The United States Labor Department reported that the number of job openings in April reached the highest level in the fifteen years that it has surveyed such data.  The “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey” showed that the number of job openings (almost 4.9 million) exceeded the number of workers hired for during the month (less than 4.7 million).  Approximately 2.7 million people quit or were laid off from their jobs during April, about the same number as for March but 11% higher than a year earlier.  Slightly over 5 million workers were hired in April, down about 80,000 from March, while the hiring rate dropped from 3.6% to 3.5%.

Although these figures suggest an improving job market and increased optimism among laborers, other recent statistics don’t necessarily support the beginning of such a trend.  For example, the federal government’s most recent data shows that the unemployment rate increased from the previous month while the labor participation rate remains at almost the lowest level in decades.  Also, wage growth for April was only 2.3% from a year earlier; in a good economy this rate would be closer to 3.5%.

Separately, investment bank HSBC announced plans to reduce its work force by 50,000 jobs.  Most of those job cuts, however, will come from sale of some of the bank’s overseas operations.