Job openings in the U.S. climbed to an almost seven-year high in April as employers sought more workers to help manage stronger demand in a rebounding economy.
The number of positions waiting to be filled in the U.S. rose by 289,000 to 4.46 million in April, the highest since September 2007, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The pace of firing also rose.
The figures, which are among nine labor-market measures monitored by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, corroborate other data that show further improvement in the job market. Payrolls have climbed by an average almost 214,000 workers a month so far in 2014 compared with about 204,000 at the same point last year.
“Job openings are a measure of the demand for labor, so in general, you like to see a rising trend,” said Ryan Wang, an economist at HSBC Securities USA Inc.. “There’s been improvement in the labor turnover figures and business surveys also suggest that conditions are gradually improving.”
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, adds context to monthly payrolls data by measuring dynamics such as resignations, help-wanted ads and the pace of hiring. Although it lags other jobs data by a month, the figures are tracked by Yellen as a measure of labor-market tightness and worker confidence.
Today’s figures showed the number of people hired was little changed at 4.71 million in April, keeping the hiring rate at 3.4 percent, compared with an average 2.8 percent during the previous expansion. The gauge calculates the number of hires during the month divided by the number of employees who worked or received pay during that period.
Job openings increased at manufacturers, leisure and hospitality companies, retailers and professional and business service providers. They fell at construction firms.
Some 2.47 million people quit their jobs in April, up from 2.46 million the prior month. The quits rate, which shows the willingness of workers to leave their jobs, held at 1.8 percent in April, down from a 2.1 percent reading when the recession started almost six years ago.
The data provide a glimpse “of the health of the economy,” Yellen said at a March 19 press conference at the conclusion of a two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting.
“When workers are scared they won’t be able to get other jobs, they show a reduced willingness to quit their jobs,” Yellen said. “Quit rates now are below normal pre-recession levels, but on the other hand, they have come up over time, and so we’ve seen improvement.”
As Daniel Culbertson, 28, looked for new jobs in the economics field, he used the job-posting search engine Indeed.com to wade through opportunities online. His search ended the same place it began when he found a position as an economic research analyst with Indeed in Austin, Texas. He started yesterday.
“I had a pretty good temperature of how the labor market was,” said Culbertson, who left a job at another research firm for his new position. “I wouldn’t have been surprised if it took a little longer given the current economic climate. It was certainly easier than when I graduated from undergrad in 2008, when the economy really took a downturn.”
Dismissals, which exclude retirements and people who quit voluntarily, rose to 1.65 million from 1.64 million in March.
In the 12 months ended in April, the economy created a net 2.2 million jobs, representing about 55.1 million hires and 52.8 million separations.
Today’s figures indicate there are about 2.2 people vying for every opening, up from about 1.8 when the last recession began in December 2007.
Employment data released last month showed payrolls pushed past their pre-recession peak in May, with a 217,000 advance in hiring following a 282,000 gain in April. It marked the fourth consecutive month employment increased by more than 200,000, the first time that’s happened since early 2000.
Fed officials are watching the labor market as they get closer to completing their bond-purchase program later this year and start considering the timing of the first interest-rate increase since 2006. The Fed’s Open Market Committee has pared its monthly asset-buying to $45 billion and said further reductions in measured steps are likely.