Jobs

By Associated Press
January 13, 2015

WASHINGTON — The rapid hiring that made 2014 a stellar year for job gains is showing no sign of slowing down.

U.S. employers advertised the most job openings in nearly 14 years in November, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That suggests businesses are determined to keep adding staff because they are confident strong economic growth will create more demand for their goods and services.

Job openings rose 2.9% to 4.97 million in November, the most since January 2001. More job vacancies generally lead to more hiring. Employers have been slow to fill their openings for most of the recovery, but that started to change last year as companies ramped up their overall hiring.

A second report Tuesday from the National Federation of Independent Business, a small business group, added to the positive outlook. An NFIB monthly index of small business optimism rose in December to its highest level since October 2006. Business owners surveyed by the group were also more likely to add jobs than at any point since the recession ended in June 2009.

“There’s no question that small business owners are feeling better about the economy,” NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg said. “If they continue to feel that way 2015 could be a very good year.”

Job openings have soared over the last year. The fact that they continue to rise suggests companies still want to hire even after adding a large number of jobs in 2014. With the unemployment rate lower, employers may be forced to offer higher pay in order to attract the workers they need, though there is little sign that wages have started to rise yet.

“The surge in the number of job openings since last spring is nothing short of spectacular,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a note to clients. Should such increases continue, “the greater is the chance the wage pressures intensify.”

Yet the job market’s improvement hasn’t yet boosted hourly pay by much. That has flummoxed economists, who generally expect pay to rise when the unemployment rate falls, as businesses compete for a smaller pool of potential employees.

The two reports released Tuesday “suggest that labor market conditions are even stronger than we previously believed and leaves the slowdown in wage growth looking even odder,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

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