rejoin the ranks of job-seekers as the economy recovers and will be counted as unemployed until they find work.
A Labor Department report Wednesday showed that total job openings remained flat in June. The department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey reported 2.6 million jobs available, roughly the same as in the previous month. That’s down from 3.9 million a year earlier.
About 14.7 million people were unemployed in June, according to the department. That means nearly six people, on average, were competing for each job opening – compared with fewer than two per opening in December 2007, when the recession began.
One bright spot in the job openings report is the leisure and hospitality sector, which includes hotels and restaurants. The industry advertised 304,000 job openings in June, up from 265,000 the previous month, the Labor Department said.
One company adding jobs is Carmine’s, a small chain of Italian restaurants based in New York. The chain’s parent company, the Alicart Restaurant Group, plans to open a new 670-seat Carmine’s in downtown Washington next March, creating about 200 jobs.
Jeff Bank, CEO of Alicart, said Carmine’s four existing restaurants have held up well during the recession because they serve huge portions at low prices. That is “exactly what you want to be right now,” he said.
The accounting industry, meanwhile, added 4,000 jobs in July, according to the government’s monthly employment report released last week. That was one of the few sectors to add jobs, along with health care, government and computer services.
Many businesses are hiring “regulatory accountants,” to deal with new rules affecting companies that received government bailout funds or to prepare for other regulatory changes, said Rob Saam, senior vice president at outplacement firm Lee Hecht Harrison.
Congress and the Obama administration are weighing major changes to regulations governing the financial sector, which could also be spurring some hiring, he said.
“The smart companies are going to get ready for that,” Saam said. “That’s a hot area right now.”
The Labor Department also said last week that 7,900 jobs in computer systems design were added in July.
Tom Silver, senior vice president at Dice.com, a job site for technology professionals, said hiring in the high-tech industry overall remains sluggish. But companies are adding workers who can make their computer systems more efficient and more secure, he said.
Information technology “is strategically very important to employers,” Silver said, as companies seek to squeeze as much productivity as they can from their diminished work forces.
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