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Job Openings Drop to 2021 Levels as Hiring Slows

jobs, economy, data, Labor Department

New data from the U.S. Labor Department shows job openings at their lowest level in more than two years.

The department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), released Tuesday (Dec. 5), showed 1.34 vacancies for every unemployed person in October, the lowest level since August 2021 and down from 1.47 in September.

The report showed that, as of the last business day in October, the number of job openings decreased to 8.7 million, a drop of 617,000, the lowest level in March 2021.

The largest drop in job openings occurred in the health care and social assistance sectors (down 236,000), along with finance and insurance (a decline of 168,000), and real estate and rental and leasing (falling 49,000). 

“These data will be welcome news for policymakers,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics in White Plains, New York, told Reuters on Tuesday. “The data support our view that rates are at a peak and the Fed’s next move will be a rate cut, likely in second quarter of 2024.”

Policymakers might be happier, but a dearth of new job openings is unwelcome news for consumers who might have hoped to change jobs, a description that applies to 16% of American workers who say their salary doesn’t meet their expectations. 

As PYMNTS wrote last week, two years of inflation levels above wages have weakened U.S. households and left consumers struggling to maintain purchasing power and financial stability. 

“Many individuals have depleted a significant portion of their savings to keep up with everyday expenses,” the report said. 

“Furthermore, consumers have started cutting back on indulgent expenses such as travel or leisure events, and are exhibiting more conservative behavior in essential spending, seeking deals and discounts or swapping their usual retail stores for cheaper alternatives. The lower-income segment is leading this trend toward more selective and rational consumption.” 

On average, nearly three-quarters of consumers have cut back on non-essential retail spending, and have also become more selective on essential purchases.

Nearly half of grocery shoppers now prioritize finding better deals when choosing where to shop, while also reducing expenses in those grocery categories considered not “essential,” or “nice-to-have” items such as desserts, candies, snacks or premium foods.