According to monthly data released Tuesday, job openings fell for the third consecutive month to 9.6 million in March — marking the lowest level since May 2021, a reflection of a labor market that is slowly settling back into balance after the Federal Reserve’s year-long campaign to cool off the economy.
Economists were expecting 9.775 million openings, according to consensus estimates on Refinitiv.
The data, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), revealed that layoffs have jumped by nearly 250,000 to 1.8 million — the highest level since December 2020 — while the number of new hires were unchanged at 6.15 million.
The increase in layoffs was led by the construction industry, with shed 112,000 positions. The decline likely reflected the job losses in the housing market, which has been hammered by higher mortgage rates.
Accommodation and food services lost 63,000 jobs, while the health care and social assistance category reported 42,000 layoffs. Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector remained below it’s pre-pandemic levels.
Professional and business services layoffs increased by 49,000. Small and medium-sized businesses accounted for the bulk of the layoffs. All four regions reported rises in job losses.
In March, there were 1.6 vacancies for every unemployed person. That’s compared to 1.7 in February. Fed officials, who started a two-day policy meeting on Tuesday, are closely watching this ratio, which remains above the 1.0-1.2 range that economists say is consistent with a job market that is not generating too much inflation.
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