Job Openings Fell Again in April to Lowest Level Since February 2021

June 4, 2024

Job openings fell more than expected in April, which was the latest sign of a potentially weakening labor market and could provide the Federal Reserve with additional support to start lowering interest rates.

The Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) for April showed that the number of job openings fell to 8.06 million for the month, down nearly 300,000 from the month prior and down 19% from a year earlier. 

That marks the lowest level of job vacancies since February 2021. The ratio of available jobs to workers seeking employment has fallen to 1.2-to-1, down significantly from the 2-to-1 ratio seen in March 2022, when job openings peaked at 12 million and employers struggled with labor shortages. The ratio’s current level is roughly where it was prior to the pandemic.

While job openings declined, the quits rate, which tracks the number of workers who voluntarily left positions, increased. This suggests that, despite there being fewer open positions, workers are still confident in the labor market, as workers rarely leave positions voluntarily unless they feel certain that they will be able to easily find employment elsewhere, usually for higher pay or better benefits.

Fed policymakers watch the JOLTS report closely for indications that the labor market is cooling as they debate the direction of monetary policy. The Fed has held benchmark interest rates at the highest level in 23 years and is waiting for clear evidence that inflation is progressing back to the central bank’s 2% goal. Signals from the markets suggest that an initial rate cut is likely to come in September.

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