Job openings in the U.S. climbed in October to a four-month high, indicating the labor market is on the mend.
The number of positions waiting to be filled rose by 128,000 to 3.68 million from a revised 3.55 million the prior month, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Hiring also increased.
The pickup in openings lays the ground for the job growth needed to sustain consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. At the same time, the lack of stronger employment prospects and a jobless rate that remains elevated help explain why Federal Reserve policy makers, meeting today and tomorrow, are weighing additional easing to spur growth.
Theres improvement, Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moodys Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said before the report. Even so, the progress on payrolls is nothing to be excited about, and the Fed is taking aim at the high unemployment rate, he said.
Todays report helps shed light on the dynamics behind the monthly employment figures.
The job market withstood the impact of superstorm Sandy last month, Labor Department figures showed on Dec. 7. Payrolls rose by 146,000 in November following a revised 138,000 in October that was less than initially estimated. The median estimate of economists in a Bloomberg survey called for an 85,000 advance. Private payrolls, which exclude government agencies, grew by 147,000 after a revised gain of 189,000.
The jobless rate dropped to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent, reflecting a pickup in the number of people leaving the labor force, the Labor Department also reported last week.
Todays report showed job openings in the Northeast were up 8,000 in October, while hiring dropped 101,000. Superstorm Sandy swept ashore in the region on Oct. 29.
In the U.S., the number of people hired rose to 4.34 million in October, pushing up the hiring rate to 3.2 percent from 3.1 percent, todays report showed.
Job openings in construction, manufacturing, the leisure and hospitality industry and retailers contributed to the pickup in available employment. Openings in education and health services cooled.
Considering the 12.26 million Americans who were unemployed in October, todays figures indicate there are about 3.3 people vying for every opening, up from about 1.8 when the recession began in December 2007.
Total firings, which exclude retirements and those who left their job voluntarily, decreased to 1.66 million from 1.73 million a month before.
About another 2.07 million people quit their jobs in October, up from 1.96 million in the prior month. That drove the total separations rate up to 3.1 percent.
In the 12 months ended in October, the economy created a net 1.9 million jobs, representing 51.7 million hires and about 49.8 million separations.
Companies reducing staff include Citigroup Inc. The New York-based bank announced on Dec. 5 that it will cut more than 11,000 jobs and pull back from some emerging markets to drive down costs as revenue dries up.
Employment in November may have gotten a lift as businesses stepped up hiring for the holidays.