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Job openings in US rose by 82,000 in November to 5.43 million

[WASHINGTON] Job openings increased in November, a sign the US labour market was bolstering the world's largest economy toward the end of 2015.  

The number of positions waiting to be filled rose by 82,000 to 5.43 million, from a revised 5.35 million in the prior month, a report from the Labour Department showed Tuesday. Hiring climbed and the most Americans since April 2008 quit their jobs.

Elevated vacancies and subdued dismissals represent robust demand for labour that may eventually lead to faster wage growth. The report, which includes some measures tracked by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, is in sync with the central bank's view of progress in the job market.

"The labour market is chugging along, doing quite well," Thomas Simons, a money-market economist at Jefferies Group LLC in New York, said before the report. "We're at a point now where we should see sustained wage growth." The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey projected 5.45 million openings after a previously reported 5.38 million the month before.

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

The report showed job openings picked up at professional and business services, construction companies, restaurants and health-care providers, while manufacturers and retailers showed a decline.

The number of people hired rose to 5.2 million in November from 5.17 million the prior month. The hiring rate held at 3.6 per cent. The gauge calculates the number of hires during the month divided by the number who worked or received pay during that period.

Some 2.83 million people quit their jobs in November, up from 2.78 million the prior month. The pickup reflected more departures in construction and at hotels and restaurants. The quits rate, which shows the willingness of workers to leave their jobs, was unchanged at 2 per cent, where it was when the recession started at the end of 2007.

Total dismissals, which exclude retirements and those who left their job voluntarily, decreased to 1.69 million from 1.7 million a month before. There were about 1.5 unemployed people vying for every opening, compared with about 1.8 when the 18- month recession began.

In the 12 months ended in November, the economy created a net 2.6 million jobs, representing 61.2 million hires and 58.6 million separations.

The JOLTS data follows on the heels of the December payrolls report from the Labour Department, which showed job creation ended 2015 on a strong note while wages stagnated. The US added 292,000 workers last month and payrolls for the previous two months were revised higher. The jobless rate held at 5 per cent, a more than seven-year low. Average hourly earnings at private employers were unchanged from November.

Fed policy makers, who raised interest rates last month for the first time in almost a decade and signalled further moves would be gradual, are counting on tighter labour conditions to lead to a pickup in wages and inflation.

"Members agreed that a range of recent labour market indicators, including ongoing job gains and declining unemployment, showed further improvement and confirmed that underutilization of labour resources had diminished appreciably since early this year," according to the minutes of the Fed meeting released on Jan 6.