U.S. job openings fell to an eight-month low in August and hiring was little changed, suggesting some easing in labor market conditions in part as the economic recovery ages.
In its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report on Wednesday the Labor Department said job openings, a measure of labor demand, declined 388,000 to a seasonally adjusted 5.4 million after surging to a record high in July.
That pushed down the jobs openings rate three-tenths of a percentage point to 3.6 percent. The number of hires was little changed at 5.2 million in August, keeping the hiring rate steady at 3.6 percent.
“These data can be volatile and the openings rate is still fairly high, so it is too early to tell whether this is a signal or just the noise of volatile monthly data,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York.
“However, if this drop is sustained, it could be a sign of increased caution on the part of businesses.”
Job growth is slowing, with nonfarm payrolls increasing 156,000 in September. Employment growth has so far this year averaged 178,000 jobs per month, down from an average gain of 229,000 positions per month in 2015.
With the bulk of the labor market slack largely absorbed and the economy’s recovery from the 2007-09 recession aging, the slowdown in payrolls growth is normal. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has said the economy needs to create just under 100,000 jobs a month to keep up with population growth.
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)