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Forecasters expect meaningful slowdown in job market

Axios Business Suite logo: MainLogo Axios Business Suite 3/7/2023 Neil Irwin
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

January's headline labor market numbers were off-the-charts strong, with 517,000 jobs added and a five-decade low in the jobless rate.

  • New data out Wednesday morning will give us a look under the hood of what was happening.

Driving the news: For the reasons described above, the upcoming Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey has greater-than-usual significance. Forecasters expect it to show the number of job openings falling to 10.5 million, from 11 million in December.

  • That would be evidence of a meaningful slowdown in the job market in spite of January's booming figures.
  • In December, JOLTS surged unexpectedly from 10.4 million to 11 million — yet another indicator of a too-hot-for-comfort job market.

The intrigue: Job openings, however, have been a volatile indicator of the state of the labor market. They may not be the best indicator of what's really going on.

  • The rate of quits (people voluntarily leaving their jobs) and discharges (people leaving less-than-voluntarily) could be more instructive of whether there is softening in the job market underway not apparent in other data.

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