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US job openings edge lower in March after strong gains Wholesale stockpiles rise 1.1 pct

WASHINGTON, May 9, (AP): US employers advertised slightly fewer jobs and slowed hiring a bit in March, though the declines came after healthy gains the previous month. The figures suggest the job market is improving in fits and starts. The Labor Department said Friday that employers posted 4 million jobs in March, down 2.7 percent from February. But February’s total nearly matched November’s for the highest level of openings since January 2008, when the Great Recession was just beginning. The report also showed that February’s data for hiring and quits was revised much higher, indicating that the job market was in better shape that month than initially estimated. It’s a good sign when more people quit their jobs, because most people do so to take a new position, frequently at higher pay. Quitting also opens up a position that someone out of work can take.

The number of people quitting their jobs in both February and March reached the highest level since July 2008, Friday’s report said. Total hiring, meanwhile, dipped 1.6 percent to 4.63 million in March. That’s below the 5 million monthly hires that are typical for a healthy job market. But it’s 7.5 percent higher than 12 months earlier. And nearly 4.7 million people were hired in February, almost matching September’s total, which was the most since June 2008. “Overall, despite the decline in vacancies, the fundamentals of the labor market continue to improve, supporting steady recovery,” said Jeremy Schwartz, an analyst at Credit Suisse. Last week, the government said that employers added 288,000 jobs in April, the most in 2 ¬ž years, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent from 6.7 percent.

Friday’s report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, offers a more complete picture of the job market. It includes additional data on the number of people quitting or being laid off. And it reports figures for overall hiring. The monthly jobs report provides a net total of job gains or losses. The additional data in the JOLTs report illustrates how much turnover is happening in the job market. Stronger job markets usually include a greater amount of churn, with more people quitting and greater overall hiring.

Monitor
Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve, has said the central bank monitors the job openings, quits and hiring figures as key indicators of the job market’s health. The figures help the Fed decide how to manage short-term interest rates and other efforts to foster financial stability. There are about 2.6 unemployed Americans for each open job, the report shows. That average has slowly been approaching the 2 to 1 ratio that is typical of healthier economies. It reached 6.7 in July 2009, just after the recession ended. Meanwhile, US wholesale businesses increased their stockpiles in March by the largest amount in five months while sales increased at the fastest clip in 10 months. Wholesale stockpiles rose 1.1 percent in March after a 0.7 percent gain in February, the Commerce Department reported Friday. It was the ninth consecutive monthly gain and the largest increase since a 1.2 percent rise in October.

Sales at the wholesale level were up 1.4 percent, the best showing since a 1.9 percent rise in May 2013.
The sizable gain in sales should encourage businesses to keep restocking their shelves to meet rising demand. That will mean increased orders to factories and rising production which would boost economic growth. In the January-March quarter, the economy slowed to a barely discernible growth rate of 0.1 percent after growth of 2.6 percent in the October-December quarter. A slowdown in inventory building subtracted 0.6 percentage point from first quarter growth.

But economists expect the drag from a slowdown in inventory building will ease in the second quarter. The big rise in March inventories supports that view, indicating that there was growing momentum headed in the second quarter. Many analysts are looking for growth to easily top 3 percent in the second quarter with the most optimistic saying the economy may surge to growth above 4 percent, reflecting pent-up demand from consumer spending that was delayed during the harsh winter. Analysts think that growth will hold above 3 percent in the second half of this year. If that forecast proves accurate, it would mean the country will enjoy the strongest year for the economy since 2005, two years before the Great Recession hit.

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