By Reuters

Job openings are outnumbering unemployed workers across increasingly wide swaths of the country, forcing businesses to rethink how they find workers.

The volume of openings first topped the number of jobless people in Midwestern states in early 2017. But in recent months that phenomenon has spread to other regions, particularly the South.

The Labor Department on Tuesday is to release the latest data on job openings, from November. The report follows data released last week showing a surge in job growth in December and could help the Federal Reserve assess sometimes conflicting anecdotal reports about how hard firms must work to fill jobs.

Economists say the most convincing signs of labor shortages would be a surge in wage growth. While average hourly earnings rose 3.2 percent in December, that is tepid by historical standards.