The number of available jobs in the United States increased in September, surprising economists who had expected the total to fall amid the Federal Reserve’s aggressive action to cool the economy.
Job openings totaled 10.7 million, up from a revised 10.3 million in August, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Tuesday.
Economists had projected job openings would drop to 10 million in September, according to estimates on Refinitiv.
Accommodation and food services saw the largest number of new jobs, along with health care and social assistance; and transportation, warehousing and utilities, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS.
There were roughly 1.9 open positions for every person looking for work in September — up from 1.7 in August. That ratio has gained importance as the Fed tries to bring down stubbornly high inflation. When jobs are plentiful and workers scarce, employees have leverage to ask for a higher wage — which puts upward pressure on inflation.
However, despite the strong headline number, the JOLTS report also showed signs of cooling in the labor market: Hires dropped to just under 6.1 million, their lowest level since February 2021; and quits fell to below 4.1 million, the second-lowest level seen all year. Layoffs decreased to 1.3 million from a revised 1.5 million.
“The number of jobs advertised across thousands of US websites is steadily falling, and the gap between labor supply and demand is narrowing,” Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, noted in a tweet Tuesday morning. “Job seekers and employers both feel it.”
This story is developing and will be updated.