| WASHINGTON, Sept 9
WASHINGTON, Sept 9 U.S. job openings surged to a
record high in July, but a slightly slower pace of hiring
suggested employers were having trouble finding qualified
workers, a trend that could eventually boost wages.
Job openings, a measure of labor demand, increased 430,000
to a seasonally adjusted 5.8 million, the Labor Department said
in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey on
That was the highest level since the series started in
December 2000 and pushed the jobs openings rate to 3.9 percent
in July after holding steady at 3.6 percent for three straight
months. Hiring, however, dipped to 5.0 million in July from 5.2
million the prior month. The hiring rate slipped to 3.5 percent
from 3.7 percent in June.
"The data now signal unambiguously that the labor market is
unable to supply the people companies need. Usually, that means
wages will accelerate, though the evidence for that now is
mixed," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon
Macroeconomics in New York.
The so-called JOLTS report could attract the attention of
Federal Reserve officials at their policy meeting next week.
Economists are divided on whether the U.S. central bank will
raise its benchmark overnight interest rate at the Sept. 16-17
meeting. While the labor market is rapidly tightening, that has
not triggered strong wage growth, leaving inflation running well
below the Fed's 2 percent target.
The Fed, whose decision is also complicated by slowing
global growth, especially in China and other major emerging
markets, has not raised interest rates since mid-2006.
"If these data don't jolt the Fed into action, nothing will.
The Fed has met one-half of their mandate already," said Chris
Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in New
The tightness of the labor market was underscored by a sharp
drop in the number of unemployed job seekers per open job to a
record low ratio of 1.44 from 1.56 in June.
"Combining these data with figures from the Labor
Department's employment report suggests that labor market slack
continues to diminish," said Jesse Hurwitz, an economist at
Barclays in New York. "On balance, the data suggest labor demand
held up solidly at the beginning of the third quarter."
The JOLTS report also showed a slower pace of layoffs in
July, with the layoffs and discharges rate falling to 1.1
percent from 1.3 percent. But the quit rate, which the Fed looks
at as a measure of confidence in the jobs market, was unchanged
at 1.9 percent for the fourth straight month.
Job openings were concentrated in professional and business
services, accommodation and food services, retail trade and
nondurable goods manufacturing.
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by David Gregorio)