U.S. Job Openings Rise in January

A breather from all the "doom-and-gloom" scenarios concerning the U.S. economy; employers south of the line posted nearly 7.6 million open jobs in January, near a record high set in November, evidence that businesses are still hungry for workers despite signs the economy has slowed.

Figures released Friday by the U.S. Labor Department said that hiring also rose and the number of people quitting their jobs picked up. Quits are a sign of a healthy economy, because people typically leave a job for another, usually higher-paying, one.

The tally of available jobs now outnumbers the unemployed by roughly one million. Openings began to outpace the unemployed last spring, for the first time in the 18 years the data has been tracked.

The strong job market stateside is already pushing up wages more quickly, with hourly wages rising in February at the fastest pace in nine years.

The report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, or JOLTS, also showed that layoffs declined, a reassuring sign that employers weren’t spooked by the government shutdown, which ended Jan. 25, or the sharp drop in the stock market in December.

Nearly 3.5 million people quit their jobs in January, up 2.9% from the previous month. That could force employers to pay more to prevent their workers from quitting.