Job openings climb to highest level since 2001

December 9, 2014

WASHINGTON (12/10/14)--The number of open jobs in the United States climbed to 4.83 million in October from 4.69 million in September, according to the Department of Labor's job openings and labor turnover survey (JOLTS), released Tuesday ( Dec. 9).

Year-over-year, job openings have jumped 21% to their highest total since 2001. Private-sector openings rose 23% annually up to 4.42 million, and government jobs increased to 413,000 from 393,000.

"Despite little change in most measures of labor market dynamism from the JOLTS report, the story of steady improvement in the labor market holds," said Sophia Koropeckyj, Moody's analyst ( "The number of unemployed workers per job opening continues to decline, reaching 1.9 in October. It averaged 1.5 before the recession."

Job availability across industries did not change greatly during the month, with only leisure and hospitality experiencing a noticeable upswing. Each U.S. region either posted modest or no improvement.

Hiring fell to 5.055 million for the month from 5.075 million in September, the quit rate dropped to 1.9% from 2%--which was a post-recession high--and the layoff rate was unchanged at 1.2%.

On Friday, the Department of Labor reported that the economy added 321,000 jobs in November, which marks the biggest gain in nearly three years. Nearly all industries added employees, including those industries where jobs pay well.

Leading up to the Federal Open Market Committee's monetary policy meeting Dec. 16-17, strengthening job market data may only continue to persuade the group to move closer to raising short-term interest rates.

However, stubborn inflation numbers may give them pause.

A clear signal that the Federal Reserve's monetary policy-making body is nearing a decision to raise short-term interest rates would be if it removed the words "considerable time" from its forward guidance next week.

Some believe that that move is drawing near.

"It's clearer that we're closer to getting rid of (those words) than we were a few months ago," Stanley Fischer, vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, told The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 8).

Other Fed officials, however, have said they're in no hurry to drop the words.