​Job openings slipped in October

WASHINGTON - U.S. employers advertised fewer jobs in October, though overall hiring picked up and quits rose slightly, adding to evidence the job market is slowly improving.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the number of job postings fell 2.7 percent last month to a still-healthy 5.4 million. That is not far from July's record high of 5.7 million.

Hiring picked up to 5.1 million, the most since June. And the number of people quitting their jobs, a sign of confidence in the job market, rose to 2.78 million. Still, that figure has been mostly flat this year.

Even with the drop in job openings, the data suggests companies are still on the lookout for more workers. The number of available jobs has increased 11 percent in the past year. That suggests businesses are still confident enough in future demand to increase their staffs, despite drags from slower overseas growth.

Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen is closely monitoring the openings, hiring and quits figures as the Fed moves closer to raising short-term interest rates. Most analysts expect the Fed to move at its meeting next week.

Rising quits can also help broadly lift wages. That's because most people quit their jobs when they have another one lined up, usually at higher pay. More quitting also forces companies to raise pay for their existing workers to keep them from jumping ship.

Quits plummeted to just 1.6 million in August 2009, just two months after the recession ended as Americans clung to the jobs they had. The figure has rebounded since then but remains below the pre-recession level of roughly 2.9 million.

The figures come after last Friday's robust jobs report, which showed that employers added 211,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5 percent.

Those figures are a net total: Jobs gained minus jobs lost. The data reported Tuesday, in the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, are more detailed. They calculate total hires, as well as quits and layoffs.