The number of U.S. workers laid off or fired in January fell to a 12-year low of 1.51 million according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor. Coupled with the decline in firings, job openings increased by 89,000 in January to a total of 3.69 million. The conclusion to draw from the data is that the U.S. economy is now strong enough to maintain current employment levels, but that economic growth is needed to lower the nation’s 7.7% unemployment rate.
The Labor Department data fits well with the recent declines reported in the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits. Last week that number fell to 348,800, its lowest level in 5 years. On top of that, non-farm payrolls grew by 236,000 in February.
Another positive sign on the employment front is that more workers are voluntarily leaving their jobs, indicating that they have confidence that they can find new jobs. Still, competition for jobs is tight, with about 3.3 people competing for every job opening compared with just 1.8 people competing for each job in the pre-recession days of 2007.
The labor report is available here.