The number of U.S. job openings held steady at 3.7 million in January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The hire rate slightly exceeded the separation rate at 3.1 percent and 3 percent respectively, which also was about the same as January.
Meanwhile, 4.25 million new workers were hired, up from 4.2 million in December, the Labor Department said. Hires were up in professional and business services but down in health care and social assistance, with all other sectors remaining essentially unchanged.
Employment for the 12 months ending in January showed a net gain of 2 million, with hires at 52 million and separations at 50 million, the department noted in its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Report (PDF).
For February, optimism was up among small businesses but remained at historic lows, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses. The trade group's monthly Index of Small Business Optimism gained 1.9 points in the month to 90.8.
"While the Fortune 500 are enjoying record high earnings, Main Street earnings remain depressed. Far more firms report sales down quarter over quarter than up," NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a release. "Three-quarters of small-business owners think that business conditions will be the same or worse in six months."
There won't be much of a boost to hiring and spending from small businesses unless forecasts improve substantially, he added.
There are some 3.7 million jobs going unfilled, meanwhile, up 81,000 from a revised 3.6 million in December, according to the Labor Department.
Job Prospects by Region
America's chief financial officers appear to be generally upbeat about job hiring prospects. Robert Half International with its Professional Employment Forecast surveyed CFOs about whether they plan to hire professional -level positions the next three months.
Most executives indicated they plan to fill vacant positions but about 1 in 10 companies indicated they plan to add employees during the next quarter. Here are some of the results from various regions:
-- Dallas/Fort Worth: 11 percent to add jobs; 70 percent to fill vacant positions
-- Houston: 19 percent; 62 percent
-- Los Angeles: 11 percent; 69 percent
-- Miami/Fort Lauderdale: 10 percent; 80 percent
-- New York City: 15 percent; 68 percent
-- Phoenix: 17 percent; 70 percent
-- San Francisco: 13 percent; 71 percent
-- Seattle: 20 percent; 70 percent
-- St. Louis: 14 percent; 69 percent
-- Washington, D.C.: 17 percent; 73 percent.
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