Labor market cools as job openings hit 2-year low

20:38 29.08.2023

In a clear sign that the U.S. labor market is cooling, businesses posted fewer open jobs in July, according to a report from the Labor Department. The number of job vacancies dropped to 8.8 million, the lowest level since March 2021 and down from 9.2 million in June. However, this drop appeared to be even steeper due to the revision of June's figure, which was initially reported as 9.6 million. Despite the decline, the number of job openings in July was still historically healthy, as before the pandemic, the number of openings had never surpassed 8 million.

Furthermore, the number of Americans quitting their jobs also fell sharply for the second consecutive month. In July, 3.5 million people left their jobs, down from 3.8 million in June, marking the lowest level since February 2021. This decrease in job quitting can be attributed to the fact that most Americans quit work for other, better-paying jobs. During and after the pandemic, there was a surge in quit rates as workers sought higher pay and benefits elsewhere.

These developments in the labor market could have implications for inflation. The Federal Reserve, which has been combating inflation by raising interest rates, may welcome the decrease in job openings and quitting, as it reduces pressure on employers to raise pay to attract and retain workers. Pay raises, while beneficial for employees, can lead companies to increase prices, thereby pushing up inflation. The evidence of a cooling labor market, along with the steady decline in inflation from its peak of 9.1% in June 2022 to 3.2% last month, could potentially prompt the Fed to reconsider a rate hike at its next meeting in September.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and other officials have expressed hope that the declining number of job openings could help bring down inflation without the need for layoffs. Powell described the decline in job openings without an increase in unemployment as a "highly welcome but historically unusual result" during a speech at the Fed's annual conference in Wyoming.

However, Powell acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the labor market decline and emphasized the need for agile policymaking. The government's jobs report for August, which is expected later this week, will provide further insights into the labor market. Economists forecast that employers added 170,000 jobs this month, which, while still a solid increase, would be the smallest in almost three years and could indicate a potential softening in the economy.

The labor market data holds significant implications for interest-rate policy. Policymakers at the Federal Reserve closely monitor these figures as they strive to combat inflation. The Fed has already raised interest rates to a range of 5.25% to 5.5% in their last meeting in July, the highest level since 2001. The possibility of the labor market continuing to cool has some investors hoping for an end to the campaign of rate increases sooner.

Fed Chair Powell, however, hinted that the central bank is not ruling out further rate increases. He stated that they are prepared to raise rates further if necessary and intend to maintain a restrictive level of policy until they are confident that inflation is moving sustainably towards their objective.

The August jobs report, set to be released later this week, will be closely watched by policymakers as it will provide them with one of the final labor market pulses before their next meeting in September. The report will shed further light on the state of the labor market and its potential impact on the economy.

/ Tuesday, August 29, 2023, 8:38 PM /

themes:  Wyoming

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