US job openings rise 2.8 per cent in September but hiring close to flat

WASHINGTON – Employers advertised more job openings in September but hiring was essentially unchanged.

Job openings rose 2.8 per cent to 5.53 million in September, up from 5.38 million in August, the Labor Department said Thursday. Hiring slipped to 5.05 million from 5.08 million the prior month.

The report indicates a relatively healthy U.S. job market that is weathering the pressures of slower growth in China, a struggling European economy and a stronger dollar crimping exports.

The number of people quitting jobs — a measure of confidence in the job market — was essentially unchanged from September at 2.72 million. Quits have been flat for the past year after rising steadily in the aftermath of the 2007-2009 Great Recession.

Thursday’s report suggests that wages could begin rising at a faster pace because employers are struggling to find workers, obligating them to pay better salaries to attract talent.

“Whether employers can continue to be so picky as the unemployment rate drops to very low levels is an open question, but if they do it’s hard to see how rising net demand for labour can’t be followed by accelerating wages,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Hiring rose sharply in October after weak numbers the previous two months. Employers added 271,000 jobs as the unemployment rate fell a tenth of a point to 5 per cent. The gains partially reflected hiring delays in August and September as employers appeared to be waiting to measure the impact of a stronger dollar and volatile stock market on their businesses.

In September, the United States had a ratio of 1.43 unemployed people for every job opening, down from a peak of 6.8 in July 2009, a month after the recession ended.