The good news on the jobs front continued as American employers put out a record number of help-wanted signs in April, signaling gains in hiring can be sustained.
The number of positions waiting to be filled increased by 267,000 to 5.38 million, the most in data back to December 2000, from 5.11 million in March, the Labor Department reported Tuesday in Washington. Openings were widespread among industries, including health care, retailers and providers of professional services.
As vacancies mount and unemployment wanes, employers will be pressured to boost wages to attract the most talented workers. The report contains some of the metrics Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen tracks to determine the health of the job market as policymakers discuss when to raise interest rates.
“It’s a tight labor market – it’s good for job seekers,” said Jeremy Schwartz, an economist at Credit Suisse in New York. “The labor market is continuing to do quite well, and even as we’re approaching full employment, payroll growth is not slowing down.”
The 267,000 increase in openings for April was the largest since March 2012. Vacancies in health care jumped by 100,000 to 910,000, while retailers sought 543,000 employees, almost 30,000 more than in March.
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, adds context to monthly payrolls figures by measuring dynamics such as resignations, help-wanted ads and the pace of hiring. Although it lags the Labor Department’s other jobs data by a month, Yellen follows the report as a measure of labor-market tightness and worker confidence.
Some 2.7 million people quit their jobs in April, little changed from March, Tuesday’s report showed. The quit rate, which was 2 percent when the recession started at the end of 2007, fell to 1.9 percent in April from 2 percent in March.
The hiring rate – the number of people who got new jobs divided by the number who worked or were paid – fell to 3.5 percent in April from 3.6 percent. Hires decreased to 5.01 million from 5.09 million, according to Tuesday’s figures.
The report follows figures last week that showed employers added 280,000 workers to payrolls in May, more than forecast, and the unemployment rate edged up to 5.5 percent from 5.4 percent as more Americans entered the workforce.
Meanwhile, the number of workers saying they are so discouraged by job prospects that they’ve given up looking dropped by 193,000 in May to 563,000, the fewest since October 2008, according to last week’s report from the Labor Department.