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Economic Report: U.S job openings stay high at 10.5 million and show labor market still very strong

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The numbers: Job openings in the U.S. fell slightly to 10.46 million in November, but workers were still quitting in droves in a sign the labor market remains quite strong — too strong for the Federal Reserve.

Job listings declined from 10.51 million in October, the Labor Department said Wednesday. But openings in October were also revised higher.

The number of job openings is seen as a cue on the health of the labor market and broader U.S. economy. Job postings have slowly receded since hitting an all-time high of 11.9 million last spring.

The jobs market is still too hot for the Fed, however. The Fed is worried high inflation will persist unless hiring slows and a rapid increase in wages tapers off.

There were 1.7 job openings for each unemployed worker in November, well above pre-pandemic levels of 1.2. The Fed is watching that ratio closely and wants to see if fall back to pre-pandemic norms.

Key details: The number of people hired in November dipped to 6.06 million, marking the smallest increase since February 2021.

Rising interest rates, a slowing economy and worries about recession have spurred businesses to fill fewer open jobs.

Yet the number of job quitters edged up to 4.17 million. Quits have topped 4 million for a record 18 months in a row. People quit more often when they think it’s easy to get a better job.

The so-called quits rate among private-sector workers rose to 3% from 2.9%. It peaked at 3.4% near the end of 2021.

Big picture: The Fed is raising interest rates to slow the economy and reduce the demand for labor as part of a broader strategy to rein in the worst inflation in 40 years.

Fed officials say the appetite for labor is still too strong and needs to slacken. The ratio of job openings to unemployed workers has slipped from a record 2.0 last spring, but that’s still too high for the central bank.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+0.53%

and S&P 500
SPX,
+0.97%

fell after the job-openings report.

The Fed: Fed’s Kashkari backs interest rate hikes ‘at least the next few meetings’

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