Job openings in U.S. declined in July to a five-month low

WASHINGTON – United States job openings declined in July to a five-month low, signaling a pause in demand for workers ahead of a cooling in August payrolls growth that indicates the labor market may be gradually losing momentum.

The number of positions waiting to be filled fell by 31,000 to 7.22 million, according to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, released Tuesday.

The quits rate rose to 2.4%, the highest since April 2001, suggesting workers remain confident about their ability to find a job.

Key Insights

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  • Total vacancies exceeded the number of unemployed Americans by 1.15 million.
  • Labor Department figures released last week show U.S. employers added 130,000 jobs in August as prior months were downwardly revised.
  • An easing in openings and smaller job growth in August signal the U.S. labor market’s slowdown is deepening as sluggish global demand and the trade war take a toll on the economy.
  • Federal Reserve officials, who are expected to make a second-straight interest rate cut at their meeting next week, have consistently said the labor market remains strong.

Economist’s View

“Like many other recent labor market indicators, the Jolts report signals that job market conditions are reasonably healthy, but that they are not as upbeat as they were at some earlier stages of the expansion,” Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a report.

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  • Openings fell in the Northeast and South, while rising in the West, to a record, and Midwest.
  • By industry, openings climbed to all-time highs in mining and in manufacturing. In professional and business services, openings were the fewest in a year.
  • Although it lags a month behind other Labor Department data, the JOLTS report adds context to monthly employment figures by measuring dynamics such as resignations, help-wanted ads and hiring.

Jeff Kearns is a reporter for Bloomberg News.

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