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Jobs Show Their (Hidden) Strength

Amid a backdrop of economic uncertainty, we’ve seen some encouraging signs from the labor market in recent days, even as some of these blessings have come in disguise.

Job openings were at an all-time high of 5.76 million in March, up from 5.61 million in February, according to the Labor Department. And slightly more people quit their jobs in March, 2.98 million, up from 2.96 million in February. The quits rate – people who quit their job as a percentage of employment — held steady at 2.1 percent.

A higher quits rate means Americans have more confidence in their ability to find another job. Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen looks to this rate as one of the factors in whether to raise interest rates.

Meanwhile, the overall level of initial claims for unemployment remains quite low. And despite fewer new jobs than expected in Friday’s jobs report, our senior research fellow Bob Hughes sees signs of hope in the details of that report.

Much of the shortfall was in the retail sector, where the situation is often cloudy because of seasonal adjustment issues, he said. There was an unusual drop in government jobs, which do not speak to the larger state of the economy, Hughes said. And there was continued weakness in the mining sector, which is related to energy – again, not reflective of the overall health of the economy, he said.

“That accounts for all the disappointment,” Hughes said. “Many industries showed job gains. The length of the work week increased, and wages rose. There were plenty of things to suggest the labor market is still solid,” Hughes said.

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