US firms face hiring difficulties, raise wages: Survey

Work in progress at a new restaurant building in Miami, Florida. With unemployment in the US already very low, anecdotal reports indicate employers are struggling to fill open positions and have been obliged to boost compensation to draw new candidat
Work in progress at a new restaurant building in Miami, Florida. With unemployment in the US already very low, anecdotal reports indicate employers are struggling to fill open positions and have been obliged to boost compensation to draw new candidates.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • A growing share of employers in the US are struggling to hire new workers and some have raised wages as a result, according to a survey released yesterday.

The National Association of Business Economists (Nabe) said its latest quarterly survey shows members to be a little less sanguine about the prospects for strong economic expansion over the next year, although most still expect sustained quarterly growth of better than 2 per cent.

With unemployment already very low, anecdotal reports indicate employers around the United States are struggling to fill open positions and have been obliged to boost compensation to draw new candidates.

But official figures show only sluggish wage growth and weak inflation - with average hourly earnings disappointingly up less than 0.2 per cent last month - something that has puzzled policymakers at the Federal Reserve, although it has not yet prompted them to alter their course of gradual interest rate increases.

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"Slightly over one-third of panellists reports that their firms have experienced some difficulty in hiring," Nabe survey chair Emily Kolinski said in a statement. The survey of 101 Nabe members showed rising sales, profits, hiring and capital spending. However, she added, "pricing power - or lack of it - and labour costs are generating some headwinds for a significant number of firms".

The share of firms reporting increased wages rose eight points from April to 47 per cent. But expectations that wages will keep rising over the next three months rose only by three points, also to 47 per cent.Half of firms reported gains in sales, up from 45 per cent in April.

About 60 per cent of respondents said they expected gross domestic product to expand by more than 2 per cent over the next four quarters, but the share foreseeing growth under 2 per cent rose eight points to 38 per cent.

Ms Kolinski, chief economist at Ford Motor, said firms have not changed course on hiring and investment decisions based on any hope of stimulus from the Trump administration, which has vowed to slash taxes and regulation.

And just 12 per cent said it was likely they would revisit long-term strategies in light of President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Climate accord, while 50 per cent said this was unlikely.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2017, with the headline 'US firms face hiring difficulties, raise wages: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe