Economy Watch: Americans Still Pessimistic About Economy; Number of Job Openings Down

A recent survey of Americans found that most are still relatively pessimistic about the state of the U.S. economy. The number of job openings dropped month over month.

The Pew Research Center reported last week that despite falling unemployment and various other improving economic metrics, a recent survey of Americans found that most people are still relatively pessimistic about the state of the U.S. economy, a belief that tends to depress consumer activity. For instance, 65 percent of respondents say jobs in their community are difficult to find — down from the record levels seen in early 2010, but still well above pre-recession levels. Only 27 percent say jobs are plentiful.

The public is evenly split on the question of whether the economy will be better or worse in the near future. Some 24 percent say that economic conditions will be worse in the next 12 months, while 25 percent say it will be better. Nearly half (49 percent) predict little change.

As for the pace of the economic recovery since the worst of the recession, a clear majority – 66 percent — say they believe that the economy is in fact recovering. But the catch is that they also say that it isn’t recovering strongly. Some 26 percent say the economy isn’t recovering at all, while a mere 6 percent believe the economy is recovering strongly.

Number of Job Openings Edges Down 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that there were 4 million job openings on the last business day on March, down from 4.1 million at the end of February. With a total of 9.8 million unemployed, that’s still more than two job-seekers for each job. The hires rate (3.4 percent) and separations rate (3.2 percent) were unchanged in March, according to the BLS.

In March, the quits rate was unchanged at 1.8 percent for the total employment market; that overall rate includes quits in the private sector (2 percent) and government (0.6 percent), neither of which budged for the month. The quits rate is an indicator of the health of the jobs market because it reflects the willingness of employees to quit their jobs for one reason or another, something workers are less inclined to do when the job market stinks.

Unsurprisingly, the quits rate dropped dramatically during the worst years of the recession. Since then, the rate has improved somewhat, but at 1.8 percent it’s still below pre-recession levels, which were typically 2 percent or higher.

Wall Street ended Friday on a positive note, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 32.37 points, or 0.2 percent. The S&P 500 was up 0.15 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.5 percent.