WASHINGTON — U.S. companies ramped up hiring in September, and more Americans were confident enough to quit their jobs — two signs of an improving economy. The number of available jobs declined but remained at a healthy level.
More than 5 million people were hired in September, the most since December 2007 when the recession began, the Labor Department said Thursday. And the number of people who quit their jobs jumped to 2.75 million from 2.5 million. That’s the most in more than six years.
People are more likely to leave jobs when they have a new position lined up, usually one that is higher-paying.
Job openings fell to 4.7 million from 4.9 million in August. Still, August’s figure was the highest in nearly 14 years, and September’s figure is still strong.
The data is from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, or JOLTS, which provides a more detailed look at the job market than the monthly employment report. It includes figures for overall hiring, as well as the number of quits and layoffs. The monthly jobs figures are a net total of job gains or losses.
The data adds to recent evidence that the job market is slowly healing. On Friday, the October jobs report showed that employers added a net total of 214,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.8 percent, a fresh six-year low.
Employers have added an average of 229,000 jobs a month this year, the healthiest pace in 15 years. The number of people seeking unemployment benefits is near the lowest levels in 14 years.
Yet the improved hiring hasn’t translated into fatter paychecks for most Americans. Average hourly pay rose just 2 percent in October from a year earlier, barely ahead of the inflation rate. And many jobs created since the recession ended five years ago have been part-time. There are still 2.2 million fewer people working full-time than there were before the downturn.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has been closely monitoring JOLTS data as she considers when the Fed should begin to raise short-term interest rates from near-zero levels.