U.S. job openings grew more than expected in February, hitting a six-year high, as companies moved to hire in order to tap into the improving consumer demand.
Job openings, a gauge of the demand for labor, surged 299,000 in February to 4.17 million, the U.S. Labor Department reported in its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) today. This is the highest level so far since January 2008.
However, the number of individuals leaving their jobs and the rate of hiring remained slightly unchanged. The number of Americans who quit their jobs grew for the first time in three months in what is a show of confidence in the job market.
About 2.38 million people left their jobs in February, slightly up from 2.37 million in January. The quits rate was 1.7 percent, which is still below the 2 percent recorded before the beginning of the economic recession at the end of 2007.
The figures are part of the nine labor-market measures that are closely monitored by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. The Fed is relying on increased hiring to stimulate consumer spending, which contributes 70 percent of the U.S. economy.
“Everything is pointing to an improving labor market, which the Fed obviously wants to see,” Jennifer Lee, a Toronto-based senior economist at BMO Capital Markets told Bloomberg. “But they want to see much more improvement in the labor markets before they consider the economy is healthy again.”
Dismissals, which exclude voluntary quits and retirements, plunged to 1.62 million. This was the lowest level in three months, down from 1.7 million in January.
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