The number of job openings at US employers unexpectedly surged in August, a testament to the continued strength of the labor market, according to new data released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There were an estimated 9.61 million open jobs in August, according to seasonally adjusted data from the BLS’ latest monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report. That’s up from July’s upwardly revised estimate of 8.92 million openings.
The consensus estimate from economists was for 8.8 million openings, according to Refinitiv.
Some of the biggest jumps in postings were in professional and business services, finance, other services and nondurable good manufacturing, according to the report.
While August’s uptick in openings bucks a three-month decline, the number of available jobs as estimated by JOLTS remains considerably lower than the record high of 12.03 million set in the spring of 2022. Year to date, openings are averaging 9.74 million per month, BLS data shows.
Additionally, data from online employment sites show that job postings have already fallen to, and in some cases below, pre-pandemic levels, Julia Pollak, chief economist of ZipRecruiter, told CNN.
“That [JOLTS] series is very zigzaggy; because it’s based on such a small sample, there’s quite a lot of statistical noise,” she said. “So, we shouldn’t read too much into one month either way. The longer-term trend is a gradual return to pre-pandemic levels.”
Other key measurements of labor movement tracked as part of the JOLTS report showed minimal movement.
The number of new hires ticked up to 5.86 million from 5.82 million in July, the number of workers quitting their jobs increased to 3.64 million from 3.62 million and layoffs held steady at 1.68 million.
Also, despite the increase in openings, the uptick in people returning to the labor force in August means that there are still 1.5 open jobs for every unemployed person looking for one, BLS data shows. This time last year, that ratio was 1.7.
“The Fed’s massive rate hikes are absolutely crushing it when it comes to core consumer inflation, but the labor market has escaped the wrath of tighter monetary policy with job openings erasing the soft spot for job offerings seen at the start of summer,” said Christopher Rupkey, chief economist at FwdBonds.
Investors balked at the unexpected rise. Stocks fell in morning trading, with the three major indexes dipping into the red and the Dow dropping more than 300 points.
This story is developing and will be updated.
Barbara Terrio is a seasoned business journalist, delving into the world of finance, startups, and entrepreneurship. With a knack for demystifying complex economic trends, she helps readers navigate the business landscape. Outside of her reporting, Barbara is an advocate for financial literacy and enjoys mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs.