U.S. job openings fell to the lowest level in five months in July, an indication of a cooling labor market that follows a weak non-farm payroll report last week.
According to the Labor Department’s latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), the number of job openings declined by 31,000 to 7.22 million in July from 7.25 million the previous month. Economists had forecast job openings would increase to 7.48 million.
Job openings, a measure of labor demand, had been little changed this year since reaching a record 7.6 million in late 2018.
The July decline is the “latest sign of how the once red-hot American labor market is cooling amid uncertainty stemming from the U.S.-China trade war,” The Financial Times said, while noting that the quits rate, or the rate at which people voluntarily left their jobs, climbed to 2.4%.
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 130,000 jobs in August, down from 159,000 in July, the government reported last Friday.
“Last week’s jobs report sparked a debate over whether the slowdown in hiring is due to an economy hitting full employment, but today’s JOLTS report indicates that this is actually a labor market that is losing momentum,” Nick Bunker, economist at Indeed Hiring Lab, told Reuters.
According to the JOLTS report, vacancies in wholesale trade decreased by 55,000 in July while federal government job openings fell by 11,000. Job openings increased by 42,000 in information and there were an additional 11,000 vacancies in mining and logging.
Reuters noted that job openings “remain at higher levels, which could ease fears that the longest economic expansion in history was in a danger of being derailed by a recession.”
“The U.S. has never entered into a recession with so many ‘help wanted’ signs out there across the country, meaning the labor force is already lean and mean with few surplus workers to cut,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York.
Job growth has averaged 158,000 per month this year, still above the roughly 100,000 per month needed to keep up with growth in the working age population.
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