JOLTS February 2023:

Job openings fell below 10 million in February for the first time in nearly two years, a sign that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to slow the job market may be having some effect.

Available jobs totaled 9.93 million, down 632,000 from the downwardly revised number for January, the Labor Department reported Tuesday in its monthly job openings and labor turnover survey. It was the first time that the number of vacancies fell below 10 million since May 2021.

The Fed has targeted a flamboyant labor market as it seeks to bring down inflation, which was hitting a 41-year high in the summer of 2022. The central bank has raised interest rates nine times since March 2022, but these moves appear to have little impact on the state of jobs.

Prior to the February data, job vacancies outnumbered available workers by nearly 2 to 1. The latest numbers have lowered that ratio to less than 1.7 to 1.

Treasury yields fell after the release as the data could help dissuade the Fed from further rate hikes. Although the numbers are a month behind, the Fed is watching the JOLTS data closely for signs of stagnation in employment.

Along with the decline in job openings, hiring and terminations have decreased slightly. Quits, a sign of workers’ confidence in the ability to change jobs, rose by 146,000 to just over 4 million.

Professional and commercial services saw a decrease of 278,000 jobs during the month, while trade, transportation and utilities decreased by 210,000. Housing and food services, an important sector for gauging consumer demand, fell 125,000.

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On the plus side, there were 129,000 new construction jobs available, though that was the only category that saw a noticeable bump.

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