Job Openings Dipped in May, a Sign of Continued Cooling

Job openings fell in May while the number of workers quitting their jobs increased, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

There were 9.8 million job openings in May, down from 10.3 million in April, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, known as JOLTS. The report shows that the labor market is maintaining ample opportunities for workers, but it is losing momentum.

The quits rate, which is often used to gauge a worker’s confidence in the job market, increased in May, particularly in the health care, social assistance and construction industries. A rise in quitting often signals workers’ confidence that they will be able to find other work, often better paying. But fewer workers are quitting their jobs than were doing so last year at the height of what was called the “great resignation.”

Layoffs were relatively steady after decreasing in previous months, a sign that employers are hesitant to let go of workers.

Policymakers at the Federal Reserve have worried about the strength of the labor market as they continue to tackle stubbornly high inflation.

The Fed chose to leave interest rates unchanged in its June meeting after 10 consecutive increases. The JOLTS report is one of several factors that will inform Fed’s next decision on rates.

Some economists worry that the Fed will push interest rates too high and set off a recession.

The labor market has remained resilient amid the Fed’s efforts to slow down the economy but has shown signs of cooling in recent months. Job openings were down for three consecutive months until April.

Initial jobless claims, also released by the Labor Department on Thursday, nudged higher in the week ending on July 1 from the week before, though the four-week trend shows initial claims declining.

The June employment report — another indicator closely watched by the Fed — will be released by the Labor Department on Friday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect the report to show a gain of 225,000, down from the initial reading of 339,000 for May.

The unemployment rate jumped to 3.7 percent in May, from 3.4 percent a month earlier. Although still historically low, the rate was the highest since October and exceeded analysts’ expectations.

Fed policymakers will hold their next meeting July 25-26.

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