Job openings fell sharply in May but still far outnumbered the level of people looking for work, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday.
Available positions totaled 11.25 million for the month, a considerable drop from the upwardly revised 11.68 million in April. As a share of the labor force, the rate of vacancies fell to 6.9% from 7.2%, according to the bureau’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.
Despite the decline, the level of job openings was better than the 11.04 million estimate from FactSet.
There were 5.95 million people counted as unemployed in the month, meaning there were 1.9 openings per every available worker, still around historical highs.
Quits also declined slightly, falling to 4.27 million as the so-called Great Resignation abated. The level of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs has soared in the Covid era, a sign of enhanced mobility during a time of extreme labor shortages.
Federal Reserve officials watch the JOLTS report closely for signs of labor market slack. The U.S. unemployment rate in May was 3.6%, just above where it was before the pandemic. However, there are 440,000 fewer Americans at work now than there were in February 2020.
Layoffs nudged higher during the month to 1.39 million after hitting a series low in April from data going back to December 2000.
Job openings declined sharply in manufacturing and professional and business services while increasing in retail trade and leisure and hospitality.
Hires edged lower, falling to 6.49 million, with the rate unchanged at 4.3%.
Markets will get a more up-to-date view of the labor market Friday when the BLS releases the monthly nonfarm payrolls report. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expect growth of 250,000 jobs and an unchanged unemployment rate.
In other economic news Wednesday, the ISM services index for June registered a 55.3 reading, indicative of the percentage of firms seeing expansion. That was better than the 54 Dow Jones estimate though a deceleration from the 55.9 in May.
The employment index fell to 47.4, a 2.8-point drop and indicative of contraction. The headline number was helped by an 8.5-point jump in backlogs, which rose to 60.5. Prices edged lower to 80.1, still well in expansion territory as inflation runs at a more than 40-year high.