U.S. em­ploy­ers posted more jobs in Jan­uary

Num­ber of peo­ple who quit rose sharply, which could push up salaries.

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS -

Em­ploy­ers WASHINGTON — posted more open po­si­tions in Jan­uary com­pared with De­cem­ber and the num­ber of Amer­i­cans quit­ting jumped, trends that could push up wages.

Job open­ings rose 1.6 per­cent in Jan­uary to a sea­son­ally ad­justed 5.6 mil­lion, the La­bor Depart­ment said Thurs­day. While healthy, open­ings have fallen 1.5 per­cent year over year.

More than 3.2 mil­lion peo­ple quit their jobs in Jan­uary, the most in nearly 16 years. That is a sign of con­fi­dence in the job mar­ket, since work­ers typ­i­cally quit ei­ther when they have an­other job, or do not but are op­ti­mistic they can find one.

More quit­ting also boosts wages, be­cause most peo­ple quit for a new job at higher pay. It also in­di­cates that em­ploy­ers may be re­cruit­ing work­ers from other jobs by of­fer­ing big­ger pay­checks.

Even as job open­ings have fallen slightly in the past year, they re­main near the high­est lev­els on records dat­ing back to 2001. That could also push av­er­age wages higher: If em­ploy­ers are hav­ing trou­ble fill­ing jobs, they may be forced to pay more.

Fed­eral Re­serve Chair Janet Yellen reg­u­larly points to quit lev­els as a gauge of la­bor mar­ket health.

“There’s job se­cu­rity,” Yellen said in a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day. “We’re see­ing more peo­ple who are feel­ing free to quit their jobs, get­ting out­side of­fers, look­ing for other op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Yellen spoke after the Fed said it was lift­ing its short-term in­ter­est rate for the third time in 15 months.

To­tal hir­ing also jumped in Jan­uary, though that fig­ure re­mains be­low pre­re­ces­sion highs. Em­ploy­ers hired 5.4 mil­lion peo­ple that month, up 2.6 per­cent from De­cem­ber.

The gov­ern­ment said last week that em­ploy­ers added a net to­tal of 235,000 jobs, after a sim­i­larly healthy gain of 238,000 in Jan­uary. The un­em­ploy­ment rate fell one-tenth of a per­cent to 4.7 per­cent.

Those fig­ures are net gains after lay­offs, quits and re­tire­ments are sub­tracted from over­all hir­ing.

Thurs­day’s data comes from the Job Open­ings and La­bor Turnover sur­vey, or JOLTS. They are more de­tailed and pro­vide a fuller view of the job mar­ket.

Also Thurs­day, the U.S. La­bor Depart­ment said fewer Amer­i­cans ap­plied for un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits last week.

Ap­pli­ca­tions for job­less ben­e­fits slipped by 2,000 to 241,000 after claims had risen by 20,000 in the pre­vi­ous week, the La­bor Depart­ment said. Two weeks ago claims had fallen to a 44-year low of 223,000. The four­week av­er­age, which is less volatile, rose by 750 last week to 237,250.

Over­all, 2.03 mil­lion Amer­i­cans are re­ceiv­ing un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits, 8.2 per­cent lower than a year ago.

Em­ploy­ers added a solid 235,000 jobs in Fe­bru­ary, push­ing the un­em­ploy­ment rate down to 4.7 per­cent. That level is slightly bet­ter than the 4.8 per­cent job­less rate that the Fed­eral Re­serve con­sid­ers full em­ploy­ment.

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