WASHINGTON — Job openings increased in May after plunging the prior month, easing concerns the job market was faltering.
The number of positions waiting to be filled climbed by 195,000 to 3.64 million, partially countering the 294,000 drop seen in April, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Another report showed confidence among small companies slumped in June.
Increasing demand for workers indicates some companies see an opportunity to expand as sales improve. At the same time, the report showed firings also picked up, indicating the European debt crisis and slowing growth in emerging markets like China may be prompting some employers to cut back.
"The labor market still looks pretty tenuous," said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase in New York. The April report "sent some worrying signals that maybe things were in free fall. You have the May report and you can see businesses were turning a bit more cautious, but they weren't completely pulling back."
Elsewhere, manufacturing in Britain unexpectedly surged in May by the most in a year, reflecting an additional working day after a public holiday was moved to last month. In China, imports rose less than anticipated in June, pushing the trade surplus to a three-year high and adding pressure on the government to support demand as the global economy slows.
Confidence among U.S. small companies dropped in June to its lowest point since October, driven by concern that sales and the economy will deteriorate, another report Tuesday showed.
The National Federation of Independent Business' optimism index fell to 91.4 from 94.4 in May, the biggest monthly decline in two years. Eight of its 10 components contributed to the slump, the Washington-based group said.