Updated Aug 29, 2023 - Economy

Job openings dropped in July as hiring and layoffs held steady

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Demand for new workers cooled in July alongside more moderate hiring and historically low levels of layoffs.

Driving the news: The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) suggests the ideal labor market rebalancing that Fed policymakers want is underway. Vacancies are easing without a big jump in unemployment.

  • But it also suggests that the era of heightened worker power — as indicated by an elevated quits rate — might be near its end.

Details: There were 8.8 million job openings in July, a decrease of 338,000 compared to the prior month. That means there were 1.5 open jobs for every unemployed worker, the lowest ratio since Sept. 2021.

  • Meanwhile, the hiring rate ticked down by 0.1% to 3.7%, in step with the pre-pandemic hiring rate.
  • The layoff rate held at a low 1% for the fourth straight month.

The intrigue: Remember the Great Resignation? In July, the quits rate was 2.3%, the lowest since January 2021, matching the months before the pandemic.

  • The quits rate among private sector workers fell to 2.5%, well below the most recent peak of 3.3% in April 2022.
  • The indicator is the latest sign that the COVID-era quitting frenzy looks to be in the past.

The bottom line: "While most Americans who want a job have one, it is not as easy to find new work as a year ago. Hires and quits are back to their pre-pandemic levels, and job openings are falling rapidly," Bill Adams, chief economist at Comerica Bank, wrote in a note.

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