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Job openings fell more than expected in March to lowest in nearly two years


An employee hiring sign with a QR code is seen in a window of a business in Arlington, Virginia, April 7, 2023.

Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters

Employment openings pulled back further in March, hitting a nearly two-year low in a sign that the ultra-tight U.S. jobs market is loosening up and possibly putting less pressure on inflation, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

The department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed that job vacancies totaled 9.59 million for the month, down from 9.97 million in February and below the FactSet estimate for 9.64 million.

Though the data set runs a month behind the nonfarm payrolls number, the Federal Reserve watches the JOLTS report closely for signs of labor slack. A lower number is positive for inflation as it indicates less pressure on wages and could ease pressure on the Fed to continue raising interest rates.

However, stocks fell following the release, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 400 points on the session. A separate report from the Commerce Department at the same time showed orders for manufactured goods increased 0.9% in March, less than the 1.3% estimate.

The level of job vacancies was the lowest total since April 2021 and cut the ratio of open jobs to available workers to 1.6 to 1 after being around 2 to 1 for most of the past two years or so.

Quits, which are considered a measure of worker confidence in the ability to leave one’s job and find another, declined by 129,000 to 3.85 million, the lowest level since May 2021 amid what had been dubbed the “Great Resignation.”

Hires for the month were unchanged at 6.15 million, while separations rose slightly.

The release comes as the Fed began its two-day policy meeting Tuesday. Markets are assigning a nearly 100% probability that the central bank on Wednesday will announce a 0.25 percentage point interest rate increase.

Source: CNBC