The Good and Bad News About Job Openings

The Labor Department data is ugly, but July seems like a long time ago.

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Just when all were hoping for an end to any downward-trending data—the Labor Department reports that the number of job openings in July fell by 121,000 to 2.4 million, the lowest since the series began to be recorded in 2000. That was also half of the number of job openings at peak, two years ago.

But the report is not without its bright spot. Employers made nearly 4.1 million hires in July—140,000 more than in June. Some industries saw their hires rates increase from June (the hires rate is the number of new hires as a percentage of total employment): In construction the rate jumped from 4.5 to 5.6 percent; in professional and business services, from 3.9 to 4.3.

[See the 10 least competitive job markets.]

Another thing to keep in mind: The government's job openings report is for July, and it's possible the job market improved last month. For one thing, the Labor Department has already told us that employers cut fewer jobs.

Also, in August, the Monster Employment Index—a measure of online job demand—rose to its highest level since February and jumped 6 percent from July, when it also hit its lowest level all year. "During August, online job availability rose in 15 of the Index’s 20 industry sectors and 18 of the 23 occupational categories monitored," Monster reported.

Monster measured recruitment increases in 26 of 28 metros in August. Portland had the largest jump in demand. Boston job openings also jumped. Recruitment activity in Baltimore and Orlando remained flat, according to Monster.

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