Job Openings in U.S. Unexpectedly Decreased in October

Job openings in the U.S. unexpectedly dropped in October, while the rate of hiring held steady.

The number of positions waiting to be filled decreased by 151,000 to 5.38 million, a report from the Labor Department showed Tuesday. Even with the decline in October, openings are hovering just below July’s 5.67 million, which was the highest since records began in 2000.

The pace of job openings may start to moderate with the economy approaching maximum employment, as companies fill vacancies with skilled and experienced workers. A steady increase in the number of help-wanted signs since the end of 2013 underscores an improving job market that gives Federal Reserve policy makers reason to raise their benchmark interest rate.

Job openings “peaked over the summer and have been moving more or less sideways since then,” said Kevin Cummins, an economist at RBS Securities Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut. “From the labor market situation, the Fed has got that box checked with regard to raising rates, and this report certainly doesn’t stand in the way.”

The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists projected 5.5 million openings in October.

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

Factory Jobs

The report showed job openings fell at manufacturers, business-service providers and retailers. They increased in the construction industry and at restaurants.

While the number of people hired crept up to 5.14 million from 5.08 million, the hiring rate held at 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.

Some 2.78 million people quit their jobs in October. That kept the quits rate, which shows the willingness of workers to leave their jobs, at 1.9 percent. When the recession started at the end of 2007, the rate was 2 percent.

Fewer Dismissals

Total dismissals, which exclude retirements and those who left their job voluntarily, decreased to 1.67 million from 1.79 million in September.

There were about 1.5 unemployed people vying for every opening in October, compared with 1.8 when the 18-month recession began in December 2007, the figures show.

In the 12 months ended in October, the economy created a net 2.7 million jobs, representing 61 million hires and 58.3 million separations.

The JOLTS report is a month behind the latest employment figures, which showed payrolls climbed by 211,000 in November, according to figures from the Labor Department. The increase was on the back of a 298,000 gain employment gain in October that was the biggest this year. The unemployment rate held at a seven-year low of 5 percent.

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