U.S. Job Openings Return to Prerecession Levels

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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The number of job openings in the U.S. economy climbed to the highest level in seven years, becoming the latest labor-market gauge to recover ground lost during the recession.

Job openings rose to 4.5 million in April, according to the Labor Department's job-openings and labor-turnover survey. The rate of job openings rose to 3.1% in April from 2.9% in March, also near a seven-year high.

The pace of hiring has yet to recover, however. In April, 4.7 million workers were hired, the same number as in March. Before the recession, hires often exceeded 5 million a month. Some economists think unemployed workers lack the skills for many available openings or that employers are discriminating against the long-term unemployed.

Josh Zumbrun The Wall Street Journal Insurers Bolster Plans

Health insurers in several states are expanding the choice of doctors and hospitals in their health-law plans amid concerns about access to care.

"There have been quite a few network additions...and there are more to come," said Jeff Rideout, senior medical adviser to Covered California, the state's health-law marketplace. "We continue to ask the plans to expand their networks to meet the needs of the enrollees that we have."

CareSource, based in Dayton, Ohio, has added more than a half-dozen hospitals this year, and hopes to double the number it currently has to more than 50. Fidelis Care, a New York nonprofit focused largely on Medicaid, has added more than 4,500 providers, including 13 hospitals, this year. More hospitals and doctors have joined "as we've started to get more enrollment, and as we've shown that we are paying claims accurately and timely," said David Thomas, chief operating officer.

The insurers that are expanding their networks said they aren't responding to complaints. Instead, they said, the tweaks reflect more willingness by some health-care providers to join the new networks, which often pay them less than traditional employer plans, as well as adjustments to serve the specific populations who enrolled.

CareSource, for instance, said it added a children's hospital in Cincinnati because the average age of enrollees is 41 years old and many had families.

Anna Wilde Mathews The Wall Street Journal For Some, One Health Plan

Small employers in 18 states will offer only one health plan to workers when the Affordable Care Act's small-business exchanges open this fall, federal officials said.

The 2010 law called for new online insurance marketplaces, which were supposed to open last year, for small businesses to pick group plans to cover workers. Those exchanges were delayed a year, and federal officials say they will lack some functions when they open in November.

The federal health law also called for employees at small businesses to be able to choose from a range of plans on the exchanges. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is implementing the health law, said it is allowing states to limit workers' choices for one year as a transition.

Louise Radnofsky The Wall Street Journal Air-Route Competition

A government study finds relatively little decline in competition on U.S. air routes during a recent period of consolidation, in part crediting the expansion of discount carriers.

The Government Accountability Office report, requested by Congress, examined the effect on competition from 2007 to 2012, when mergers created today's Delta Air Lines, United Continental Holdings and Southwest Airlines.

On the 37 most-traveled U.S. routes, traversed by about 83 million fliers a year, the number of airlines providing nonstop or connecting service decreased to an average of 4.3 in 2012 from 4.4 in 2007, the GAO found. The report counted airlines with more than 5% of the market on the given routes. On the 9,379 smallest city pairs, also traveled by 83 million passengers, the average number of competitors decreased to three in 2012 from 3.3 in 2007.

Jack Nicas The Wall Street Journal World Cup? Not Impressed

As World Cup fans flock to Brazil, many investors are heading in the other direction, looking elsewhere in Latin America for opportunities.

"At this point, for us, Brazil is a show-me story," says Mark Eshman, chief investment officer at Sun Valley, Ohio- based ClearRock Capital, which manages $400 million. Mr. Eshman is watching the region carefully but with an eye on Latin America's other dominant player--Mexico.

Though Mexico's economy grew just 1.1% last year--about the same as Brazil this year--many are enthusiastic about it, thanks to reforms including a tax overhaul and opening energy markets to private companies.

Jorge Mariscal, emerging-markets chief investment officer at UBS Wealth Management, an arm of UBS AG, sees Latin America now as "the good, the bad and the ugly," with Brazil representing the "bad" and Mexico garnering the "good" moniker. ("Ugly" countries, in his view, include Venezuela and Argentina.)

Despite nearly full employment, Brazil's economy is growing at a sluggish 1% due to low productivity, a result of scant investment in areas such as infrastructure and housing, he says.

Daisy Maxey WSJ.com


  (END) Dow Jones Newswires
  06-14-142039ET
  Copyright (c) 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


This article appears in: US Markets , Economy , International


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