More job openings, workers quitting are good signs for the unemployed

Associated PressJanuary 18, 2014 

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers advertised more jobs in November and more Americans quit, positive signs for millions who are unemployed and looking for work.

The Labor Department said Friday that job openings rose 1.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted 4 million, the most in 5½ years. And the number of people quitting increased 1.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted 2.4 million, a five-year high.

Job openings haven’t topped 4 million since March 2008, just a few months after the Great Recession began. Openings at that level are generally consistent with a healthy job market.

More workers quitting can also be a positive signal, because people usually quit when they either have a new job — typically for more pay — or are confident they can find one.

The data suggest the competition for jobs is getting a little bit easier. There were 2.7 unemployed workers for each available job in November, down from 6.7 just after the recession ended in July 2009. In a healthy economy the ratio is roughly 2 to 1.

More job openings and quits suggest greater opportunities for the unemployed. But those positive trends haven’t recently translated into additional hiring. Overall hiring ticked up just 0.2 percent in November to nearly 4.5 million.

The figures also follow a disappointing report on December job growth. The government last week said employers added just 74,000 jobs in December. That’s the fewest in three years and below an average gain of 214,000 in the previous three months.

The unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent, the lowest in more than five years. But the rate dropped mostly because more Americans gave up looking for work.

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