US job openings trending upward in new Labor Department report
Job openings in the U.S. rose to a two-year high in October, according to the Labor Department. The job openings report was good news in the wake of last week’s depressing jobs report in which the unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent. However, economists say the job openings report is preview of longer-term trends that could result in more hiring over the next few months.
The October job openings report
Job openings in October rose to 3.4 million, an increase from 3 million reported in September. The Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed that the 12 percent month-to-month increase reversed declines in the two previous months. October job openings reached the highest total since August 2008, when the financial markets were on the brink of collapse. An increase of 369,000 private sector job openings in October was the biggest since 2006. The JOLTS report showed that advertised job openings rose by about 1 million. That’s a 44 percent increase from the low point reached in July 2009, a month after the recession technically ended.
Job openings still swamped by jobless
Even though job openings increased by about 32 percent from October 2009, there were still 14.8 million people unemployed. Competition for jobs remains intense. The JOLTS report showed there were 4.4 people going after each October job opening. Even so, that number is improving from 4.9 people per job opening reported in September and is the best ratio since January 2009. Despite the gains, the hole blasted in employment by the recession is deep. On the CBS News program “60 Minutes” Sunday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said it could take up to five years before the unemployment rate returns to a “normal” rate of between 5 and 6 percent.
Good news for the job market
There may be a remote chance that the job openings report signals accelerated hiring that could shorten Bernanke’s estimate. There are economists who look at the JOLTS report as an indicator of hiring up to three months down the road. Even though job creation in November fell short of the most conservative estimates, an economist at Credit Suisse in New York told reporters that last month’s dismal jobs report looks like “a bump in the road.” The JOLTS report could be interpreted as a sign that the job market is on the verge of emerging from limbo.