Job Openings Down; Small Biz a Bit More Optimistic

There were 3.75 million job openings on the last business day of April, a bit down from the end of March, when the total was 3.87 million. Small-business owner confidence, on the other hand, edged up.

As it always does on the Tuesday after the official jobs numbers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, which casts a bit of a different light on the national employment picture. The latest summary found that there were 3.75 million job openings on the last business day of April, a bit down from the end of March, when the total was 3.87 million.

A higher number of job openings is generally a good thing, since that means businesses are responding to greater demand by looking for new workers. Though the number of openings did inch up month over month in April, job openings have mostly been trending up in recent months, with openings up 7 percent compared to April 2012.

Quits, which the BLS also tracks, are voluntary separations initiated by the employee. The quits rate can thus be a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs, and reflect their opinion about whether jobs are available. The number of quits was up about 8 percent over the 12 months ending in April for total employment and total private employment, but was little changed for government employment.

Small Businesses a Little More Optimistic

For the second month in a row, small-business owner confidence edged up, according to the National Federation of Independent Business’ Index of Small Business Optimism, which was released on Tuesday. The index was up by 2.3 points to a final reading of 94.4 in May.

Eight of 10 Index components gained momentum, showing some moderation in pessimism about the economy and future sales, but planned job creation fell 1 point and reported job creation stalled after five months of gains. “It’s nice to see confidence not shrinking, but there isn’t much to hang your hat on in this report,” NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a statement. “We are back to where we were in May 2012.”

Owners were asked to identify their top business problem, and 24 percent cited taxes, while 23 percent cited regulations and red tape, 16 percent pointed to weak sales and 2 percent reported financing/access to credit. That’s a mildly positive indicator, since businesses tend to complain about taxes and red tape when times are relatively good, and lack of demand when times are relatively bad.

Wall Street had a down day on Tuesday, perhaps reacting to equity selloffs in other parts of the world. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 116.57 points, or 0.76 percent. The S&P 500 lost 1.02 percent and the Nasdaq dropped 1.06 percent.