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Job openings in US rose in December to highest since 2001

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[WASHINGTON] Job openings in the US rose to the highest level since 2001 as employers faced improving demand for their goods and services.

The number of positions waiting to be filled in the US increased by 181,000 to 5.03 million in December from a revised 4.85 million the month before, the Labor Department reported Tuesday in Washington. The pace of hiring increased.

Employment has accelerated in the past year, helping drive confidence and fueling sales. Continued strength in hiring will probably help spur a pickup in wage growth, which has been slow to materialize throughout the recovery.

"All of a sudden we've seen this pretty substantial improvement in the churning in the labor market," Guy Berger, US economist at RBS Securities Inc in Stamford, Connecticut, said before the report. "We're still waiting on the evidence for wage growth to come through, but in general, churn is one thing that helps boost wage growth."

The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey projected there would be 4.98 million openings in December, little changed from a previously reported 4.97 million the month before.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, adds context to monthly payrolls figures by measuring dynamics such as resignations, help-wanted ads and the pace of hiring. Although it lags the Labor Department's other jobs data by a month, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen follows the report as a measure of labor-market tightness and worker confidence.

BLOOMBERG