Job openings plunged in February to their lowest level in almost two years, as concerns about economic growth and the Fed’s effort to slow the labor market appear to be holding down hiring.
The Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) showed 9.93 million positions were available at the end of the month, a decline of 632,000 from January. That was well below economists’ forecasts and the fewest since May of 2021.
The sectors with the biggest decreases were professional and business services (-278,000); health and social services (-150,000); and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-145,000).
The largest increases were in construction (+129,000) and arts, entertainment, and recreation (+38,000).
The number of those who quit their jobs was up by 146,000 to 4 million. The gains were led by professional and business services (+115,000); accommodation and food services (+93,000); wholesale trade (+31,000); and educational services (+18,000). Quits declined in finance and insurance (-39,000).
Economy and Interest Rate Hikes
Yesterday, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) noted that the manufacturing purchasing managers it surveyed reported equal levels of activity for increasing and decreasing headcounts "amid mixed sentiment" about the return of economic growth in the second half of 2023. Fed Chair Jerome Powell has noted that policymakers have been looking for signs of a softening labor market before they will feel confident about easing back on interest rate hikes to combat inflation.