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A “Now Hiring” sign at a Lowe's store in Glenmont, New York, on Tuesday, Nov. 14.
U.S. job openings fell in November to the lowest level since March 2021, indicating that America's resilient job market continues to cool.
The number of job openings in November was a seasonally adjusted 8.79 million, the Labor Department said Wednesday. That's down from an upwardly revised 8.85 million in October and roughly in line with economists' expectations of 8.77 million, according to FactSet.
The latest job openings and turnover survey, also known as the JOLTS report, shows that while the number of job openings is down from a record high of 12 million in March 2022, it remains above pre-pandemic levels.
Wednesday's figures show the job market continues to cool steadily as economic activity slows with interest rates at 22-year highs. Fed officials have said they may need to slow the economy further to ensure inflation is on track to reach the central bank's 2% target.
Infrastructure and federal government jobs fell significantly in November, down by 128,000 and 58,000 jobs, respectively. The number of jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry also fell by 97,000 in November. Meanwhile, the number of wholesale trade jobs increased by 63,000 in the same month.
In another sign of a cooling labor market, the report also showed that employment fell by 363,000 to 5.47 million in November. This is the lowest level since April 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic first disrupted the U.S. economy. But even excluding the initial disruption caused by the pandemic, employment has not reached that level since 2017.
Both layoffs and the number of people leaving the company decreased in November. The former remains well below pre-pandemic levels.
The latest JOLTS report does not sound the alarm that the job market is falling off a cliff, but rather leaves open the possibility of a soft landing (a cooling of the economy without an increase in unemployment).
“Today's JOLTS data is yet another signal that the Fed is entering a soft landing,” Ron Temple, chief market strategist at Lazard, said in a note issued Wednesday. “While today's report is good news for U.S. workers and the economy, it also means that the Fed is unlikely to cut rates as aggressively in 2024 as the market is currently suggesting, given the risk of a resurgence of inflationary pressures. It suggests that.”