Job Openings Ease, but Layoffs Are Little Changed

Employers continued to pull back in October on the number of jobs they were looking to fill, the latest sign that the labor market is strong but gradually cooling.

About 10.3 million positions were open on the last day of October, the Labor Department said Wednesday, down from 10.7 million the previous month. Vacant positions in October effectively equaled the level in August, seasonally adjusted.

Reductions in job openings occurred in a broad range of industries including manufacturing, construction, professional and businesses services, and state and local government. Still, openings in every major industry remained above prepandemic levels, underscoring the persistent strength in the labor market despite higher borrowing costs.

The Federal Reserve is trying to constrain hiring in its efforts to tame inflation, concerned that a hot job market is forcing employers to raise wages, contributing to soaring prices.

Other measures in the report — the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS — affirm the labor market’s resilience. There were roughly 1.7 posted jobs for every unemployed worker, still extraordinarily high by historical standards.

In recent weeks, a number of technology companies have announced sweeping layoffs. Elon Musk, Twitter’s new owner, slashed the company’s work force in half in early November. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, shed 11,000 people, or about 13 percent of its workers.

Even as the job cuts in the technology industry have dominated the headlines, however, layoffs across the entire economy in October were largely unchanged at 1.4 million, low by historical standards, suggesting that employers remain hesitant to part with workers after the pandemic-era hiring frenzy.

The number of workers voluntarily quitting their jobs — an indicator of how confident workers are that they will be able to find better employment opportunities — ticked down but only slightly.

Although the report overall pointed to continued elevated demand for workers, there were undeniable signs that the labor market is weakening.

After a surprise jump in September, job openings resumed their march lower. There were four million quits in October, continuing the downward trend from the “Great Resignation” peak last year. The rate of people quitting their jobs — the number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs divided by total employment — was the lowest it had been since May 2021, at 2.6 percent.

“Today’s JOLTS report shows that the job market is gradually slowing,” said Daniel Zhao, an economist at the career site Glassdoor. “And that’s in line with what we have been seeing in other data as well.”

A more up-to-date readout of the economy will come on Friday, when the Labor Department releases data on monthly job growth and unemployment in November. Employers added 261,000 jobs in October.