Job openings increased in April to 3.1 million, the highest level in 16 months, the Labor Department said. This is the most openings since December 2008, with private employers accounting for the increase. The Labor Department’s report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, follows a disappointing employment report Friday that found private employers added only 41,000 jobs in May and temporary census hiring accounted for 411,000 jobs.
The job opening increase “makes you a little more upbeat about the labor market,” said Michael Feroli, Chief U.S. Economist at JPMorgan Chase. Job openings have risen by approximately 740,000 since reaching the bottom in July 2009 at 2.3 million. However, they remain far below pre-recession levels of about 4.5 million openings per month.
The competition for jobs remains tough with 5 unemployed people, on average, for each job opening in April. That is down from 5.4 in the previous month, but well above pre-recession levels of 1.8 jobless workers per opening. The biggest increases in jobs were in the professional and business services, leisure and hospitality and education and health services.
The report also found the number of people who quit their jobs topped layoffs for the third straight month. This is a sign of confidence in the employment market as people are more willing to leave if they believe they can find a new job.
Other surveys also show that companies will increase hiring, though at a slow pace. Staffing company Manpower Inc. said Tuesday that its quarterly employment outlook found more employers are planning to hire in the July-to-September quarter than the preceding three months.