Tuesday, November 8, 2011
By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER
The Associated Press3:06 p.m. Tuesday, November 8, 2011
WASHINGTON — Employers advertised more jobs in September than at any other point in the past three years. The increase suggests hiring could pick up in the next few months.
Competition for jobs is fierce. And many employers aren't rushing to fill some because they are worried about the strength of the economy.
Still, most economists say the increase in openings is a reassuring sign.
Nearly 3.4 million jobs were posted in September, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That's the most since August 2008, one month before the financial crisis intensified.
"Business confidence appears intact," said Alan Levenson, an economist at T. Rowe Price, "confirming ... that job growth is going to continue."
Job openings have rebounded from a decade low of 2.1 million in July 2009. But they are well below the 4.4 million advertised in December 2007, when the recession began.
Almost four years later, roughly 14 million people are unemployed. An average 4.2 unemployed workers were competing for each opening in September. That's slightly better than August, but it is still more than twice the 2 to 1 ratio that economists say is healthy.
Not Necessarily More Jobs
More openings do not necessarily mean more jobs. Even though job openings rose 22 percent in the past year, hiring has increased only 10 percent, the Labor Department's report shows.
Education and health care providers have boosted their openings 21 percent in the past year. Yet hiring in those fields has dropped. Retail job openings have soared more than 40 percent in the past year, but hiring has been flat.
U.S. employers remain extremely cautious. Modest growth over the summer helped calm recession fears. But the growth came after consumers spent more while earning less, a trend that economists fear can't be sustained.
And the economy remains vulnerable to shocks. Europe's debt crisis could intensify and throw the continent into a recession, which would slow U.S. exports and reduce growth. U.S. lawmakers are expected to sharply cut federal spending, which could mean fewer government jobs and less consumer spending.
"When you have a lot of uncertainty, an employer may choose to postpone their hiring plans," said Henry Mo, an economist at Credit Suisse.
Some employers are likely pickier about who they hire than they have been in the past, economists say. They have more choices with unemployment near 9 percent for the past two years.
Highly Skilled Workers Hard To Find
In some high-skill industries, such as engineering or information technology, companies could be having trouble finding workers with the right skills. Some economists say companies aren't offering high enough pay to attract workers they need or are unwilling to train applicants who aren't a precise fit.
The economy added 158,000 net jobs in September. Hiring slowed a bit in October, as employers added only 80,000 jobs, the fewest in four months. Even so, the unemployment rate dipped in October to a six-month low of 9 percent, from 9.1 percent, because more people said they found jobs.
And October may end up looking better if the government revises the job totals, as it did with the August and September figures.
The rise in openings suggests the year could end with even more hiring.
Businesses and governments say they posted 3.35 million job openings in September, a 7 percent increase over August, according to the Labor Department.
Tell that to someone who’s been out of a job for a year or two and has stood patiently in line after line at job fairs, and the reaction might be, “Oh yea, where are they?”
Competition remains stiff and part of the disconnect lies in the types of openings (many are in technology) and the lack of qualified applicants.
According to The Associated Press report on the openings, “nearly 14 million people were out of work in September, which means an average 4.2 unemployed workers were competing for each opening.”
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Atlanta Public Schools announces that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has taken the district off probation so it is no longer at risk of losing accreditation for its 12 high schools.
By Jaime Sarrio
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution4:33 p.m. Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Georgia students improved in three out of four subjects tested on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), but continue to trail the national average in most areas, according to results released Tuesday.
Known as the nation's report card, the NAEP is given to a sampling of fourth and eighth graders across the country and is one of the few exams offering a snapshot of how students compare from state to state.
Georgia students have shown considerable improvement since 1990, but still lag behind their peers nationally in every subject except fourth-grade reading. Still, state leaders consider the latest results good news because scores increased from 2009 in three of four subjects -- fourth-grade reading and math and eighth-grade reading.
"The fact that our students showed improvement on a test with a nationally set-cut score is encouraging and demonstrates that Georgia's students are making great strides in competing with the rest of the nation," State School Superintendent John Barge said in a statement.
Tougher Curriculum Caused Improvement
Georgia's improvement is attributed to the introduction of a tougher curriculum. Barge said he expects scores will continue to increase as the state rolls out a national curriculum know as the Common Core.
The test was given earlier this year to about 422,000 fourth-graders and 343,000 eighth-graders nationwide. Results are only available at the state level, although scores for 21 urban districts including Atlanta will be released later this year. Writing and science scores will be released in 2012.
Nationally, scores were up in every subject except fourth-grade reading, where they were flat. David Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board and a former Massachusetts commissioner of education, said the nation has been making substantial gains in math, while reading scores have been slower to improve.
"The improvement in mathematics achievement undoubtedly reflects the success of math instruction in our schools because math is almost exclusively a school subject taught almost entirely in math classes — although Sudoku and some computer games may be helping," he said. "It is quite different for reading, where the achievement that NAEP measures also reflects how much children read outside of school and the reading demands across the curriculum, not just in reading classes or English language arts."
By Jaime Sarrio
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution5:55 p.m. Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Atlanta Public Schools in no longer at risk of losing accreditation for its 12 high schools.
An "elated" school board announced Tuesday the Southern Associations of Colleges and Schools, the state's largest accrediting agency, has taken the district off probation. APS was downgraded to "advisement" status, meaning the agency will watch to ensure the district's progress is sustainable over the next year.
"We took this work very seriously," said board chairwoman Brenda Muhammad. "And the the Atlanta Board of Education has worked diligently and cohesively to reach this outcome. This is another indication Atlanta Public Schools is moving forward."
In January, the district was placed on probation largely due to infighting among school board members. The board was given six directives that pushed them to work together. Since then, the board has made a series of changes including electing a new chair, selecting a new superintendent, revising a critical policy around board leadership and overhauling an ethics panel designed to police the board's behavior.
School Board Praised
The board earned praise for changing its ways and for its ability to stick together, even in the midst of a widespread cheating scandal that toppled most of the district's top leadership. Encouraged by the changes, state school board members in July voted to let APS board members stay in office, despite a state law that allowed them to be removed.
After visiting the district in September and reviewing a detailed progress report, SACS determined the board completed four of the six required actions. But the agency still has concerns the board can sustain the progress once the threat of accreditation loss is lifted.
"Several interviewees expressed cautionary concern about whether the APS Board’s improved functioning would continue after the ‘bright lights' of SACS ... the Governor’s Office, the Mayor’s Office, and the State Board of Education have been extinguished. This issue of sustainability raises concern," the report said.
SACS officials ordered the board to develop a long-term plan to communicate with stakeholders and regain their trust, and ensure the board members continue to follow district policy. The board will have to report back to the agency in September 2012.
"These are not deficiencies," said Superintendent Erroll Davis. "The programs are in place, but they would like to see they are in place working over time."
Loss of Accreditation Would Have Devastated
The loss consequences of accreditation loss would have been "devastating" according to Davis. Students who graduate from unaccredited high schools may not be eligible for scholarships or for entry to certain colleges. Parents and students also expressed relief that the threat of accreditation loss was gone.
Cynthia Briscoe Brown, whose son and exchange student are both sophomores at North Atlanta High School, said she was “thrilled” to hear the SACS ruling Tuesday afternoon.
“I think it is entirely justified,” said Brown, who along with her husband serves as co-president of the North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools (NAPPS), which supports a cluster of eight schools in North Atlanta. “Those of us who have been watching the board for the last year and a half have seen a big improvements in how they relate to each other and how they direct policy.”