US job openings slip, though remain at healthy level

Christopher Rugaber
Associated Press

Washington – U.S. employers advertised fewer jobs in May amid signs that the economy is weakening, though the overall demand for workers remained strong.

Employers posted 11.3 million job openings at the end of May, the Labor Department said Wednesday, down from nearly 11.7 million in April. Job openings reached 11.9 million in March, the highest level on records dating back more than 20 years. There are nearly two job openings for every unemployed person, a sharp reversal from the historic pattern: Before the pandemic, there were always more unemployed people than available jobs.

The figures reflect the unusual nature of the post-pandemic economy: Inflation is hammering household budgets, forcing consumers to pull back on spending, and growth is weakening. Yet companies are still scrambling to add workers. Demand has been particularly strong in travel- and entertainment-related services.

Economists are closely monitoring the jobs opening figures for signs the labor market is cooling, which could bring down inflation. With companies posting so many available positions, they have also been raising pay and offering more benefits to attract and keep workers. Higher labor costs have, in turn, contributed to pushing up prices, with inflation now at 40-year highs.

The Federal Reserve has targeted the nearly record-high job openings as evidence that the economy has overheated, and is rapidly lifting the short-term interest rate it controls to cool consumer and business spending. Fed Chair Jerome Powell hopes that weaker spending will reduce demand for workers, lower job openings and wage increases, and bring down inflation.