U.S. Jobs Data Indicates Skills Mismatch

U.S. job openings surged to a 14-year high in February but a steady pace of hiring suggested employers are having trouble finding suitable workers, a trend that could put upward pressure of wage growth.  Job openings, a measure of labor demand, increased 168,000 to a seasonally adjusted 5.1 million, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey on Tuesday. That was the highest level since January 2001.

Hiring was little changed at 4.9 million in February, leaving the hiring rate steady at 3.5 percent.  “We interpret the combination of rising job openings and slower hiring as a potential sign of increased mismatch between the needs of employers and the skills of available workers,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York.

This implies employers will need to raise wages, whose growth has been tepid despite a sharp pick-up job gains.  The so-called JOLTS report is one of the indicators being closely watched by Federal Reserve officials as they contemplate raising interest rates this year.