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Job openings in the U.S. rose to a four-month high in October, showing companies kept expanding in the face of looming tax increases and budget cuts.
The number of positions waiting to be filled rose by 128,000 to 3.68 million from the prior month, the Labor Department said Dec. 11 in Washington. The trade deficit widened as exports slumped the most in four years, other figures showed.
More openings lay the groundwork for the accelerated job growth needed to bolster consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy.
“The labor market is healing gradually,” said Michael Gapen, a New York-based senior economist at Barclays Plc. “Policymakers would like to see more. We’re having more of the same -- moderate growth and moderate improvement in the labor market.”
The U.S. Labor Department report on job openings and separations helps show the dynamics behind the monthly employment figures.
The job market withstood the impact of Superstorm Sandy in November, Labor Department figures showed on Dec. 7. Payrolls rose by 146,000 in November following a revised 138,000 advance in October that was less than initially estimated. The median estimate of economists in a Bloomberg survey called for an 85,000 advance. Private payrolls, which exclude government agencies, grew by 147,000 after a revised gain of 189,000.
The jobless rate dropped to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent as people left the labor force, the Labor Department also reported last week.
Last week’s report showed job openings in the Northeast were up 8,000 in October, while hiring dropped 101,000. Superstorm Sandy swept ashore in the region on Oct. 29.
In the U.S., the number of people hired rose to 4.34 million in October, pushing up the hiring rate to 3.2 percent from 3.1 percent, the report showed.
Openings in construction, manufacturing, the leisure and hospitality industry and retailers contributed to the pickup in available employment. Openings in education and health services cooled.
Macy’s Inc., the second-biggest U.S. department-store chain, said it would add about 2,000 more workers than the 78,000 it hired last year for the holiday shopping season. Toys ‘R’ Us Inc., the world’s largest toy retailer, reported plans to employ 45,000 temporary staff, up 5,000 from the 2011 season.