Job openings in the U.S. were little changed in January, capping the strongest two months in more than three years, a signal businesses remain confident about the economic expansion.
The number of positions waiting to be filled totaled 3.46 million, down from a revised 3.54 million in December that was higher than previously estimated, the Labor Department said today in a statement posted on its website. The back-to-back reading was the highest since mid-2008.
Better job prospects may lure more people into the labor market, helping restore some of the 5.3 million jobs yet to be recovered after the recession. February marked the third consecutive month with payroll growth above 200,000, Labor Department data showed last week.
“Employment begets income, income begets spending and spending begets more employment,” Carl Riccadonna, a senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York, said before the report. “We’re at the point now where a virtuous cycle has begun, and any additional employment gains serve to strengthen that feedback loop.”
The number of people hired fell by 30,000 and the number of workers fired decreased by 39,000, today’s job openings report also showed. Separate figures today said the unemployment rate declined in 45 states in January, while rising only in New York.
Job openings at professional and business services decreased by 56,000 in January, while they increased 33,000 in manufacturing industries.
Construction showed a 4,000 increase in openings. Retail trade posted a 6,000 decrease, while transportation and utilities had a 20,000 drop. Government vacancies were unchanged in January.
Payrolls rose in February by 227,000 after a 284,000 gain the prior month, Labor Department figures showed on March 9.
Employers took on 4.16 million workers in January, according to today’s job openings report. Total firings, which exclude retirements and those who left their jobs voluntarily, decreased to 1.65 million from 1.69 million a month before.
About 1.97 million people quit their jobs in January, representing about 50 percent of all separations, down from 2 million in December.
Last week’s employment report showed the jobless rate held at 8.3 percent in February, a three-year low, even as 476,000 more workers sought employment.
In the 12 months ended January, the economy created a net 2 million jobs, representing about 50.2 million hires, compared with about 48.3 million separations.
Considering the 12.8 million Americans who were unemployed in January, today’s figures indicate there were 3.7 people vying for every opening, compared with about 1.8 when the recession began in December 2007.
The other Labor Department report today showed payrolls increased in 37 states as joblessness decreased in a majority of states.
Joblessness decreased most in Mississippi and Missouri, while workers in Nevada faced the highest rate in the country at 12.7 percent.
Texas added 67,200 jobs followed by New York 44,600 to lead the country in job creation. Florida led job reductions with 38,600.
California and Rhode Island both had 10.9 unemployment rates, tied for second after Nevada, the Labor Department said today.
The jobless rate in North Dakota was 3.2 percent, the lowest in the nation, down 0.1 percentage point from December.
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