WASHINGTON — U.S. employers posted fewer job openings in May.
But hiring picked up and more people are quitting their jobs — both positive signs for the economy.
Job openings fell five per cent in May to 5.7 million, the Labor Department said July 11.
The setback occurred after advertised job postings nearly reached six million in April, a figure that has been revised downward from the initial report. Meanwhile, hiring climbed 8.5 per cent to just under 5.5 million.
The data is a sign the economy at 4.4 per cent unemployment is nearing "full employment," when nearly all those who want a job have one and the unemployment rate mostly reflects the normal churn of people who are temporarily out of work. Typically, when unemployment falls that low, companies are forced to offer more pay, but that hasn't yet happened.
Workers have certainly become more confident in the past year that they can find jobs.
The number of people quitting their jobs has increased 7.1 per cent to 3.2 million. People usually quit when they either find a new job, often at higher pay, or are confident they can soon be hired elsewhere.
May job openings fell by a meaningful amount in construction and transportation, warehousing and utilities. Advertising openings increased for retailers and educational services.
Hiring was most robust in the professional and business services sector in May, as well as educational services.
When unemployment is this low, wages generally rise. But average hourly earnings have increased just 2.5 per cent over the past 12 months, staying ahead of inflation but hardly a substantial pay hike. The last time the unemployment rate was this low, wages were rising by about four per cent.
The government said recently that employers added 222,000 jobs in June and revised the prior two months' hiring figures upward. The figures represent a net total of jobs added minus jobs lost, while the July 11 report includes overall hiring data.
Those figures are net gains after layoffs, quits and retirements are subtracted from overall hiring.
The data comes from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, or JOLTS. They are more detailed and provide a fuller view of the job market than the monthly jobs.