Demand for workers remained strong in July, a sign that the U.S. labor market remains vibrant even as the Federal Reserve tries to cool the economy by raising interest rates.
Job openings ticked up to 11.2 million, the Labor Department reported on Tuesday as part of its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS.
The survey included a large upward revision for openings in June, to 11 million from an estimated 10.7 million. The figure reached a record of more than 11.8 million in March.
Substantial aid during the pandemic’s ups and downs has kept businesses of all sizes afloat and household finances relatively healthy, resulting in robust demand for a broad range of goods and services. But the labor force is still smaller than it was before the pandemic, forcing employers to scramble to hire.
Openings outnumber unemployed workers by a ratio of 2-to-1.
The largest increases in openings were in transportation, warehousing and utilities jobs. In a sign of continued recovery, the arts, entertainment and recreation industries — which have greatly benefited from the easing of COVID concerns and restrictions — had a surge in postings.
Several prominent companies announced layoffs this summer. But both the overall rate and number of layoffs have been flat on a monthly basis, while the recently elevated rate of quitting declined only slightly in July.
There were some signs of weakness, however. The survey found that job openings decreased in durable-goods manufacturing by an estimated 47,000. Some economists say this is unsurprising after the intense consumer demand for goods at the beginning of the pandemic. But it may also be an early mark of tighter financial conditions.
Economists and bank analysts said the report made it likely that the Fed would remain aggressive in raising interest rates, as the central bank tries to weaken the labor market so that wage gains and consumer spending, which have slowed, will dip further in better alignment with the supply-constrained economy.
“The job market remains surprisingly resilient to the Fed’s best efforts to cool it off,” said Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The Fed desperately wants job growth to slow and unemployment to stabilize, even rise a bit, to quell wage and price pressures.”