Home Depot Inc., the largest U.S. home-improvement retailer, is among companies stepping up hiring. The largest U.S. home-improvement retailer said it plans to add more than 80,000 temporary workers ahead of its busiest season, about 14% more than a year ago, as a housing rebound spurs spending on remodeling and landscaping. Rival Lowe’s Cos. is boosting seasonal hiring by 13%.
Considering the 12.2 million Americans who were unemployed in December, the figures indicate there were about 3.4 people vying for every opening, up from about 1.8 when the recession began in December 2007.
Job generation in 2012 was strong enough to bring the U.S. unemployment rate down 0.7 percentage point to a four-year low of 7.8% in December. Employment picked up in the last three months of the year, when payrolls expanded by 603,000 workers.
Fed officials are waiting until the outlook improves before they tighten monetary policy. The central bank’s Federal Open Market Committee said in December it would hold its benchmark lending rate near zero as long as inflation isn’t forecast to rise more than 2.5% in one to two years and unemployment remains above 6.5%.
“With employment so far from its maximum level and with inflation currently running, and expected to continue to run, at or below the Committee’s 2% longer-term objective, it is entirely appropriate for progress in attaining maximum employment to take center stage in determining the committee’s policy stance,” Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellen said yesterday during a speech in Washington.
Yellen also said she believes high unemployment is the result of too little demand rather than a mismatch of workers’ skills with the needs of employers. The economy faces hurdles including low income expectations by households and fiscal restraint, she said.