The number of job openings in the U.S. economy climbed to the highest level in seven years, becoming the latest gauge in the labor market to recover the ground its lost during the recession.
Job openings climbed to 4.5 million in April, according to the Labor Department‘s report on job openings and labor turnover, or JOLTS. The rate of job openings climbed to 3.1% in April from 2.9% in March, also near a seven-year high. In this month’s report the hiring and layoff rates were little changed.
During the 18-month recession, which ran from December 2007 to June 2009, the rate of hiring and job openings collapsed while the rate of layoffs surged. The rate of layoffs declined during 2009 and 2010 as the economy regained its footing and has recovered to its pre-recession levels.
Though layoffs have slowed, the rate of hiring in the economy has yet to recover. In April, 4.7 million workers were hired on to new jobs, the same number as in March. Prior to the recession, the level of hiring was often over 5 million a month.
The U.S. economy is characterized by its churn, with millions of Americans switching jobs every month. In a healthy economy the level of job openings, job hiring and voluntary job separation all rise. The labor turnover survey is closely watched by officials at the Federal Reserve for signs that the labor market is nearing complete recovery. Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen has pointed to the rate of voluntary quitting in the report as a sign that workers are gaining enough confidence in the economy to take the risk on a new employer.
The quit rate was little changed in this weeks report. with 2.5 million Americans voluntary leaving their job in April, the same rate as in March.
A separate Labor Department report on Friday showed the economy has at last recovered all the jobs lost during the recession, with the total level of employment across the U.S. climbing to a new high. The unemployment rate, still at 6.3%, remains well above its level from before the recession and other barometers of labor market health — such as the participation rate, showing the number of people either working or looking for work, or the number of part-time workers who would like full-time work — remain depressed.Original post via wsj.com