U.S. job openings rebounded in October, exceeding the number of unemployed workers by one million, indicating demand for workers was strong before November’s slowdown in payroll gains.
The number of positions waiting to be filled rose by 119,000, to 7.08 million, after a downwardly revised 6.96 million in the prior month, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, released by the Labor Department on Monday.
The "quits" rate fell to 2.3 percent from 2.4 percent, the first decline since January, as the number of Americans voluntarily leaving their jobs declined to 3.51 million.
The number of openings is the second-highest on record, reinforcing the view that the trend of employment is strong enough to keep absorbing slack, though the November payrolls report on Friday showed the job market softened a bit. Even with the decline in the quits rate, the results indicate workers are still willing to voluntarily leave because they’re confident of finding better employment or benefits elsewhere.
The rate is closely watched by Federal Reserve policy makers as they monitor for signs of upward pressure on worker pay that may feed overall inflation.
Although it lags the Labor Department’s other jobs data by a month, the JOLTS report adds context to monthly employment figures by measuring dynamics such as resignations, help-wanted ads and hiring. Job postings exceeded the number of unemployed people by about 1 million, close to the highest in records back to 2000. That’s another positive sign for wages, which are finally picking up amid employers’ reports of a shortage of skilled workers.
The November jobs report last week showed average hourly earnings rose 3.1 percent from a year earlier for a second month, the best results since 2009.
Hiring increased to 5.89 million in October, bringing the hiring rate up to 3.9 percent from 3.8 percent, in line with the stronger job gains during the month.
Together with subdued firings, the run of steady hiring has helped push down the unemployment rate to the lowest since 1969. Layoffs declined to 1.69 million, a three-month low.
Job openings increased in manufacturing, construction, real estate, information and retail. Vacancies declined in transportation, warehousing and utilities; and in professional and business services.