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The jobs market still favors workers, despite fears of an economic slowdown

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released data Wednesday that shows continued high job openings.
Joe Raedle
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics released data Wednesday that shows continued high job openings.

Workers looking for new jobs have plenty of options, despite recent layoffs and hiring slowdowns in key parts of the economy.

There were 11.3 million open jobs at the end of May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday.

Layoff rates are at historic lows. In contrast, the rate of workers who are quitting their jobs remains near historic highs, despite falling slightly from their peak in March. Because there are so many available jobs — nearly two for every person who's unemployed — employers are keen to hold on to workers they already have. Some have offered pay raises to attract or retain workers, especially as inflation causes prices to rise.

The May numbers represent a slight decrease from April. Goods manufacturing and professional services both saw the largest dips in the number of openings, but there weren't any dramatic changes in employers' laying off workers or workers quitting their jobs in those industries.

Overall, 4.3 million people quit their jobs in May, and there were 6.5 million hires.

There are fears that the good times are tapering off, however. Inflation is at its highest rate since 1994. The Fed recently enacted the largest interest rate hike in nearly 30 years to combat it.

Some high-profile companies that grew tremendously during the pandemic, including Peloton, Netflix and Coinbase, have announced layoffs or hiring freezes. And soaring interest rates may cause the job market to contract if employers lay off workers. But analysts emphasize that a decline in the overall labor market hasn't happened yet, and the May numbers bear that out.

"If the labor market were quickly and suddenly taking a downturn, we would see employers' demand for new hires drop and their willingness to let workers go increase. For now, we aren't seeing a sudden move in either direction," wrote Nick Bunker, Indeed Hiring Lab's director of research. "Clouds can move in quickly and darken the outlook for the US labor market, but for now, the sun is still shining."

The Labor Department's jobs report for June will be released Friday.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jacqueline GaNun