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US hiring reaches six-month high in June as employers fill more open jobs; quits also rise

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WASHINGTON — U.S. employers filled more of their available jobs in June, evidence that steady if modest economic growth is putting more Americans to work.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that total hiring rose 2.3 percent to 5.18 million in June, the most in six months and second-highest total since the recession ended in June 2009.

Employers posted fewer job openings, but that figure has risen strongly in the past year. And more people quit their jobs, which is a good sign because many people quit when they have new jobs lined up, typically at higher pay. More hiring, quitting and healthy levels of job openings could pressure companies to lift wages.

Hiring and quits "remain at levels consistent with a pickup in wage growth over the medium-term," said Jeremy Schwartz, an analyst at Credit Suisse. "Indeed, this is a key reason to believe recent weakness in average hourly earnings ... may be temporary."

Job gains have been strong for the past two years but sluggish pay increases remain a weak spot in the economy.

Average hourly pay rose just 2.1 percent in July compared with a year earlier, the government said last week. That is far below the 3.5 percent to 4 percent gains that usually occur in a healthy economy.

PHOTO: In this June 10, 2015, photo, Lashrundra Wilfork, right, helps her daughter, Nala Wilfork, fill out a job application at a job fair in Sunrise, Fla. The Labor Department releases job openings and labor turnover survey for June on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
In this June 10, 2015, photo, Lashrundra Wilfork, right, helps her daughter, Nala Wilfork, fill out a job application at a job fair in Sunrise, Fla. The Labor Department releases job openings and labor turnover survey for June on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

The number of available jobs fell 2 percent in June to 5.25 million, down from a 15-year high of 5.36 million in May. Still, openings have soared 11 percent in the past year. The rise is a sign that companies are confident that demand for their goods and services will pick up and that they need more workers to meet that demand.

Yet hiring has increased at a slower pace, rising just 7.4 percent in the past year. That has been a source of frustration for many job-seekers, who are facing increasingly long periods after they apply for jobs before companies make offers.

According to Glassdoor, a jobs and recruiting website, the average length of time for an interview process to result in a filled job increased from 12.6 days in 2010 to 22.9 days last year.

The increased use of background checks, skills tests and more extensive interviews have combined to lengthen the hiring process, according to Glassdoor research released in June. The increase in high-skill jobs involving information technology in recent years has also extended interview times. Those jobs take longer to fill than lower-skill positions.

The pickup in hiring in June, however, suggests that companies may be filling jobs a bit more quickly. A new Glassdoor report released Wednesday found that even as hiring times have lengthened, job-seekers who land interviews are more likely to receive job offers. The report found that 68 percent of interviews resulted in a job offer in 2014, up from 56 percent in 2009.

Separately, the number of Americans quitting their jobs inched up 0.6 percent to 2.75 million. That is below the seven-year high of 2.78 million reached in January.

The government said in last week's monthly employment report that employers added a solid 215,000 jobs in July. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.3 percent.

Those figures are a net total: Jobs gained minus jobs lost. The data reported Wednesday, in the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, are more detailed. They calculate total hires, as well as quits and layoffs. Wednesday's JOLTS data contain figures for June, a month behind last week's jobs report.

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