Job openings in the U.S. rose to 3.4 million on the last business day of December, up from 3.1 million a month earlier, the Labor Department reports. “Although the number of job openings remained below the 4.4 million openings when the recession began in December 2007, the number of job openings has increased 39 percent since the end of the recession in June 2009,” according to the accompanying press release.
The job openings data is a relatively new addition to the government’s employment analysis tool set and the history only dates to 2000. (Here’s a background paper on the data.) Intuition tells us that this series will track the business cycle and offer additional context for confirming or denying major turning points in the economy. The continued rise in job openings certainly paints an encouraging picture for thinking that the economy is expanding.
The rising trend in job openings wouldn’t mean much if other labor market indicators presented conflicting information. But the news for jobs creation has been relatively encouraging lately. The labor market in January was perky, even without the seasonal adjustment, and the falling trend in initial jobless claims implies that there’s more good news down the road.
Will tomorrow’s weekly update on new filings for unemployment benefits bring more of the same? The outlook is a bit cloudy, with the consensus forecast anticipating a small rise for weekly claims, according to Briefing.com.