JOLTS Data Flashes Warning Sign: Hiring Is Still a Problem

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Weather has pummeled the American labor market this winter. Yet job creation was stronger than expected in February, despite the exceptionally cold and wintery weather experienced by much of the country. The Department of Labor announced last Friday that U.S. employers added 175,000 jobs to payrolls last month — a pace far surpassing both December and January, when payrolls expanded by 84,000 and 129,000 jobs, respectively. While the most recent Employment Situation Report upwardly revised both of the previous two months’ figures, hiring in December and January was still hobbled, and February’s gain represented a significant acceleration in job creation.

“Hiring was delayed during the winter due to bad weather, and I think we’ve started to see some catch-up already in the February figures,” HSBC Securities economist Ryan Wang told Bloomberg on Tuesday. “We’ll continue to see gradual improvement in measures like quit rates and hiring rates.” These government figures are released in the Labor Department’s Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS.

The Labor Department’s JOLTS report confirmed that employment trends appear to be improving; U.S. employers advertised slightly more jobs in January than in December, which signals that hiring should remain steady in the coming months. Data showed that employers posted 3.97 million job openings in the first month of the year. That gain represents a 1.5 percent increase from December’s 3.91 million and places job openings slightly below November’s nearly six-year high of 4.1 million, the first month that openings topped 4 million since March 2008.

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