Job Openings in U.S. Climbed in November to Five-Month High

Job openings in the U.S. rose in November to the highest level in five months as companies looked past congressional wrangling over a package of tax increases and government budget cuts set to take effect this month.

The number of positions waiting to be filled climbed by 11,000 to 3.68 million from a revised 3.67 million in October, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Hiring was little changed and firings eased.

The pickup in openings lays the ground for the job growth necessary to sustain consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. Employers added workers and boosted wages last month even as they endured the budget battle in Washington.

“All indications are that the labor market’s improving,” Brian Jones, senior economist at Societe Generale in New York, said before the report. “I think we’re doing better.”

Employers added 155,000 workers in December and 161,000 in November, the Labor Department reported last week, as the world’s largest economy endured Sandy, the threat of port strikes and the Washington budget battle. Last month, the advance in hiring was accompanied by a bigger-than-projected gain in wages and a longer workweek that could give households the means to sustain spending.

The number of people hired was little changed at 4.32 million in November, keeping the hiring rate at 3.2 percent, today’s report showed.

Retailers, Restaurants

The increase in job openings last month was led by retailers and hotels and restaurants. Stores had 460,000 positions waiting to be filled in November as they geared up for the holiday shopping season, up from 374,000 the prior month. The accommodation and food-service industry had 435,000 openings compared with 394,000 in October.

The Labor Department said it attempted to contact businesses in the area most heavily damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The “very few” companies that didn’t respond were assumed to have closed and therefore had no openings, agency said.

Openings dropped at professional and business services and government agencies.

Firings, which exclude retirements and voluntary departures, decreased to 1.66 million in November from 1.67 million a month earlier.

Another 2.14 million people quit their jobs in November, up from 2.09 million in the prior month. That kept the total separations rate at 3.1 percent.

12-Month Change

In the 12 months ended in November, the economy created a net 1.9 million jobs, representing 51.7 million hires and about 49.9 million separations.

Today’s figures indicate there are about 3.3 people vying for every opening, up from about 1.8 when the recession began in December 2007.

Financial services companies are among those that continue to trim payrolls. Bank of America Corp., Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and UBS AG have announced more than 300,000 job cuts globally since the start of 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Morgan Stanley, the sixth-largest U.S. bank by assets, plans to eliminate about 1,600 jobs from its investment bank and support staff in coming weeks, a person familiar with the matter said yesterday. Citigroup Inc. last month said it will eliminate 11,000 jobs.

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