US job openings fall to three-year low in March

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. job openings fell to a three-year low in March, while the number of people quitting their jobs declined, signs of easing labor market conditions that over time could aid the Federal Reserve’s fight against inflation.

Job openings, a measure of labor demand, were down 325,000 to 8.488 million on the last day of March, the lowest level since February 2021, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, on Wednesday.

Data for February was revised slightly higher to show 8.813 million unfilled positions instead of the previously reported 8.756 million. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 8.686 million job openings in March. Vacancies peaked at a record 12.0 million in March 2022. The number of people quitting their jobs dropped 198,000 to 3.329 million in March.

Fed officials later on Wednesday are expected to leave the U.S. central bank’s benchmark overnight interest rate unchanged in the current 5.25%-5.50% range, where it has been since July. They have raised the policy rate by 525 basis points since March 2022. Financial markets have pushed back the expected timing of a rate cut this year to September from June.

A handful of economists continue to expect that borrowing costs may be lowered in July, believing that the labor market will slow noticeably in the coming months. Others see the window for the Fed to start its easing cycle closing.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)