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Job Openings Show Biggest Growth In A Year

COnference BoardComing up Friday is the monthly employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And if early indications are correct, it could confirm the hope raised by last week’s robust GDP numbers that not only is the economy recovering, but it is picking up steam.

As a barometer of the political economy, the employment report is closely watched, which will be especially true this week, coming on the heels of a State of the Union speech in which every other paragraph seemed to mention the word jobs. Friday’s release will offer the best indication yet of how much improvement there is in the jobs picture.

While many economists expect the report to show flat job growth — itself an improvement over the last two years of almost monthly job losses — there is a growing feeling of hope it might show the economy added jobs.

The Conference Board’s monthly report on job openings released today showed the number jumped 382,000 over December. According to the report, there were 4.024 million jobs advertised online in January. That’s the most since November 2008 and is the third month in a row that openings grew.

Contrast that with what happened in January 2009. That month the Help Wanted OnLine Data Series report showed openings dropped by 473,000 over December 2008, which itself had 509,000 fewer listings than the prior month.

It’s a positive sign that companies may be willing to finally fill some of the positions that have been frozen.

Meanwhile, the manufacturing index from the Institute for Supply Management rose in January for the sixth consecutive month. The 58.4 is the highest the index has been in five years, strong support for the GDP report from last week.

That’s good news, as is the ISM’s manufacturing jobs index, which came in at 53.3 in January, the highest in nearly four years.

Coming up Wednesday is ADP’s monthly jobs report, compiled from its payroll data. The ADP National Employment Report is a harbinger of the BLS release that comes two days later, though it often differs significantly from the numbers the government issues. (The ADP report counts only private payroll data, while the BLS includes public payrolls as well.)

By then the financial news services will be reporting their surveys of economist predictions of what the BLS report will show. The Wall Street Journal today took a first shot at it, reporting Morgan Stanley expects the report to show the economy added 75,000 jobs in January. The Journal also said the unemployment rate would edge up slightly to 10.1 percent.

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