Economy Watch: Job Openings Static; Vegas Residential Market Inventory Shrinks; Moody’s Might Downgrade U.S. Debt

National job openings decreased in July.The Vegas residential market has shrinking inventory. And Moody's Investor Service said it might downgrade U.S. debt.
Courtesy of Flickr User Bludgeoner86

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) found that U.S. job openings decreased in July to 3.664 million, down slightly from 3.722 million in June. The number of job openings has been gradually inching up since the hight of the recession, with openings increasing about 9 percent compared to July 2011.

Over the 12 months ending in July, the hires rate was unchanged for total positions and total private positions, but increased for government positions. The hires rate was little changed in all industries over the year, but increased in state and local government, pointing to (at least) a slowing down in the contraction of government employment. The number of hires in July 2012 was 4.2 million, up from 3.7 million at the technical end of the recession in June 2009.

In July, the quits rate was unchanged for total positions, total private positions, and government positions. Quits are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee, and so the quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs. The number of quits was 2.2 million in July, up from 1.8 million at the technical end of the recession in June 2009.

Vegas Residential Market Sees Shrinking Inventory

The Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, which has long had the sad task of tracking the hardest-hit market in the country, reported on Tuesday that the total number of local residential properties — that includes single-family homes, condominiums and townhomes — sold in August was 3,688. That number is up from 3,572 in July but down from the near-record 4,693 total sales in August 2011.

But the more intriguing data point is the fact that number of available homes listed for sale without any sort of pending or contingent offer fell from the previous month and year. By the end of August, GLVAR reported 3,981 single-family homes listed without any sort of offer. That’s down 7.3 percent from 4,293 such homes listed in July and down a whopping 64.4 percent from one year ago. Inventories are shrinking.

The GLVAR also said that 43.7 percent of all existing local homes sold during August were short sales. That’s up from 40 percent in July and the highest short sale percentage GLVAR has ever recorded, which probably shows that both lenders and distressed borrowers are going for short sales if they can.

Moody’s Eyes U.S. Debt With Downgrading on Its Mind

Moody’s Investor Service said on Tuesday that it might downgrade U.S. debt if Congress does nothing about the “fiscal cliff” before the end of this year. That’s colorful shorthand for when taxes will rise precipitously and federal spending will drop precipitously, at roughly the same time. Those members of Congress who bothered to comment on the matter scoffed at the prospect.

“If those negotiations lead to specific policies that produce a stabilization and then downward trend in the ratio of federal debt to GDP over the medium term, the rating will likely be affirmed and the outlook returned to stable,” Moody’s said in a statement. “If those negotiations fail to produce such policies, however, Moody’s would expect to lower the rating.”

Wall Street had a mildly up day, waiting for the German constitutional court to rule on the legality of German bailouts to the EU, and for word of QE3 from the Fed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 69.07 points, or 0.52 percent, while the S&P 500 was up 0.31 percent and the Nasdaq broke even.