The number of hires by U.S. employers in July reached the highest level since 2007 and job openings hovered near their highest level in 13 years, the latest sign of improvement in U.S. labor markets.
Employers hired some 4.9 million workers in July, the highest level since December 2007, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Employers reported 4.7 million openings in July, roughly the same as in June, which was at a 13-year high.
In July, there were around 2.1 unemployed workers for every job opening, up slightly from two in June, but down from three workers per opening one year earlier. There were nearly 6.5 unemployed workers for every opening at the depth of the recession in 2009. Between 2004 and 2006, the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings averaged around 1.9.
Tuesday’s report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, offers the latest sign of how job markets have firmed up more than five years after the official end of the 2007-09 recession. It tracks the millions of Americans who are laid off from, hired for or quit a job every month.
The survey supplements the Labor Department’s monthly employment report, which last week showed that the unemployment rate in August fell to 6.1%, matching the lowest level since September 2008. The report showed that the number of Americans looking for work fell slightly, dropping the labor force participation rate to 62.8%, matching a 36-year low.
Tuesday’s “Jolts” report has gained more attention since Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen identified it as an important signpost for the health of the job market, particularly because higher levels of people voluntarily quitting their job can indicate greater confidence in labor markets.
The report showed that the level of workers who quit their jobs was up slightly in July to a six-year high. The share of workers that have voluntarily quit their jobs has hovered at 1.8% for six consecutive months. The hires rate, at 3.5% in July, matched its highest level in six years.
The number of job openings in July stood around 8% above the level from December 2007, when the last recession was deemed to have officially began. But the number of employees hired was still 3% below that level and the number of employees who voluntarily quit was 11% below the December 2007 mark.
One question now is whether wage growth will begin to pick up as the amount of slack in the labor market falls. Friday’s employment report showed that average hourly wages rose 2.1% in August from one year earlier, but wages of nonsupervisory workers were up 2.5%, the largest annual increase since 2010.
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