The Economy

Job Openings Drop in November but Remain Strong

The gap between openings and unemployed workers could keep pressure on the Fed to raise rates despite a global economic slowdown.
William SprouseJanuary 8, 2019
Job Openings Drop in November but Remain Strong

The Labor Department said the number of U.S. job openings fell to 6.89 million in November, its lowest level since early summer of 2018, but still higher than the 6 million people classified by the government as unemployed.

Job openings were a record 7.29 million in August. They were 7.13 million in October.

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The report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics said job openings increased in transportation and warehousing ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Construction jobs fell by 45,000. The quit rate fell to 2.5% among private-sector employees for the second month in a row, a possible sign that tightening in the labor market is over.

Businesses say a lack of qualified applicants is the main reason they don’t hire.

The gap between job openings and unemployed workers was widest in the Midwest and in the South. It was smaller in the West and Northeast. The number of government job openings remained largely unchanged. The report predates the partial shutdown of the federal government.

“In a labor market this tight, I’d expect quitting and job-to-job moves to be steady or picking up, definitely not declining,” said Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed Hiring Lab.

“I would not ring alarm bells over this—this is less a sign of this tight labor market ending and more of a question about what it will look like moving forward,” said Bunker.

Last week, a report showed job growth surged to 312,000 in December.

The jobs figures could keep pressure on the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates despite a global economic slowdown, though economists say the best evidence for labor shortages would be a jump in wages.

“If this goes on for another couple of years, then yes of course we’ll be running into labor shortages,” said Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Analytics.

Average hourly wages grew 3.2% last month, which is considered mild by historical standards.