The Week Ahead: Gauging the early potential of a jobs bounce-back

Tribune Content Agency

The American job market has been waylaid by COVID-19. Job cuts have been fast and deep. Almost 10 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment insurance over the past two weeks. Never before as the U.S. labor market experienced such a sharp drop in demand for people.

It was a much different story just eight weeks ago. In January, U.S. companies had 7 million job openings. There were more jobs than people looking for work. It was a good time to be looking for work.

No longer. In the week ahead, we will begin to see how companies have adjusted to the economic consequences of fighting the spread of the coronavirus. On Tuesday, the federal government will release the JOLTS report — the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary — for February. This is a monthly survey of job openings, hires and resignations at businesses across the country.

It isn’t one of the major economic reports for investors, but it was a favorite of former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. She looked to it as a gauge of the health of the job market. And it had been reflecting a strong demand for workers.

Companies can and have changed hiring plans on a dime. Instead of looking for workers to grow, firms have instituted hiring freezes, pay cuts, and eliminated jobs to survive. As the threat of virus grew in February, how companies responded with their employment ambitions will give the markets an early indication of what a hoped-for jobs bounce-back may look like.



Financial journalist Tom Hudson hosts “The Sunshine Economy” on WLRN-FM in Miami, where he is the vice president of news. He is the former co-anchor and managing editor of “Nightly Business Report” on public television. Follow him on Twitter @HudsonsView.


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