In the coming holiday sales season, that building spree could come back to bite them—and the companies that deliver their packages.
With the nation’s unemployment rate at a seven-year low as holiday hiring begins to pick up, some retailers and logistics contractors are already struggling to find enough seasonal workers to keep their new facilities humming. Soon, United Parcel Service Inc., FedEx Corp. and smaller regional delivery firms will be facing the same problem.
Employment agencies for retailers and logistics companies say they are having trouble finding warehouse workers to stock early holiday inventory and employees to train for work in fulfillment centers, where holiday orders will be packed and shipped.
Few could have predicted the nation’s unemployment rate would fall to 5.1%, as it did last month, amid such red-hot growth in e-commerce. As a result, retailers and delivery companies expect to have to raise starting pay in some places.
While debate rages on about whether demand or supply factors are more to blame for the sluggish home-construction recovery, most industry observers and participants agree on at least one point: Construction labor is in short supply.
Scant availability of skilled construction workers has hampered home construction at various times in the past few years of recovery. But the shortfall seems to have grown more acute of late, as new-home sales are up 21.2% so far this year from the same period last year and commercial construction has increased steadily.
Construction employment isn’t quite keeping pace with that rebound, and workers with certain skills, such as carpenters and sheet-metal installers, are hard to find.
“We are finding a greater failure rate of subcontractors in the industry because they are not able to hire the skilled workers that they need,” said John Finch, chief executive of PBG Builders Inc. in Goodlettsville, Tenn., on a conference call with media on Thursday organized by the Associated General Contractors of America. “That’s resulting in some budget issues and work that has to be redone.”
The Associated General Contractors, the largest U.S. construction-industry association, on Thursday released the results of its survey of 1,358 construction firms about their perspectives on the labor market. Of the respondents, 86% reported difficulty filling jobs for hourly craft workers and salaried supervisors and specialists.
Asked which hourly workers are hardest to find and hire, 73% of respondents cited carpenters, 65% mentioned sheet-metal installers and 63% said concrete workers. In terms of salaried and management employees, 55% of respondents said project managers and supervisors are scarce, 43% mentioned estimating professionals and 34% cited engineers.
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Labor Day has been around in the U.S. for more than 100 years. So, too, has wage inequality.
Millions of American workers for more than a century have welcomed the beginning of September – and the three-day weekend accompanying it – with open arms, ironically enjoying a day off on a holiday known as Labor Day.
But not everyone is celebrating. A recent Bloomberg BNA poll found that 41 percent of employers will require at least some of their workers to punch in on Labor Day. About 80 percent of firms with at least 1,000 employees will require some of their staffers to work, while only 29 percent of smaller companies said the same.
It’s understandable that not all employee vacation plans in the U.S. are created equal. But as America prepares to celebrate a holiday dedicated to the diverse body of workers that help drive the country’s economy forward, it’s worth taking a step back to look over the labor market’s deeply uneven landscape that extends far beyond workers’ vacation schedules.
Worker pay, for example, is up all over the U.S. Average hourly earnings for private, non-farm workers in August increased 2.2 percent year over year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But that doesn’t mean everybody’s 2.2 percent better off now than they were in August 2014.
Updated Sept. 4, 2015 1:14 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—U.S. employment growth slowed in August but the jobless rate fell to the lowest level since 2008, a mixed labor-market reading that leaves the Federal Reserve with a challenging decision on whether to raise short-term rates at its September meeting.
Nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 173,000 in August, the Labor Department said Friday. Revisions showed employers added 44,000 new jobs in June and July than previously estimated.
However, the unemployment rate, which comes from a separate survey of U.S. households, fell to 5.1%, from 5.3% the previous month. The unemployment rate is now lower than at any point since 2008 and right in the middle of the Fed’s long-run projections.
The decline in the unemployment rate strengthens the case for an interest rate increase at the Fed’s Sept. 16-17 meeting. It suggests that slack in the economy is getting eaten up rapidly, which is central to the Fed’s view that inflation will eventually start rising toward its 2% objective after running below the goal for more than three years.
Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, in a Friday morning speech, called the payrolls gain a strong number. “I’d call this a good, right down the middle of the fairway” jobs report, said Mr. Lacker, a vocal proponent of raising interest rates.
Fed officials have said they will take Friday’s unemployment report into account as they weigh whether to raise interest rates. The August report is the last major indication they will get of the health of the labor market before this month’s meeting.
Economists once thought the Fed was poised to act in September, but recent turmoil in global financial markets has muddied the outlook. And Friday’s report could serve as ammunition both for those Fed officials who want to raise interest rates in September and for those who would prefer holding off.
Although the number of new jobs fell below the 218,000 monthly average recorded between January and July, the unemployment rate is now below the 5.2% to 5.3% range where officials thought it would be by year-end. Moreover, its descent shows little sign of slowing down. It has fallen by one percentage point from a year earlier. In their June projections, Fed officials projected the jobless rate wouldn’t fall much more in the next two years. For example, they projected it would be between 4.9% and 5.1% by the end of 2016 and the end of 2017. It is already effectively there. Broader measures of unemployment which include part-time and discouraged workers also continue to fall.
As the jobless rate falls, faint glimmers of firming in wages might be appearing. Average hourly earnings of private-sector workers rose by 8 cents to $25.09 last month, a 2.2% increase from a year earlier. The gain suggests a mild acceleration in worker’s pay. Wages had been advancing at a modest 2% pace since 2010.
In northern Mexico, farm workers who pick produce bound for US supermarkets earn as little as $7 a day. They follow the harvest, traveling between the states of Sinaloa and Baja California as internal migrants in their own country. With daycare not an option, children join their parents on the job, sometimes working in 100-degree heat.
In this extra scene, farm workers receive their daily wage. For a 52-year-old laborer working six hours a day, her salary is $7.50 — plus a marshmallow.
Read: Mexican Laborers Want Americans to Know Who Picks Their Fruits and Vegetables – http://bit.ly/1hsteFf
Watch: The Way Americans Eat – The Business of Life (Episode 8) – http://bit.ly/1MW5K6Q