Job Openings Rise to 7-Year High, but Hiring Notches Scant Gains – Real Time Economics

The number of job openings in the U.S. economy climbed to the highest level in 7 years, even as the number of people being hired was little changed from recent months, according to the Department of Labor‘s monthly job openings and labor turnover survey, known as JOLTS.

Employers were seeking to fill more than 4.6 million jobs in May, up from 4.5 million the month before, according to the survey. The last time so many jobs were open was June 2007. The rate of hiring was little changed for the fourth month in  a row, with about 4.7 million workers starting new jobs.

The report aims to track the millions of Americans who quit a job, are laid off, or are hired for a new job each month. The survey serves as a supplement to the monthly employment situation report which was released last week and showed the unemployment rate dropping to 6.1%, the lowest level since September 2008.

The report has risen in importance since Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen identified it as an important guide to the health of the labor market. Ms. Yellen has said that she is watching to see when the rate of people voluntarily quitting their job returns to normal.

Slightly more than 2.5 million people voluntarily left their job in May, the most since mid-2008, but still less than during the strongest points of the economic expansion from 2001 to 2007.

The number of people quitting jobs each month collapsed during the recession, falling to 1.6 million quits a month in 2009 from 3.1 million in 2006, a decline of 47%.

The report continued the trend of recent months in which job openings increased and layoffs remain low. Both measures have now recovered to the levels that prevailed before the recession. Yet hiring and voluntarily leaving a job have yet to recover, another sign that the labor market has not yet returned to normal.



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