If the economy is truly headed for a recession, hiring managers hadn’t gotten the memo as of December—the number of job openings has bounced back toward record highs.
There were 11 million jobs available in December, up from 10.4 million in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday. Not only were the job openings close to the March record high of 11.9 million, the number of layoffs were close to record lows at 1.5 million.
Employees continued to quit at an elevated pace of 4.1 million a month, indicating that they were still confident of finding work—little wonder considering there were 1.9 open jobs for every unemployed worker, barely short of a record high.
Employees still very much had the upper hand in the job market in December. That’s good news if you’re job hunting, but the strength in the labor market is one of the reasons officials at the Federal Reserve will likely continue interest rate hikes. The higher rates are designed to slow the economy and subdue inflation.
The Fed is set to announce a decision on interest rate on Wednesday afternoon and Fed chair Jerome Powell has voiced concerns that a hot labor market could lead to a “wage-price spiral” that fuels rampant consumer price increases.
“The Fed will not be happy with what they see given the increase in job openings, and the stubbornly high quit rate,” Dante DeAntonio, a director at Moody’s Analytics, said in a commentary.
However, other economic indicators suggest that the high-flying job market may lose some altitude soon. Private employers added just 106,000 jobs in January, according to the ADP employment report released Wednesday, the lowest in two years. This was far below economist expectations of 190,000.
A separate BLS report showed that wage increases slowed in the fourth quarter of 2022. That indicates reduced bargaining power for workers. While this mixed bag of data has investors on the edge, all eyes are on the Fed as their moves could determine if we’re heading into a recession.