Number of job openings rise in July, led by the private sector

Assembly at the Ford Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Michigan.

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Assembly at the Ford Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Michigan.

Monthly job openings — a gauge of the U.S. economy that’s closely watched by Janet Yellen — increased in July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Wednesday.

Employers posted 5.9 million job openings in July, a rate of 3.9 percent, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) report. That compares to 5.62 million job openings in June, according to Thomson Reuters.

The private sector, particularly professional and business services, had more job openings in July, the report said.

The monthly report from the Labor Department — often eyed by Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve — is a key barometer of economic conditions, measuring job postings in different sectors, and the number of hires and layoffs.

The hiring rate was steady at 3.6 percent, or 5.2 million in July. The separation rate was also little changed in July at 4.9 million — a rate of 3.4 percent.

About the same number of Americans — 3 million, or a rate of 2.1 percent — quit their jobs in July, as was reported in June.

The quits rate can serve as a measure of confidence in the economy by gauging workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

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