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Job openings fell again in April, its lowest since February 2021 and a sign of labor market weakening

In Business
June 04, 2024

Job openings lower than forecast in April

Job openings fell more than forecast in April, signaling a potential weakening in the labor market that could provide the Federal Reserve with more impetus to start lowering interest rates.

The Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed that the level of employment vacancies slipped to 8.06 million for the month, down by nearly 300,000 from March and close to 19% lower than a year ago.

Moreover, the total marked the lowest since February 2021. The ratio of job openings to available workers edged down from 1.2 to 1, after being around 2 to 1 when openings peaked above 12 million in March 2022. The ratio has returned to about where it was before the Covid pandemic.

Fed officials watch the JOLTS report closely for signs of labor market slack as they look for direction on monetary policy. Policymakers have held benchmark interest rates at 23-year highs as they wait for more convincing evidence that inflation is progressing back to the central bank’s 2% goal. Market pricing is pointing toward an initial rate cut coming in September.

While job openings slid, hires moved slightly higher as did separations and quits, a sign of worker confidence in the ability to move to other positions.

By industry, information technology saw the biggest percentage drop in openings, down 1.3% for the month. Two industries that had been big job gainers, health care and leisure and hospitality, saw notable drops in openings, down 0.8% and 0.6%, respectively.

The report, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, kicks off a big week of labor-related data.

On Wednesday, ADP will release its May estimate for private payrolls, with the Dow Jones estimate at 175,000 for May, down from 192,000 in April. Weekly jobless claims data will be reported Thursday. Then on Friday, the BLS will release its pivotal May nonfarm payrolls report, which is expected to show growth of 190,000, after 175,000 the month before.

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