US job openings remain at mostly healthy level in December

AP News
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Posted: Feb 07, 2017 10:21 AM
US job openings remain at mostly healthy level in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of open jobs was mostly unchanged in December from the previous month, leaving openings at a healthy level.

The Labor Department said Tuesday job openings were flat at 5.5 million in December. Total hiring rose slightly to 5.25 million, while the number of people quitting fell.

The figures suggest that December was a mostly stable month for the job market, with many employers possibly waiting until the new year to step up hiring.

Last week's jobs report showed that employers stepped up hiring in January, adding 227,000 jobs, the most in four months. The unemployment rate ticked up to 4.8 percent from 4.7 percent, but the increase was mostly for a good reason: More Americans began looking for work, but not all immediately found jobs.

Last week's jobs figure is a net gain after layoffs, quits and retirements are subtracted from overall hiring.

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

The number of available jobs has risen 4.2 percent in the past year, while total hiring in the JOLTS report has actually fallen in the past 12 months.

That suggests businesses are having trouble finding the workers they need to fill their open positions. Some companies, including many manufacturers, say that many job applicants don't have the skills they need.

Many economists, however, argue that companies may have to pay more to attract better applicants. They also may have to do more training of prospective employees.

The rising number of openings in the past 12 months could force employers to offer bigger paychecks. Average hourly wages rose at a healthy pace in December from the previous year, then slipped back in January.

Job openings fell in construction, financial services, restaurants and hotels and in state and local government. They rose in manufacturing and retail trade.