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Available jobs number hits all-time high as employers struggle to find workers

A construction laborer watches as supplies are lifted up on a new residential building in New York City. The United States Department of Labor states that there are a record number of jobs currently available in the United States, many of which are in the construction and manufacturing sectors. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

According to the United States Department of Labor, a record 6.17 million jobs were available  nationwide in July, reflecting a continuing trend that may help to break wage stagnation that has plagued the economy in recent years.

July 2016 saw the previous high for available jobs, at 5.6 million. For reference, at the height of the 2009 recession, there were only 2.2 million jobs available nationwide, according to Labor Department statistics.

What is causing the glut?

The official government report doesn't break down the causes for the rise of available jobs, but experts agree that it is likely due to some combination of low unemployment and a lack of workers who are properly trained to do jobs in certain sectors. A report released last week by the Federal Reserve reported "worker shortages in numerous industries, most notably in manufacturing and construction." The report noted that "firms in the Atlanta, St. Louis, and Minneapolis Districts said that they had turned down business because they could not find the necessary workers. Many Districts indicated that businesses were having difficulty filling openings at all skill levels."

Is this good or bad news for the economy?

Experts disagree about the particulars of the net economic effect of the growing number of available jobs. As the Federal Reserve report notes, in the short term, many companies will suffer because they are simply not able to perform profitable jobs. On the other hand, wage stagnation has been an ongoing problem for decades, and perhaps some measure of desperation will encourage employers to raise workers' real wages.

So does this mean I should expect my wages to go up?

It probably depends on what job sector and part of the country you are in. The Federal Reserve report notes that as of yet, employers have still been hesitant to offer increased wages in order to attract workers, noting that "the majority of Districts reported limited wage pressures and modest to moderate wage growth." However, according to the report, some areas of the country (Dallas and San Francisco were singled out) have begun experiencing real wage growth in response to labor pressures. Presumably, if the trend continues, other areas of the country may begin to see some wage relief as well.

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