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Help wanted: US job openings hit record high | Business and Economy News



Job openings hit a record high while one in three businesses struggle to find skilled talent. 

The number of job openings in the United States hit a record high of 9.3 million in April, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said on Tuesday, as millions coming out of coronavirus hibernation unleash pent-up demand and businesses ramp up operations to meet it.

Job openings increased in several sectors in April, including accommodation and food services, which saw 349,000 additional posts added, according to the BLS’s latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).

The findings collide with the latest monthly jobs report released last week, which revealed an economy still trying to shake off the damage of coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions.

The nation’s unemployment rate was 5.8 percent in May and there were 9.3 million jobless workers. That compares to 3.5 percent unemployment in February 2020 – right before the coronavirus pandemic struck – when some 5.7 million workers were jobless.

“The labor market is on the right track, but there is still millions of workers yet to be absorbed in the economic recovery,” Economic Policy Institute’s senior economist Elise Gould wrote in a Tuesday blog post.

The disconnect between jobless Americans and record-high job openings has spawned debate among economists as to what is driving the disconnect.

Some Republicans are blaming the $300 federal weekly top-up to state unemployment benefits for disincentivising the unemployed to find jobs.

Dozens of states led by Republican governors have announced plans to withdraw from federal unemployment benefit programmes, which include the weekly top-up.

But many economists believe there are other factors at play.

Some point to bottlenecks forming as millions of businesses reopen and expand operations at once. A lack of childcare options for working parents, older workers opting for early retirement and fear of contracting COVID-19 are also believed to be keeping the unemployed on the sidelines.

Job seekers in the driver’s seat

With so many jobs going begging, workers have more leverage over potential employers than they have had in recent years. Many of them are seeking greater flexibility and more competitive pay.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private payrolls increased by 15 cents in May to $30.33. That boost followed an increase of 21 cents in April.

And that strong bargaining position could get stronger in the coming months.

The latest quarterly employment outlook survey conducted by workforce solutions company ManpowerGroup found that more than 7,300 US employers reported their most optimistic hiring outlook since 2000. But one in three firms are struggling to find skilled talent.

“Childcare challenges, health concerns and competition mean demand still outstrips supply which is dampening the ‘big return’ of the American workforce,” said ManpowerGroup President for North America Becky Frankiewicz in a statement. “It’s a worker’s market and employees are acting like consumers in how they are consuming work – seeking flexibility, competitive pay and fast decisions.”

Employers who fail to adapt to newly empowered job hunters do so at their peril.

The number of Americans saying sayonara to their jobs voluntarily – what economists call the quits rate – hit a record four million in April, according to the latest JOLTS report.

Businesses are also more inclined to hang on to the workers they have. The number and rate of layoffs and discharges in April was little changed, at 1.4 million and 1.0 percent, respectively.

“High quits mean workers feel comfortable leaving their jobs in search of better matches,” said Gould. “Low layoffs are an obvious good. The economic recovery is gaining momentum.”

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Apple Daily could shut ‘in days’ after Hong Kong asset freeze | Freedom of the Press News




Company adviser says action under security law means it cannot access some $50 million in funds to pay staff and vendors.

Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will be forced to shut “in a matter of days” after authorities used the national security law imposed by China to freeze the company’s assets as it arrested the paper’s editor and four other directors, an adviser to jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai told Reuters on Monday.

Mark Simon, speaking by phone from the United States, said the company was no longer able to access its funds and would be holding a board meeting on Monday to discuss how to move forward.

“We thought we’d be able to make it to the end of the month,” Simon told the news agency. “It’s just getting harder and harder. It’s essentially a matter of days.”

His comments signal closure is imminent even after Apple Daily said on Sunday the freezing of its assets had left the newspaper with cash for “a few weeks” for normal operations.”

The news comes two days after editor Ryan Law, 47, and chief executive Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were denied bail after being charged under the security law with collusion with foreign forces.

Apple Daily’s editor-in-chief Ryan Law arrives back at the detention centre after he was remanded in custody on Saturday [Lam Yik/Reuters]

Three other senior executives were also arrested last Thursday when 500 police officers raided the newspaper’s offices in a case that has drawn condemnation from Western nations, human rights groups and the chief United Nations spokesperson for human rights.

The three have been released on bail.

Simon told Reuters it had become impossible to conduct banking operations.

“Vendors tried to put money into our accounts and were rejected. We can’t bank. Some vendors tried to do that as a favour. We just wanted to find out and it was rejected,” he said.

Speaking earlier to US news channel CNN, Simon said the company had about $50 million available, but was unable to access the funds.

The publisher has come under increasing pressure since its owner Jimmy Lai was arrested under the national security law last August, which marked the first time the company’s headquarters was raided. Lai, 73, is now jailed and facing trial under the national security law. In May, the authorities also froze some assets belonging to the longtime critic of Beijing has also had some of his assets frozen.

Three companies related to Apple Daily are also being prosecuted for collusion with a foreign country and authorities have frozen HK$18 million ($2.3 million) of their assets.

China imposed the national security law on Hong Kong last June saying it was necessary to restore “stability” to a territory that had been rocked by mass protests in 2019, some of which turned violent.

The broadly-worded law criminalises acts such as subversion, sedition, collusion with foreign forces and secession with possible life imprisonment, but critics have said it is being used to suppress legitimate political debate with dozens of pro-democracy politicians and activists among the more than 100 arrested since it was brought into force.

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Birmingham Classic: Ons Jabeur beats Daria Kasatkina to win first title




Tunisian second seed Ons Jabeur defeated Russia’s Daria Kasatkina in straight sets to win her first singles title at the Birmingham Classic.

World number 24 Jabeur triumphed 7-5 6-4 against the fourth seed to become the first Arab woman to win a WTA title.

In Berlin, Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova stunned Swiss fifth seed Belinda Bencic to win her first title.

The 22-year-old world number 106 battled back from a set down to win 1-6 6-1 6-3 in her first final.

Victories for Jabeur and Samsonova mean there have now been 10 first-time singles winners on the women’s Tour this year.

Jabeur broke Kasatkina’s serve three times to prevail in the first set, before successive breaks at the start of the second put the 26-year-old in control at 4-0.

Two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Kasatkina recovered to 4-3, but Jabeur held on to win a singles final at the third attempt.

It was a breakthrough week for Samsonova in Germany, during which she also defeated seventh seed Victoria Azarenka of Belaurus in the semi-final.

World number 12 Bencic won the first five games as she dominated the opening set, but Samsonova matched that feat in the second before completing her comeback with breaks in the first and ninth games in the deciding set.

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Birtukan Mideksa: Ethiopia’s electoral board chairperson




Restless for change, Ms Birtukan moved back into politics, playing a key role in the formation of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) to present a united front against the EPRDF in the 2005 parliamentary election, which was widely seen as the most fiercely contested poll in Ethiopia’s history, with the opposition claiming that it had been robbed of victory.

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