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Job openings hit a record in July, closing in on 7 million amid a jump in vacancies for finance and manufacturing, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.
Vacancies outnumbered those classified as unemployed by 659,000 for the month, an unprecedented trend that began earlier this year. Openings rose by 117,000 from June, to 6.94 million, and are up 737,000 over the past year, a nearly 12 percent increase, the department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.
The "quits" rate, an indicator of worker confidence as it measures those who left their positions voluntarily, also hit a record of 3.6 million, a gain of 106,000, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics records that go back to December 2000. The quits rate of 2.4 percent is the highest recorded since April 2001 and was up one-tenth of a percentage point from a month ago.
Accommodation and food services was the biggest sector for quits at 61,000.
Professions registering the biggest gains in job openings were finance and insurance at 46,000 and nondurable goods manufacturing, with 32,000. Openings decreased in retail (-85,000), educational services (-34,000) and federal government (-19,000).
New hires totaled 5.68 million, a marginal increase from June but also a series high and an increase of 3.3 percent from the same month a year ago.
The JOLTS news comes just days after the Labor Department said the economy added 201,000 nonfarm positions in August, a month that also saw a post-recession high 2.9 percent increase in average hourly earnings from a year ago. Both the job and wage growth are seen as contributing factors that will push the Federal Reserve to approve another interest rate increase later in September.
Other economic signs are strong as well. GDP increased 4.2 percent in the second quarter and is on track to eclipse 4 percent again in the third quarter, according to the Atlanta Fed's tracker. Manufacturing surveys also are on the rise, and the National Federation of Independent Business reported Tuesday that its sentiment gauge hit a record in August.