Job seekers found fewer options in March as the labor market continued to descend from its pandemic-recovery heights.
The number of job openings fell to 9.6 million in March from 9.9 million in February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Tuesday. Another way to put it, there were 1.6 job openings for every unemployed worker, down from 1.7 in February and well below the record high 2-to-1 ratio that workers enjoyed in March 2022. Although, that rate is well above the era between 2000 and the pandemic’s onset, when there were typically more workers per job opening than the other way around.
Another sign of the job market turning against workers: the layoff rate edged up to 1.2% from 1% in February, reaching its highest since December 2020, reflecting a wave of highly publicized job cuts in the technology sector.
The report underscored how much the Federal Reserve’s campaign of anti-inflation interest rate hikes is having its intended effect of slowing the economy. With borrowing costs rising, and banks getting pickier about lending in the aftermath of several high-profile bank collapses, companies are finding it harder to find the funds to hire workers. The central bank is widely expected to raise its benchmark interest rate again when it meets on Wednesday.
“The number of job openings continues to decline, as the post-Covid hiring wave ebbs further and businesses respond to the squeeze from higher interest rates and tighter credit conditions,” Ian Shepherdson, Chief U.S. economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a commentary in advance of the report.