Demand for workers eased slightly in January, a possible sign that employers are gradually easing the frantic pace of hiring even as the job market remains strong.
There were 10.8 million jobs, down moderately from 11.2 million on the last day of December, and reported the Ministry of Labor Wed into the Employment Opportunity and Employment Turnover Survey, commonly known as JOLTS.
The total number of available jobs per available unemployed worker — a number that the Federal Reserve has been watching closely as it tries to calm the labor market and mitigate inflation — was unchanged at 1.9.
However, although employers have proven remarkably resilient in the face of federal interest rate increases, the drop in open positions is the latest indication that the once-hot job market is slowly cooling down. Some industries that showed unexpected strength reported a significant decline in open positions, including construction, where jobs fell by 240,000. Even leisure and hospitality companies such as restaurants and bars, which were trying to adapt to unrelenting demand, had slightly fewer open positions.
“Job prospects remain very high in January,” said Julia Pollack, chief economist at job site ZipRecruiter. “But this report finally points to the slowdown in the labor market that many of us on the front lines of the labor market have noticed.”
The open question is whether the slowdown in the labor market is sufficient for policymakers. Jerome H. Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, made clear on Tuesday that recent reports showing continued strength in the labor market may require a more aggressive response from central bankers.
“While the January JOLTS report shows jobs heading in the right direction for the Fed, the decline is too modest to convince labor market conditions to cool off enough,” said Matthew Martin, an economist at Oxford Economics, in a research note on Wednesday. to reduce inflation.
A clearer picture of the labor market will emerge on Friday, when the Labor Department releases employment data for February.
Other measures in the report on Wednesday also indicated that the labor market is gently stabilizing into a more normal state. Layoffs, which were unusually low outside some notable companies in the technology sector, rose by 241,000 to 1.7 million. This is the highest number since December 2020, when a winter wave of Covid-19 cases swept the country and led to a new economic shake-up.
The increase was driven by a surge in layoffs in the professional and commercial services sector, which includes advertising, accounting and architectural works. The increase in layoffs was generally concentrated in the south.
The number of people who voluntarily left their jobs, which rose as workers continued to search for and find higher-paying jobs, decreased in January by 207,000 people, to 3.9 million. The one-month decline was the largest since May, adding to the sense that employees are losing some of the power and job security that characterized the pandemic era.
Ben Castleman Contribute to the preparation of reports.
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