Job Openings in U.S. Increased in September to 5.53 Million

  • Positions waiting to be filled reach second-highest on record
  • Openings rise in health care, professional services, retail

Job openings in the U.S. climbed in September to the second-highest on record, a sign the labor market continues to strengthen.

The number of positions waiting to be filled increased by 149,000 to 5.53 million from a revised 5.38 million in August, a report from the Labor Department showed Thursday. September openings were second only to July’s 5.67 million, which was the highest since records began in December 2000. The pace of hiring eased.

Companies are not only holding on to workers they already have but also seeking new ones amid strengthening U.S. demand for their goods and services. A tighter labor market may produce the type of wage pressure central bankers need to see as they mull raising interest rates as soon as next month.

“The labor market looks solid, and solid is good,” David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide Insurance in Columbus, Ohio, said before the report. “Businesses have the capacity to hire people if they can find people with the right skills.”

The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists projected 5.4 million openings in September after a previously reported 5.37 million in August. The rate of openings climbed to 3.7 percent in September from 3.6 percent.

Fed’s Yellen

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 the Labor Department’s other jobs figures by a month, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen follows the report as a measure of labor-market tightness and worker confidence.

The report showed job openings increased at professional and business services, retailers and health care providers. There was less availability in construction and manufacturing.

The number of people hired dropped to 5.05 million, while the hiring rate fell to 3.5 percent from 3.6 percent. The gauge calculates the number of hires during the month divided by the number who worked or received pay during that period.

Quits Rate

Some 2.72 million people quit their jobs in September, down from the prior month’s 2.77 million. The quits rate, which shows the willingness of workers to leave their jobs, held at 1.9 percent and compares with a 2 percent reading when the recession started at the end of 2007.

Total dismissals, which exclude retirements and those who left their job voluntarily, was little changed in September at 1.73 million, keeping the rate of firings at 1.2 percent.

There were about 1.4 unemployed people vying for every opening in September, compared with 1.8 when the 18-month recession began in December 2007, the figures show.

In the 12 months through September, the economy created a net 2.7 million jobs, representing 60.9 million hires and 58.2 million separations.

The report follows the October employment figures from the Labor Department, both an increase in hiring and stronger wage pressure. Payrolls climbed by 271,000 last month, the biggest increase this year, and the unemployment rate fell to 5 percent. Meanwhile average hourly pay rose 2.5 percent from a year earlier, the most since July 2009.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said last week that a stronger labor market and reduced financial market stress are among the factors supporting the case for the central bank to raise rates. The Fed’s next meeting is Dec. 15-16.

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