The slow growth and turmoil have raised fears that the U.S. economy could enter another recession. Some economists put the odds as high as 40 percent.
The latest sign of a weak job market came Wednesday, when the Conference Board said its index of online help-wanted ads fell by 1.1 percent to 3.95 million. Openings have fallen by about 500,000 in the past six months, the group said, after jumping by more than 750,000 in the first three months of the year.
Instead of hiring, companies are spending on new equipment. A key measure of business investment plans rose 1.1 percent in August, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Companies ordered more machinery, computers and communications equipment.
That’s a good sign, because it shows that businesses are sticking with their investment plans, despite recent signs of economic weakness.
Last week, the Federal Reserve took its latest step to boost the U.S. economy. It said it will swap $400 billion of short-term Treasury securities into longer-term notes and bonds. The central bank said it also will reinvest the proceeds from its maturing mortgage-backed securities into new mortgage-backed bonds. Both steps should reduce mortgage rates.