US job openings in October lowest since 2021, well below forecasts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. job openings dropped in October to the lowest level since early 2021, indicating that the labor market was easing as higher interest rates cool demand in the economy.

Job openings, a measure of labor demand, fell 617,000 to 8.733 million on the last day of October, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, on Tuesday. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 9.30 million job openings in October. Data for September was revised lower to show 9.350 million job openings instead of the previously reported 9.553 million.

The slowing labor market and subsiding inflation have raised optimism that the Federal Reserve is probably done raising interest rates this cycle, with financial markets even anticipating a rate cut in mid-2024.

Since March 2022, the central bank has raised its benchmark overnight interest rate by 525 basis points to the current 5.25%-5.50% range. The government is expected to report on Friday that nonfarm payrolls increased by 185,000 jobs in November, according to a Reuters survey of economists, boosted by the return of about 33,000 striking United Auto Workers union members. Payrolls increased by 150,000 positions in October.

November’s anticipated job count would be below the average monthly gain of 258,000 over the prior 12 months.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)