For the first time in nearly two years, job openings fell below 10 million in February

An employment sign is seen at a Dollar General convenience store on March 10, 2023 in Austin, Texas.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Job openings fell below 10 million for the first time in February.

Available positions totaled 9.93 million, a decline of 632,000 from January, the Labor Department reported Tuesday in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey. Wall Street was looking for 10.4 million, according to FactSet.

It was the first time since May 2021 that job vacancies fell below 10 million.

In the year The Fed is targeting a red-hot labor market in an effort to bring inflation down from a 41-year high by the summer of 2022. The central bank has raised interest rates nine times since March 2022. Movements seem to have little effect on work conditions.

Before the February data, job openings outnumbered workers by nearly 2 to 1. The latest figures bring that ratio down from 1.7 to 1.

Treasury yields fell after the release as the data helped dissuade the Fed from further rate hikes. Stocks moved lower.

Although the numbers are only a month away, the feds will be closely monitoring the JOOLTS data for signs of labor shortages.

Along with the decline in job openings, hiring and separations also decreased slightly. Unemployment, a measure of workers’ confidence in their ability to switch jobs, rose by 146,000 to just under 4 million.

Professional and business services saw a month-over-month slide of 278,000 job vacancies, while trade, transportation and utilities declined by 210,000. Accommodation and food services, a key sector for gauging consumer demand, fell by 125,000.

On the positive side, there were 129,000 new construction jobs, although this was the only category that saw significant inflation.

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