WASHINGTON – Job openings in the U.S. increased less than expected in January, a sign labor market cooling from late 2013 persisted as severe winter weather hammered the eastern and mid-western U.S.
The number of positions waiting to be filled increased by 60,000 to 3.97 million, from a revised 3.91 million the prior month, the Labor Department said on Tuesday in Washington. The pace of hiring fell and fewer Americans quit their jobs.
The report follows data last week showing that February payrolls beat estimates after hiring in January was depressed by the weather. Faster hiring would help spur the wage growth needed to boost consumer spending, which accounts for almost 70 percent of the economy.
“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,” said Ryan Wang, an economist at HSBC Securities USA Inc. in New York, speaking before the report. “We’ll continue to see gradual improvement in measures like quit rates and hiring rates.”
Tuesday’s report helps shed light on the dynamics behind monthly employment figures. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for 4.02 million job openings after a previously reported 3.99 million a month earlier.
The gain in openings indicates employers were confident about the economic expansion even as colder-than-normal weather limited hiring.
Employment rose by 175,000 in February, recovering after a lull in hiring that saw payroll gains of 129,000 in January and 84,000 in December, Labor Department figures showed last week. The jobless rate inched up to 6.7 percent last month from 6.6 percent the prior month, the lowest since 2008.
Tuesday’s Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, report showed the number of people hired fell to 4.54 million in January, leaving the hiring rate unchanged at 3.3 percent.