The number of job openings rose to 3.4 million in September, up from 3.1 million in August, providing a bit of good news for the job market and continuing an upward trend established at the end of the recession, according to government data released today.
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a glimmer of good news in an era of high unemployment, but the news might not be good enough to roust American consumers out of their current malaise.
Job openings for September were 1.2 million higher than the low hit in July 2009, creating a gain of 38 percent since the start of the recession in June 2009, the BLS reported. Despite the improvement, the number of job openings remains below the 4.4 million level that existed at the beginning of the recession in December 2007, supporting the consensus opinion that jobs are being created too slowly to pull the nation out of recession any time soon.
The hiring rate in September inched up 0.2 percent year-over-year. Hires exceeded 4.2 million, an increase of 376,000 over last September, and were up 17 percent since June 2009. Hiring grew at the fastest rate for the construction (7.3 percent) sector, followed by the entertainment (6.7 percent), services (5.8 percent), hospitality (5.3percent), and hotel and restaurant (5.1 percent) sectors. In contrast, hiring by state and local governments grew at a rate of 1.2 percent.
In the 12 months ending in September 2011, hires exceeded layoffs, firings and resignations, yielding a net gain in employment of 1.3 million.
Lack of job opportunities is one of the main issues fueling the Occupy Wall Street movement, a highly visible protest in its second month. Americans surveyed by Millionaire Corner in October expressed mixed opinions about the protestors, but more than 60 percent support a federal infrastructure program that would create jobs while improving the nation’s roads and bridges. Support for such public works projects is highest among investors younger than 40 and those who are retired.
Meanwhile the uncertain job market and prolonged downturn continues to constrain consumer spending, which historically accounts for more than two-thirds of the nation’s economic productivity. Investors surveyed in October told Millionaire Corner they are saving more, working longer hours and reducing their debt levels.
Participants age 40 and younger appear to be the most severely impacted by the current economic environment. Half say they have increased their savings and 17 percent say someone in their household has returned to work full-time or part-time. Nearly 14 percent report a member of the household has taken on a second job and more than 23 percent have paid down debt. Investors in their 40s are also saving more (40 percent) and paying down their debts (39 percent). Today’s good news may not go far enough to encourage the 30 percent of investors in the 50s who told Millionaire Corner they have had to dip into their savings to cover expenses during the economic downturn.