Economy Watch: Job Openings Edge Up; Small Business Optimism, Vegas Home Sales Still Questionable

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' JOLTS summary found the quits rate steady, while The National Federation of Independent Business's index of Small Business Optimism dropped, and short sales in Vegas surpassed foreclosures.

As it always does during the week after the monthly jobs report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics did a followup called JOLTS — the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, which it released on Tuesday. The survey’s various measurements give a picture of how much churn there is in the labor market. The more people voluntarily leaving their jobs, for example, the more likely it is that companies are hiring more than they used to.

Unfortunately, the “quits rate,” which measures the number of people quitting jobs for one reason or another, stayed just about the same in May as in April. Quits are up when compared with the technical end of the recession: at 2.1 million in May, as opposed to 1.8 million in July 2009. But it’s cold comfort that people are leaving their jobs at only a little bit higher rate now than during the aftermath of such a great economic dislocation.

JOLTS also noted that there were 3.6 million job openings in May, up a little from April, when there were 3.4 million. The number of job openings offered by the U.S. economy has gradually been trending up, with May openings up about 18 percent year-over-year compared to May 2011.

Small Businesses Not Feeling So Optimistic

The National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses–a lot of retailers and real estate companies, for instance–reported on Tuesday that its index of Small Business Optimism dropped three points in June, falling to 91.4. The decline, according to the organization, was significant because it erased gains in the index made earlier this year.

Only one of the 10 index components improved, namely expected credit conditions (that’s something, anyway). The current inventory component was flat, and everything else declined. Labor market indicators and spending plans for capital equipment and inventories accounted for about 40 percent of the decline.

“All in all, this month’s survey was a real economic downer,” NFIB chief economist William Dunkelberg noted in a statement. “The economy has definitely slowed; job growth will be far short of that needed to reduce the unemployment rate unless lots of unemployed leave the labor force—no consolation.”

Short Sales Outpace Foreclosures in Vegas

It’s a milestone of sorts: The Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors said on Tuesday the number of residential short sales in the market has finally surpassed the number of properties sold out of foreclosure. For a market that’s been an epicenter of foreclosures, that’s notable. Banks finally seem to be encouraging short sales.

The percent of distressed sales–short sales and foreclosures put together–was still very high in the Vegas market, coming in at 62 percent of the total in June. On the other hand, that was down from 67.3 percent in May.

It was a slow slide for Wall Street on Tuesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 88.17 points, or 0.65 percent, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were down 0.81 percent and 1 percent, respectively.