U.S. job openings fall to 10.3 million — but labor market still too strong for the Fed

The numbers: Job openings in the U.S. fell to 10.3 million in October in another sign the labor market is cooling off as the economy softens. But it doesn’t appear to be cooling off as quickly as the Federal Reserve would like.

Job listings declined from 10.7 million in September, the Labor Department said Wednesday.

The number of job openings is viewed as a way to evaluate the strength of the labor market and the broader economy. Job postings have dropped from a record 11.9 million in the spring but are still quite high.

Yet the Federal Reserve wants the demand for labor ebb even faster to reduce the upward pressure on wages that’s contributing to high inflation. There are 1.7 job openings for each unemployed worker, well above pre-pandemic levels of 1.2.

Key details: The number of people hired in October slipped to 6 million from 6.1 million — the lowest level in almost two years. Businesses aren’t filling quite as many jobs amid growing worries about recession.

The number of job quitters fell slightly to 4 million, but it’s still unusually high. Quits have topped 4 million for 16 months in a row. People quit more often when they think it’s easy to get a better job.

The so-called quits rate among private-sector workers was unchanged at 2.9%. It peaked at 3.4% near the end of 2021.

Layoffs remained quite low, but they have edged up in “information,” the category that includes tech workers and the media. Both industries have announced broad layoffs in recent months.

Big picture: The once-sleepy job openings report has taken on new importance given how much weight the Fed gives it.

The still-high number of job openings and workers quitting is seen as a sign that the labor market is still too tight. Further declines would be viewed as evidence the jobs market is softening, perhaps giving the Fed room to raise interest rates more slowly

The Fed is quickly raising interest rates to try tame the worst inflation in 40 years, a strategy that many economists worry will lead to recession in 2023.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average

and S&P 500

fell in Wednesday trades after the job-openings report.

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