Job openings hit lowest level in 18 months but are still well ahead of total vacancies

Key Points
  • Job openings fell in September to just over 7 million, the lowest since March 2018.
  • Vacancies still outnumbered those looking for work by 1.2 million.
  • The so-called JOLTS survey is closely watched by Federal Reserve officials for clues on the employment picture.

Job openings hit their lowest level in 18 months in September as the labor market continued to tighten, according to a Labor Department release Tuesday.

Total vacancies fell to 7.02 million for the month, a decline of 277,000 from August, the Jobs Opening and Labor Turnover Survey showed. Though it lags other releases by a month, the so-called JOLTS report is closely watched by Federal Reserve officials as an indicator of labor market health.

The jobs openings rate fell to 4.4% from 4.6% in August.

However, the total number of job openings still is well ahead of the reported 5.8 million people looking for work during the month. The last vacancies were below 7 million was March 2018.

The quits rate, a measure of confidence and mobility that gauges how many workers voluntarily left their jobs, edged lower to 2.3% for the month as the total fell by 103,000 to 3.5 million.

Hires increased by 50,000 to 5.93 million, while total separations increased by 76,000 to 5.81 million. The hires rate remained unchanged at 3.9% while the separations rate also held at 3.8%.

Nonfarm payrolls overall increased by 180,000 in September while the total employment level rose to 158.3 million and the unemployment rate dropped to 3.5%. Data released Friday showed payroll growth of 128,000 in October, with the jobless rate edging up to 3.6%.