Washington — The number of U.S. job openings remained near the highest level in 13 years in July, and companies also stepped up hiring that month to the fastest pace in nearly seven years, two signs the job market is slowly healing.
The tally of available jobs ticked down 2,000 to 4.67 million in July, the Labor Department said Tuesday. The drop was led by a decline in government job postings. Businesses actually posted slightly more jobs.
Total hiring, meanwhile, jumped 81,000 to 4.87 million, the highest level since December 2007, when the recession began. That indicates companies are more likely to fill their open jobs.
The figures suggest the job market is still making progress, despite last week's mildly disappointing employment report. That report showed that employers added a net total of just 142,000 jobs in August, the fewest since December. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent, but only because some of those out of work gave up looking. The government doesn't count people as unemployed unless they are actively searching.
Job openings fell in manufacturing and construction, while they rose in retail and hotels and restaurants.
Tuesday's figures come from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, or JOLTS, which provides a more detailed look at the job market than the employment report. It reports figures for overall hiring, as well as the number of quits and layoffs. The monthly jobs figures are a net total of job gains or losses.
Job openings have soared 22 percent in the past 12 months, evidence that employers are confident enough in the economy to boost staffing. Research by economists at JPMorgan Chase has shown that a rise in openings is typically followed 1-2 months later by greater net job gains. Indeed, employers added more than 200,000 jobs a month for six straight months through July, the strongest such stretch in eight years.
But overall hiring, as measured by the JOLTS report, hasn't increased as fast as openings. Hiring is up just 8 percent in the past 12 months.
The gap suggests that some employers are having trouble finding workers with the skills they need. Or they may not be offering sufficient pay to attract the necessary applicants.