U.S. Job Openings Remain Elevated in October, Near Record Level

Job openings in the U.S. remained elevated in October and employers’ job listings were revised up for the previous month, indicating robust demand for workers, a Labor Department report showed Wednesday.

Key Points

  • Number of positions waiting to be filled fell by 97,000 to 5.53 million (forecast was 5.5 million), from 5.63 million in September (revised from 5.49 million), according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS
  • Hiring decreased to 5.1 million from 5.12 million; hiring rate held at 3.5 percent
  • Some 2.99 million Americans quit their jobs, little changed from 3.05 million in Sept.; the quits rate remained at 2.1 percent
  • Layoffs were little changed at 1.52 million, near a record low

Big Picture

Following figures last week showing the economy added jobs at a steady pace in November, the high level of vacancies underscores the tightening of the labor market, as managers continue to resist firing workers. The quits rate remains near its high during this expansion, indicating that workers are feeling confident enough to leave their posts. That’s a key measure tracked by Federal Reserve policy makers, who are projected to increase the benchmark interest rate next week at the Federal Open Market Committee’s meeting.

Economists’ Takeaways

“We believe that labor markets have more than fulfilled the ‘further progress’ the committee was seeking for a December rate hike,” Michael Gapen, chief U.S. economist at Barclays Plc in New York, said in a research note before the job openings data. “Employment growth more than exceeds what most FOMC members find acceptable at this stage of the cycle.”

Other Details

  • Openings rose to a record in health care and social assistance and increased in trade, transportation and utilities; vacancies fell in professional and business services and construction
  • There were 1.4 unemployed people vying for every opening in October, compared with 1.9 people when the recession began at the end of 2007
  • In the 12 months through October, the economy created a net 2.5 million jobs, representing 62.6 million hires and 60.1 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

— With assistance by Jordan Yadoo

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