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U.S. job openings jump to nearly 7.5 million in March

UPDATED: Tue., May 7, 2019

Signs for employment opportunities are posted at an exit ramp off of Interstate 79 in Zelienople, Pa., on March 1, 2019. (Keith Srakocic / AP)
Signs for employment opportunities are posted at an exit ramp off of Interstate 79 in Zelienople, Pa., on March 1, 2019. (Keith Srakocic / AP)
By Christopher Rugaber Associated Press

WASHINGTON – U.S. employers advertised almost 7.5 million jobs at the end of March, a solid figure that signals hiring will likely remain strong in the months ahead.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that job openings rose 4.8% from the previous month, while the number of people quitting their jobs slipped. There are now 1.2 million more open jobs than there are unemployed Americans, a dynamic that suggests businesses will have to keep raising pay to attract and retain the workers they need.

The figures underscore the ongoing strong demand for labor that exists among U.S. companies as the recovery nears the end of its 10th year. On Friday, the government said employers added a surprisingly high 263,000 jobs in April, while the unemployment rate fell to a nearly 50-year low of 3.6%.

Job openings jumped in construction, shipping and warehousing, health care, and a category that mostly includes restaurants and hotels.

Tuesday’s report, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, tracks the number of available jobs, as well as total hiring, quits, and layoffs. Since the report began tracking the data in December 2000, there were always more unemployed people that open positions, until 13 months ago. That’s when jobs outnumbered people for the first time.

Total hiring has not increased as much as job postings have, which suggests employers are struggling to fill jobs given the dwindling number of those out of work.

Job openings have risen 8.6% in the past year, while total hiring in the JOLTS report has barely increased.

JOLTS tracks overall, or gross hiring, while the monthly jobs report calculates a net figure.

Separately, more quits are typically a sign of a healthy job market, as most workers leave a job when they have another one lined up, usually at higher pay.

Quits fell 1.1% in March from February to 3.4 million, but that is still above last year’s figure. More quitting can also encourage employers to pay more, to discourage their workers from leaving.

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