Job Openings in U.S. Rose in August to 3.2 Million

Job openings in the U.S. rose in August as more companies prepared to add staff amid signs demand was holding up, a government report showed.

Openings increased by 60,000 to 3.2 million, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The number of people hired dropped from the prior month and separations also decreased.

Companies added 75,000 jobs in September, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before the government’s monthly jobs report tomorrow, after a 67,000 gain in August. Faster job growth is needed to bring down the unemployment rate and spur consumer spending.

“Job openings versus losses have been moving in a positive direction,” Carl Riccadonna, a senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York, said before the report. “The labor market is healing. The trend is in place and I don’t think it’s getting derailed.”

Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to the lowest level in three months, another indication the labor market may be thawing, other figures from the Labor Department showed today.

Jobless claims dropped by 11,000 to 445,000 in the week ended Oct. 2, the fewest since July 10, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast or 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News projected 455,000 new claims last week. The total number of people receiving unemployment insurance decreased and those getting extended payments jumped.

Shares Fluctuate

Stocks fluctuated between gains and losses after the reports, depressed by shares of mining and energy companies as commodity prices retreated. The Standard and Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.2 percent to 1,158.2 at 11:17 a.m. in New York.

The rate of job openings held at 2.4 percent in August for a second month, according to today’s report. Companies in the professional and business services industries showed the biggest gain in jobs available, followed by government agencies and hotels and restaurants.

Compared with the 14.9 million Americans who were unemployed in August, the figures indicate there are about 4.7 people vying for every opening, up from about 1.8 when the recession began in December 2007.

The report helps provide insights into the dynamics behind the monthly employment and claims figures.

August Payrolls

Total payrolls fell by 54,000 in August, pulled lower by firings of temporary census workers, the Labor Department reported on Sept. 3.

The unemployment rate rose to 9.6 percent from 9.5 percent in July, as more people entered the workforce, the Labor Department report showed.

Employers took on 4.14 million workers in August, today’s report showed, down from 4.28 million the previous month. Total firings, which exclude those who left their jobs voluntarily and retirements, dropped to 1.83 million in August from 2.11 million a month earlier.

The level of dismissals was the lowest in four months, the best indication yet that the increase in jobless claims during August was an aberration. Workers trying to reapply for extended and emergency jobless benefits may have mistakenly filed initial claims, artificially inflating applications, John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics LLC in New York, said in a note to clients after the claims report.

President Barack Obama on July 22 signed into law a measure restoring unemployment benefits that had run out for some. The bill provided retroactive aid to those whose checks were cut off when benefits expired June 2, while extending through November a program offering up to 99 weeks of assistance.

Job Churning

In the 12 months ended in August, the economy created about 100,000 jobs, reflecting 50.2 million hires compared with 50.1 million separations, today’s report showed.

Companies planning to expand staff include Toys ‘R’ Us Inc., the world’s biggest toy retailer. The Wayne, New Jersey- based company said Sept. 28 it plans to hire about 45,000 employees to cope with demand during the holiday season.

The move is “essentially doubling” the domestic workforce, Wayne, the company said in a statement. About 10,000 of the positions will be available at the company’s 600 or so Toys ‘R’ Us Express temporary stores.

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