Pauls Valley, Oklahoma —
If applications stay where they are or fall further, job growth should
pick up. The gains may not match those from earlier in the year, when
the economy averaged 252,000 jobs per month from December through
February. But several economists said they expect somewhere in the
range of 150,000 to 200,000 new jobs each month.
A jump in job openings supports the notion of stronger hiring in the
coming months. Employers advertised 3.74 million job openings in
March, the most since July 2008. It usually takes one to three months
for employers to fill openings.
"Rising job openings and relatively flat new filings for unemployment
benefits do not point to any underlying slowdown in job creation and
we would expect, therefore, a pickup in May from April's rather
subdued pace of employment growth," said John Ryding and Conrad
DeQuadros, analysts for RDQ Economics, in a note to clients.
The number of people on the unemployment benefit rolls is falling
steadily, largely because many states are ending some extended benefit
programs. The number of recipients dropped by almost 150,000 to 6.3
million in the week ended April 28, the latest data available.
Other signs suggest the economy is strengthening after its early spring lull.
Home construction rose to near a three-year high in April. And factory
output has risen in three of the year's first four months.
The gains, highlighted in data released Wednesday, suggest growth in
the April-June quarter is off to a good start.
Consumers are also finally seeing some relief from high gas prices.
The average price of a gallon of gas was $3.73 on Wednesday, according
to AAA. That's 18 cents less than a month ago.
So consumers should have more money for other purchases, which could
also boost second-quarter growth and help lift hiring. Consumer
spending drives roughly 70 percent of economic activity in the U.S.