U.S. job openings rise slightly to 9.6 million, sign of continued strength in the job market


WASHINGTON (AP) — Employers posted 9.6 million job openings in September, up from 9.5 million in August and a sign that the U.S. job market remains strong even as the U.S. Federal Reserve attempts to cool the economy.

Layoffs fell to 1.5 million from 1.7 million in August, more evidence that workers enjoy an unusual degree of job security. The number of Americans quitting their jobs — a sign of confidence they can find better pay elsewhere — was virtually unchanged.

The September openings are down from a record 12 million in March 2022 but remain high by historical standards. Before 2021 — when the American economy began to surge from the COVID-19 pandemic — monthly job openings had never topped 8 million. Unemployment was 3.8% in September, just a couple of ticks above a half century low.

Openings were up by 141,000 at hotels and restaurants, which have struggled to attract and keep workers since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020.

The Federal Reserve’s inflation fighters would like to see the job market cool. They worry that strong hiring pressures employers into raising wages — and trying to pass the higher costs along with price increases that feed inflation.

The Fed has raised its benchmark interest rate 11 times since March 2022 in an effort to contain inflation that hit a four-decade high in 2022. In September, consumer prices were up 3.7% from a year earlier, down from a peak 9.1% in June last year but still above the Fed’s 2% target.

The combination of sturdy hiring, healthy economic growth and decelerating inflation has raised hopes the Fed can pull off a so-called soft landing — raising rates just enough contain price increases without tipping the economy into recession. The central bank is expected to announce later Wednesday that it will leave its benchmark rate unchanged for the second straight meeting as it waits to assess the fallout from its earlier rate hikes.

On Friday, the Labor Department releases its jobs report for October. Forecasters surveyed by the data firm FactSet expect that U.S. employers added a solid 189,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate stayed at 3.8%.

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