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Gains in hiring are catching up with job openings, pointing to greater willingness among U.S. companies to expand as the economy improves.
Employers took on 4.15 million workers in November, up 107,000 from the prior month, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The number of jobs filled in the three months to November was the highest since the period from March to May 2010.
The thawing in employment comes as other reports indicate firings have eased, highlighting an improvement in the labor market that is contributing to a rebound in consumer confidence and spending. Today’s figures also showed the number of jobs waiting to be filled dropped in November for a second month, a sign gains in payrolls will take time to develop.
“Any hiring increase is encouraging,” said Henry Mo, an economist at Credit Suisse in New York. “No matter how many openings you have, if you don’t hire then it doesn’t translate into the results the economy is looking for. I’m a little bit optimistic. Many labor-market indicators are pointing in the right direction.”
A Jan. 10 report showed China’s import growth dropped in December to a two-year low, underscoring a slowdown that may require government policies aimed at spurring the economy.
In Europe, French business confidence climbed from a two- year low in December and industrial production rose a month earlier, signs the threat of recession in the euro region’s second-biggest economy is easing.
Last week’s report from the Labor Department showed job openings dropped by 63,000 to 3.16 million.
Fewer openings may mean the financial crisis in Europe and political gridlock in the U.S. are prompting companies to wait until there is more evidence the world’s largest economy is weathering the challenges.
Payrolls increased by 200,000 workers last month after a 100,000 gain in November, and the unemployment rate fell to an almost three-year low of 8.5 percent, Labor Department figures showed on Jan. 6.