WASHINGTON– U.S. job vacancies rose unexpectedly in September, suggesting that the U.S. labor market is not cooling as fast as Federal Reserve inflation fighters had hoped.
Employers posted 10.7 million job openings in September, up from 10.3 million in August, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Economists expected the number of job vacancies to fall below 10 million for the first time since June 2021.
Over the past two years, as the economy rebounded from the 2020 COVID-19 recession, employers complained that they could not find enough workers. With so many jobs available, workers can afford to quit and seek a job that pays better or offers better benefits or flexibility. Companies have therefore been forced to raise wages to attract and retain staff. Rising wages have contributed to inflation that hit 40-year highs in 2022.
In another sign the labor market remains tight and employers are unwilling to let workers go, layoffs fell in September to 1.3 million, the fewest since April. But the number of people quitting their jobs slipped in September to just under 4.1 million, still high by historical standards.
To combat rising prices, the Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate five times this year and is expected to make another increase on Wednesday and again at its December meeting. The central bank is aiming for a so-called soft landing – raising rates just enough to slow economic growth and lower inflation without causing a recession.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has expressed hope that inflationary pressure can be eased by employers cutting job openings, not jobs.