Job Openings in U.S. Jump by Most in Six Months to Record

Job openings climbed to a record in July, rising by the most in six months and signaling a strong U.S. labor market as the third quarter began, a government report showed Wednesday.

Key Points

  • Number of positions waiting to be filled jumped by 228,000 to 5.87 million (forecast was 5.63 million), from 5.64 million in June, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS
  • Hiring increased to 5.23 million from 5.17 million; the hiring rate was unchanged at 3.6 percent
  • Some 2.98 million Americans quit their jobs, little changed from June; the quits rate remained at 2.1 percent
  • Layoffs fell to 1.58 million, the lowest since November 2013, from 1.62 million

Big Picture

An increase in job vacancies and stable hiring point to a healthy labor market at mid-year, following lackluster first-half economic growth. The data reinforce the narrative from the agency’s payrolls reports, which showed strong hiring in June and July. The number of Americans quitting their jobs, which is among the figures closely tracked by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as a sign of worker confidence, has stayed close to the highest level in more than a decade. At the same time, the churn in employment may have slowed in August as employers made fewer additions to staff and the participation rate stagnated.

Economists’ Takeaways

Progress in reducing job-market slack has “been pretty steady over the last few months, but you’re seeing a little bit better growth in the labor force,” Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York, said before the report.

“The strength of the consumer over the past year is evident in the industry breakdown of job openings,” Sam Bullard, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina, said in a research note before the report.

Other Details

  • There were 1.3 unemployed people vying for every opening in July, compared with 1.9 people when the recession began at the end of 2007
  • Manufacturing, retail trade, professional and business services, construction, leisure and hospitality were among industries posting more openings in July
  • In the 12 months through July, the economy created a net 2.5 million jobs, representing 62.5 million hires and 60 million separations
  • Although it lags the Labor Department’s other jobs data by a month, the JOLTS report adds context to monthly payrolls figures by measuring dynamics such as resignations, help-wanted ads and the pace of hiring
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