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U.S. Economy

On Election Day, A Weakish Signal for the Labor Market

Miami on July 5

Photograph by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Miami on July 5

Job openings and hiring were roughly flat in September, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Nov. 6. The somewhat weak report came as Americans were going to the polls to pick a president, with both candidates vowing to boost employment in the coming four years.

The government also reported that the number of people who quit their jobs in September was “little changed.” Workers tend to sit tight in their jobs when they’re worried that they won’t be able to find other work if they quit.

“The longer-term trends in the data look soft,” JPMorgan Chase economist Daniel Silver wrote in a note to clients.

The government’s best estimate showed job openings, hires, and quits all lower, but the swings weren’t big enough to be statistically reliable once adjusted for ordinary seasonal trends. Also, the numbers are slightly older than the October job data that the BLS released on Nov. 2. Payrolls increased by 171,000 in October, and the government revised upward its estimate of job growth in August and September.

At 3.56 million, the estimated number of job openings as of the end of September was 100,000 lower than in August, although it was 60,000 higher than a year earlier, the government said. Those are approximations based on a survey. Because of measurement imprecision, the BLS statisticians termed the level of job openings “essentially unchanged.”

Coy is Bloomberg Businessweek's economics editor. His Twitter handle is @petercoy.

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