February 18, 2019
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Economic update: Record number of open jobs mixed with signs of economic uncertainty raise concerns

Economic headwinds are getting stronger with the U.S. Department of Labor’s December report, which reveals that the number of job openings in the U.S. rose to the highest level since 2000. In 2018, the number of open jobs exceeded the number of unemployed Americans by more than 1.04 million, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“The labor market continues to heat up. But growth cannot continue for much longer if there is no one out there to work in the factories and shops and malls across America,” Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York, told Reuters.

Opportunity Washington added to the concern in a blog post highlighting the disappointing holiday sales and slight uptick in the unemployment rate.

In the post, the group cites the U.S. Commerce Department’s recent retail sales report and the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) response to it.

Holiday retail sales during 2018 grew a lower-than-expected 2.9 percent over the same period in 2017 to $707.5 billion, the National Retail Federation said after the Commerce Department released data that had been delayed by nearly a month because of the recent government shutdown.

“All signs during the holidays seemed to show that consumers remained confident about the economy,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “However, it appears that worries over the trade war and turmoil in the stock markets impacted consumer behavior more than we expected. There’s also a question of whether the government shutdown and resulting delay in collecting data might have made the results less reliable. It’s very disappointing that clearly avoidable actions by the government influenced consumer confidence and unnecessarily depressed December retail sales.”

Unemployment claims in the U.S. also rose this month by 4,000 to 239,000 and the four-week average, which is a more stable calculation, rose 6,750 to 231,750 – highest level since late January 2018, according to the Labor Department.

“We’ve written that hiring remains strong and employers remain confident,” Opportunity Washington concluded in its blog post. “But the news reminds us that this is a time of uncommon uncertainty (we’ll continue to believe it’s uncommon). At such a time, budget writers will want to preserve rainy day funds, be conservative in the projections of future revenue growth and be cautious about taking actions that can dampen job creation and investment.”

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How do you get there from here? Career Connect Washington

By Avista CEO Scott Morris and IBEW Local 77 Assistant Business Manager Mike Brown

It's sometimes hard to remember how hard the "What do you want to be when you grow up?" question is. The follow-up question is even harder: "How are you going to get there?"

We know that young people don't always have the answers, but they are curious and eager to explore their options. They want to learn about different careers and what mix of experience and classroom learning is needed to do those jobs. They are excited about their next steps, but also cautious about challenges like educational debt...

"Career-connected learning" is a broad term for programs that help students explore, prepare and start their careers. It helps kids get out of the classroom and try on different jobs and different industries, so when it's time to make big life decisions, they are better prepared to step up...

Career Connect Washington is a coalition of employers, unions, educators, state agencies and others who are trying to ensure that all students in the state have the chance to do career-connected learning.

Read the full guest column in The Spokesman-Review
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