Job Openings Fell Slightly in January; Layoffs Rose

Demand for workers let up slightly in January, a possible sign that employers are gradually easing off their frenetic pace of hiring even as the job market remains strong.

The number of job openings fell to 10.8 million, the Labor Department reported on Wednesday, a moderate decrease from the 11.2 million open positions on the last day of December. The total number of open jobs per available unemployed worker — a figure that the Federal Reserve has been watching closely as it tries to cool the job market — was relatively unchanged at 1.9.

Still, although employers have proved remarkably resilient in the face of the Fed’s interest rate increases, the drop in open positions is the latest indication that the once red-hot labor market is slowly cooling. Some industries that had shown unexpected strength recorded notable declines in open positions, including construction, where job openings fell by 240,000. Even leisure and hospitality businesses, like restaurants and bars, which have been trying to adjust to unrelenting demand, had slightly fewer open positions.

Other measures also suggested a gentle tempering in the labor market. The number of layoffs, which has been extraordinarily low outside of some high-profile companies mostly in the tech sector, rose by 241,000, to 1.7 million.

The number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs, which has been elevated as workers continue seek — and find — higher-paying jobs, fell in January by 207,000, to 3.9 million.

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