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U.S. Job Openings Rise Modestly to 8.8 Million in February in Strong Labor Market

U.S. job openings barely changed in February, staying at historically high levels in a sign that the American job market remains strong.

The Labor Department reported, that employers posted 8.76 million job vacancies in February, up modestly from 8.75 million in January and about what economists had forecast.

But the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, showed that layoffs ticked up to 1.7 million in February from 1.6 million in January, highest since March 2023. The number of Americans quitting their jobs – a sign of confidence they can find better pay or working conditions elsewhere – rose modestly to 3.5 million.

Monthly job openings are down from a peak of 12.2 million in March 2022 but are still at a high level. Before 2021, they’d never topped 8 million.

The high level of vacancies is a sign of the job market’s strength and endurance. When 
the Federal Reserve began raising its benchmark interest rates two years ago to combat inflation, most economists expected the higher borrowing costs to send the United States into recession.

Instead, the economy has continued to grow and employers have been seeking new workers and holding on to the ones they already have. Although the unemployment rate rose to 3.9% in February, it’s come in below 4% for 25 straight months, longest such streak since the 1960s.

“Job openings are still elevated relative to pre-pandemic readings, signaling still-strong demand for workers,’’ said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “A strong labor market backdrop coupled with inflation receding but remaining above target supports the (Fed’s) current patient stance on future policy decisions.’’

Compared to layoffs, the steady drop in job openings is a painless way to cool a labor market that has been red hot, easing upward pressure on wages that can lead to higher prices.

Source: Associated Press

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