Job openings fell in January, but still exceeded the number of available workers

A “Now Hiring” sign is displayed on a storefront in New York City on October 21, 2022.

Leonardo Munoz | View Press | Corbis News | Good pictures

According to data released Wednesday, job openings fell slightly in January, but the labor picture remains tight, still outstripping available workers.

of Labor Department Employment and Labor Income Survey, or JOLTS, there were 10.824 million openings, down 410,000 from December, the Labor Department said. This equates to 1.9 jobs per available worker.

Despite the decline, the total exceeded the FactSet estimate of 10.58 million. December’s figure was also revised above 200,000.

Federal Reserve officials watch the JOLTS report closely when formulating monetary policy. In comments on Capitol Hill this week, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell called the jobs market “very tight” and warned that recent data showing inflationary pressures could push interest rates higher than expected.

The JOLTS report said hiring was brisk for the month, with employers adding 6.37 million workers, the most since August.

Total separations were little changed, while exits fell to 3.88 million, the lowest since May 2021, a signal of labor confidence in the movement. Layoffs, however, rose sharply to 241,000, or 16%.

Earlier on Wednesday, payroll processing firm ADP reported that firms added 244,000 workers in February, another sign that hiring remains resilient despite Fed rate hikes aimed at slowing economic growth and cooling the labor market.

There were few other signs of softness, with construction openings falling 240,000, or 49%. The ADP report pointed to a trend followed through February, with the sector losing 16,000 jobs. Leisure and hospitality, which has led job gains over the past two years, saw a decline of 194,000 openings in January.

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Markets will get a more detailed look at the jobs picture when the Labor Department releases its nonfarm payrolls report on Friday. Economists polled by Dow Jones expect payrolls to rise by 225,000 and the unemployment rate to remain at 3.4%.

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