Less Hiring, Less Quitting, Few Layoffs

Wall Street Journal January 4, 2024

U.S. job openings in November fell to the lowest level in more than 2½ years, underscoring the labor market’s gradual slowdown from the frenzied pace of hiring and quitting that marked an earlier phase of the pandemic recovery. Job openings slipped to 8.8 million in November from 8.9 million one month earlier, the Labor Department said. That remains well above the number of unemployed people actively seeking a job, suggesting that there is still demand for workers.
Employers, however, appear much more methodical about hiring and workers much less likely to jump ship than in 2021 or 2022. Excluding the pandemic, the hires rate was the lowest since 2014 and the quits rate the lowest since 2018. Including the pandemic, separations—a category that includes quits, layoffs and retirements—were at the lowest rate since 2016. Layoffs remain historically low. “If hiring continues to decline and layoffs rise even modestly, the unemployment rate will start to rise swiftly,” said Indeed economist Nick Bunker.