U.S. job openings declined in October – The New York Times

The labor market is being closely watched by the Federal Reserve as it considers its interest rate policy. A cooling labor market tends to fuel forecasts that the Fed will not raise interest rates further, which have risen to a range of 5.25 percent to 5.5 percent from near zero in March 2022.

The labor market has been surprisingly resilient since the Fed began raising interest rates as part of a campaign to curb inflation. But while the labor market is showing signs of slowing, consumer spending has also increased. Many companies told investors that customers pulled back last quarter, spending less on products and more on services and experiences. The Fed’s preferred measure of inflation confirmed that consumer spending slowed in October.

At the same time, investors are increasingly confident that the Fed can handle the rate hike. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome H. Powell indicated in a recent speech that the central bank would keep interest rates steady if data continued to point to a slowing economy. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield fell on Tuesday, hitting its lowest level since September, as investors expected a future decline in interest rates.

A decline in job opportunities discourages the Fed from raising interest rates or keeping them high for too long, as such a trend often heralds a recession. “With these signs that the labor market is cooling significantly, I think the likelihood that the Fed is done raising interest rates increases,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter.

Although the labor market is slowing, the situation for workers remains healthy. The unemployment rate rose to nearly 4 percent in October, matching pre-pandemic levels.

The number of job vacancies reached a record high of over 12 million in March 2022 and has been declining since then. The last time the number of job vacancies was around nine million – where it currently is – was in spring 2021.

There are still plenty of opportunities for workers. The hiring rate remained stable in October despite the decline in job openings.

One difference is that the number of layoffs is lower than before the pandemic. This likely reflects companies’ decision to reduce headcount through natural turnover rather than downsizing.

“This is perhaps the biggest sign that we still have a strong economy and a strong job market,” said Sonu Varghese, a strategist at financial advisory firm Carson Group.

Although inflation has slowed significantly since the Fed began raising interest rates in March 2022, it is still above the central bank’s 2 percent target.

The Fed’s preferred measure of inflation fell to 3 percent in October from a year earlier. But excluding food and fuel prices, which are volatile and less sensitive to Fed policy actions, the rate was 3.5 percent.

The November jobs report will be released by the Labor Department on Friday. Economists predict that the unemployment rate will remain at around 4 percent and around 180,000 jobs will be created.

This report will be one of the last glimpses into the state of the labor market before the Fed’s next policy meeting on December 12th and 13th.