Job openings at 4-year high in June but hiring slows

Tue Aug 7, 2012 3:56pm EDT
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By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. job openings rose to a four-year high in June, but a slowdown in hiring underscored recent weakness in the labor market that has been blamed on an uncertain economic outlook.

Job openings rose by 105,000 to 3.76 million in June, the highest since July 2008, the Labor Department said on Tuesday in its monthly "Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey" report. But hires fell by 100,000 from May.

Economists said worries of deep government spending cuts and higher taxes scheduled to kick in at the start of 2013 and Europe's on-going debt crisis were making companies hesitant to take on new workers.

There are fears that politicians in Washington will be unable to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, in a repeat of last year's debt ceiling debacle, which cost the country its cherished AAA credit rating from Standard and Poor's.

"Hiring actually slowed in June, an indication that firms may be willing to leave some jobs unfilled until the uncertainty of the election and the fiscal cliff are clarified," said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania. "A moderation in terminations supports that conclusion."

Layoffs in June fell by 149,000 to 1.81 million, coming mostly from the government side.

In June, job openings rose almost across the board, with noticeable gains in education and health-care services, and at hotels and restaurants.

The government continued to see a decrease in job openings, mostly reflecting belt-tightening by state and local governments.   Continued...

A man holds his briefcase at a job fair in New York April 18, 2012. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton