Following strong jobs report, employers post record number of job openings, though struggle to fill vacancies.

The Associated Press reports on today’s encouraging economic news, though it’s not unmixed.

U.S. employers posted a record number of open jobs in June, a sign that the solid hiring of recent months will likely continue.

Job openings jumped 8 percent to 6.2 million, the highest on records dating back to 2000, the Labor Department said Tuesday.

The story also points out what’s been a recurring theme for us: Employers are having a difficult time filling the vacancies.

The data suggest that employers have plenty of jobs to fill but are struggling to find the qualified workers they need.

The National Association of Manufacturers reports a strong manufacturing jobs environment. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said manufacturing job openings bounced back from 350,000 in May, its slowest pace so far this year, to 388,000 in June. That was the best reading since March’s reading, which was at 16-year high at 404,000. In June, both durable (up from 201,000 top 214,000) and nondurable (up from 149,000 to 174,000) goods firms had more job postings. Openings in the sector have averaged 372,000 year-to-date in 2017, an improvement from the average of 342,000 seen for all of 2016. We would expect stronger job openings data moving forward, especially given recent improvements in the economic outlook for the sector, and this should lead to better hiring figures.

NAM says hiring has been “soft–but positive.” This follows last week’s very strong employment report.

The U.S. economy continued a strong summer, adding 209,000 jobs in July while the unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent, the lowest since March 2001, according to a government report Friday.

Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected the report to show growth of 183,000; the unemployment rate met expectations. A more encompassing rate that includes discouraged workers and the underemployed was unchanged at 8.6 percent.

The number of employed Americans hit a new high of 153.5 million thanks to a surge of 345,000. The employment-to-population ratio also moved up to 60.2 percent, tied for the highest level since February 2009.

NAM also reports more good news from the National Federation of Independent Business.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said that the Small Business Optimism Indexrebounded, up from 103.6 in June to 105.2 in July. The previous reading had been a post-election low—albeit one that still represented a highly positive outlook—and the new one was the highest since February. Overall confidence remained not far from January’s assessment (105.9), with was a 12-year high. To illustrate the boost in optimism seen over the past 12 months, the headline index stood at 94.6 one year ago. Along those lines, the percentage of respondents suggesting that the next three months would be a “good time to expand” increased from 21 percent to 23 percent. In July 2016, just 8 percent said the same thing.

A couple of thoughts on the wave of positive national reports:

  1. It’s important to remember that the overall trends don’t reflect the experience in all parts of the nation or our state. Washington remains one of the stronger economic performers among the 50 states, but within our state unemployment rates and economic opportunities vary significantly.
  2. Ongoing efforts in Washington to increase academic achievement – especially attainment of postsecondary credentials or college – must continue to meet growing demand. 
  3. Creating more employment opportunities in rural Washington remains a key policy objective to make shared prosperity a reality in all parts of our state.

The economic news points to increased opportunity. The challenge is to make sure the opportunities are widely distributed and that Washington students are prepared to fill the jobs being created.