June 19 (Bloomberg) -- Job openings in the U.S. decreased in April by the most in almost four years, the latest sign that the labor market is cooling.
The number of open positions dropped by 325,000, the biggest decline since September 2008, to 3.42 million from 3.74 million the prior month, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Hiring slowed from the prior month and firings climbed.
The decrease in openings coincides with the slowdown in hiring seen in April and May, signaling employers are pulling back as the economy cools. The number of jobs available is down from an average 4.46 million in the two years before the recession began, showing the labor market continues to struggle.
“The most worrisome development is this big drop in hiring,” said Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit Group in New York. “If you have the outlook that things are getting little bit better, you eventually have to hire more people. But the fact that this is not happening -- that’s worrisome.”
Stocks climbed as the Federal Reserve began a two-day meeting to decide whether more monetary stimulus is needed to boost the economy. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 1 percent to 1,358.11 at 10:54 a.m. in New York.
The number of openings in April was the lowest since November.
Today’s U.S. jobs openings report helps shed light on the dynamics behind the monthly employment figures.
Payrolls climbed by 69,000 workers in May, less than the most-pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg News survey, after a revised 77,000 gain in April that was smaller than initially estimated, according to the June 1 data from the Labor Department. The jobless rate rose to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent.
The number of people hired declined to 4.18 million in April from 4.34 million the previous month, today’s report showed. The hiring rate fell to 3.1 percent, the lowest since July.
Professional and business services led the drop in job openings for the month, followed by manufacturers, retailers and government agencies.
A separate survey from the Institute for Supply Management on May 8 showed manufacturers projected employment will increase 1.4 percent for the rest of this year. Service companies predicted a 1.9 percent gain, according to the Tempe, Arizona-based group’s semiannual forecast.
About 2.09 million people quit their jobs in April, up from 1.93 million in March, before adjusting for seasonal changes, today’s report from the Labor Department also showed. After adjustments for seasonal changes, the number of quits fell to 2.07 million from 2.16 million.
The number of people fired climbed to 1.72 million from 1.65 million in March.
Companies looking to cut costs amid sluggish growth may add to the lot of unemployed. Verizon Communications Inc., the second-largest U.S. phone company, offered exit packages to 1,700 technicians and call-center workers this month, a move that may lead to hundreds of job cuts if enough employees don’t volunteer.
In the 12 months ended in April, the economy created a net 1.8 million jobs, representing 50.9 million hires and about 49.1 million separations, today’s report showed.
Considering the 12.5 million Americans who were unemployed in April, today’s figures indicate there are about 3.7 people vying for every opening, up from about 1.8 when the recession began in December 2007.
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