U.S. employers advertise most jobs since March 2008

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers advertised more jobs in November and more Americans quit, both 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 51/2 years. And the number of people who quit 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.

And 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.

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.

Despite these positive signs, overall hiring ticked up just 0.2 percent in November to nearly 4.5 million.

The figures also follow a disappointing report on 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.

In the past year, the number of job openings has increased 5.6 percent. But total hiring is only 1.7 percent higher.

Economists say employers may not be offering sufficient pay and benefits to persuade more workers to take the jobs. They may also be pickier, believing they can find top-notch candidates with the unemployment rate still elevated.

Many employers say they can't find enough qualified workers, particularly in high-skilled industries such as manufacturing and information technology.

Positive signs

Other key economic reports released Friday:

• U.S. home construction slowed in December but ended 2013 with the best showing since 2007. The Commerce Department said Friday that builders broke ground last month at a seasonally annual rate of 999,000, 9.8 percent lower than November's pace of 1.12 million. For the year, builders started 923,000 homes and apartments, up 18.3 percent from 2012.

• U.S. factory output rose for a fifth straight month in December, as manufacturers cranked out more cars and trucks, appliances and processed food. The Federal Reserve said Friday that factory production rose 0.4 percent in December, following gains of 0.6 percent in November and October. Automakers increased their production 1.8 percent last month and 10.4 percent year over year.

U.S. employers advertise most jobs since March 2008 01/17/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 17, 2014 8:13pm]

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