U.S. Job Openings at Eight-Month High

An eight-month high in March job openings and a pickup in quits indicate the U.S. labor market continues to tighten, a Labor Department report showed.

Highlights of JOLTS Report (March)
  • Positions waiting to be filled rose by 61,000 to 5.74 mln (forecast was 5.73 mln), from 5.68 mln in February (revised from 5.74 mln)
  • Hiring edged up to 5.26 mln from 5.25 mln; the hiring rate held at 3.6%
  • 3.12 mln Americans quit their jobs, up from 3.04 mln in the previous month; the quits rate held at 2.1%

Key Takeaways

The report gives a glimpse into a weaker-than-expected reading for payrolls in March, when the reading was partly depressed by a snowstorm that slammed the Northeast during the survey week. While a high number of openings shows companies are still willing to hire, managers are having trouble finding skilled and experienced labor to fill open positions. A subdued level of layoffs shows they are choosing to hold onto the staff they have instead. A tightening labor market could translate to a breakout in wages after months of lackluster growth. An elevated number of people quitting their jobs shows that workers are confident enough of finding better wages elsewhere.

Economist Views

“People quit their jobs when higher wages are available elsewhere,” said Joseph Lavorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York, said in a note before the report. “In Yellen’s view, an increasing quits rate indicates greater worker confidence in the labor market.”

Other Details

  • There were 1.3 unemployed people vying for every opening in March, compared with 1.9 people when the recession began at the end of 2007
  • Manufacturing and business services were among industries posting greater openings
  • In the 12 months through March, the economy created a net 2.3 million jobs, representing 62.9 million hires and 60.5 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 providing statistics including resignations, help-wanted ads and the pace of hiring
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