Business is coming in so fast and workers are in such high demand at AOW Associates Inc, an Albany, New York-based construction firm, that its chief financial officer hired a guy six weeks ago for a job that didn't exist.
"We keep our project management ads continuous, even if we are not looking to fill a particular role, and if someone does come along, we make a job for them," AOW CFO Nicki Armsby said in a recent interview. The company is not alone in looking for creative ways to deal with a U.S. labor shortage that, according to recent economic data and documents from the U.S. Federal Reserve, may be getting worse. Policymakers at the Fed, which holds its latest policy meeting this week, must now decide what weight to give to signs that the economy is reaching a point where wages, inflation and other laggard indicators may turn higher. Data on Friday showed U.S. employment costs rose in the first quarter at an annualized rate of 4 percent, continuing what JP Morgan economists view as a steady march higher since the unemployment rate fell below 5 percent in 2015. Investors appear to be betting on that scenario playing out. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note breached the 3 percent level last week for the first time in more than four years.
And labor shortages have been cited by analysts as being responsible for the growing backlogs for manufactured goods in recent supply manager reports. Add in the fiscal stimulus from the Trump administration's tax cuts and spending that is hitting the economy this year, and the higher prices for aluminum, steel and potentially other goods triggered by new import tariffs, and the tenor of upcoming Fed analysis could be poised to shift.
"Demand has stayed very strong," said Tim Fiore, who heads the Institute of Supply Management's manufacturing business survey committee. "There is plenty for a strong expansion ... Dig into the details and the employment side has clearly been constricting producers' ability to meet demand."
The Fed is not expected to raise interest rates at the end of its two-day policy meeting on Wednesday. It also is not releasing updated economic forecasts and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is not scheduled to hold a press conference.
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