US job openings sink amid higher rates and slower growth

WASHINGTON — The number of available jobs in the U.S. plummeted in August compared with July, a sign that businesses might pull back further on hiring and potentially cool chronically high inflation.

There were 10.1 million advertised jobs on the last day of August, the government said Tuesday, down a huge 10% from 11.2 million openings in July. In March, job openings had hit a record of nearly 11.9 million.

Layoffs ticked up in August but remained at a historically low level. And slightly more people quit their jobs.

The sharp drop in job openings will be welcomed by the Federal Reserve. Fed officials have cited the high level of openings as a sign of strong labor demand that has compelled employers to steadily raise pay to attract and keep workers.

Smaller pay raises, if sustained, should ease inflationary pressures. In their effort to combat the worst inflation in 40 years, the central bank has raised its key short-term interest rate to a range of 3% to 3.25%, up sharply from nearly zero as recently as March.

Chair Jerome Powell and other Fed officials hope that their interest rate hikes — the fastest in roughly four decades — will cause employers to pull back on their efforts to hire more people. Fewer job openings, in turn, could reduce the pressure on companies to raise pay to attract and keep workers.

Tuesday’s figures arrive the same week that a key report on jobs and the unemployment rate is set to be released Friday. Economists forecast that it will show that employers added 250,000 jobs in September and that the unemployment rate remained 3.7% for a second straight month.