bar graph with magnifying glassJob openings rose in May to the highest level in almost seven years, a sign the U.S labor market will help boost economic growth in the second half of this year.

The number of positions waiting to be filled climbed by 171,000 to 4.64 million, the most since June 2007, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor. The number of unemployed job seekers per opening fell to the lowest level in six years. Payrolls grew more than forecasted in June, and the jobless rate fell to an almost six-year low. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists projected 4.35 million openings in May.

There are about 2.1 unemployed people vying for every opening, the fewest since May 2008. There were 1.8 job seekers per opening when the last recession began in December 2007. Payrolls expanded by 288,000 workers in June following a 224,000 gain the prior month. The jobless rate fell to an almost six-year low of 6.1 percent, from 6.3 percent.

The number of people hired slowed to 4.72 million in May from 4.77 million, pushing down the hiring rate to 3.4 percent from 3.5 percent. Job openings increased at factories, construction companies and providers of business services and health care. The rate of openings climbed to 3.2 percent in May, the highest since August 2007, from 3.1 percent. Separations eased to 4.5 million in May from 4.55 million.

Total dismissals, which exclude retirements and those who left their job voluntarily, decreased to 1.58 million from 1.7 million a month before. In the 12 months ended in May, the economy created a net 2.3 million jobs, representing 55.3 million hires and 53 million separations. Gains in hiring will help generate the income growth needed to spur consumer spending, which accounts for almost 70 percent of the economy.


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