The employment slowdown has beenattributed to a range of factors, from the trade war with China totrade tensions and worker shortages. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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For the first time in 10 years, an even balance of businessesreport gaining and losing employees—indicating that job growth might be on the way down from itspeak.

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So finds the National Association for Business Economics'fourth-quarter business conditions survey, says Reuters, adding that the NABE reportfollows a January government report saying that job openings inNovember fell by the most in more than four years.

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The survey, conducted between December 23 and January 8.reflects conditions in the fourth quarter and the near-termoutlook. Drops in employment took place in the services,goods-producing, transportation, utilities, information, andcommunications industries. Gains occurred in the finance,insurance, and real estate sectors.

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Related: Is our labor market not quite as healthy as itappears?

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"For the first time in a decade, there are as many respondentsreporting decreases as increases in employment at their firms thanin the previous three months," said Megan Greene, NABE businessconditions survey chair. "However, this may have been due todifficulty finding workers rather than a pullback in demand."

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While still "solid," the report says, job growth momentum hasslowed from its breakneck pace at the end of 2018 and early2019.

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In August of last year, the government estimated that theeconomy created 501,000 fewer jobs in the 12 months through March2019 than previously reported. That's the largest downward revisionin the employment level in 10 years—suggesting that during thatperiod, job growth averaged not 210,000 per month but more like170,000 per month. In addition, economists expect job gains afterMarch 2019 could also be revised lower.

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The employment slowdown has been attributed to a range offactors, from the trade war with China to trade tensions and workershortages. The percentage of companies reporting shortages inunskilled labor has increased "significantly," while almost halfcited shortages of skilled workers.

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Greene added, "While most respondents suggest their firms havenot felt much impact from the tariffs and countermeasures over thepast year, respondents from goods-producing firms report theircompanies have experienced negative sales and higher costs."

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Still, businesses appear to be more optimistic about 2020, with30 percent expecting the economy to grow between 2.1–3.0percent—compared with just 20 percent back in October.

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