U.S. job openings held up better than expected in August, defying predictions of a steeper slowdown after four months of strong growth, while layoffs declined and new hires rose.
The number of available positions dipped to 6.49 in August from an upwardly revised 6.7 million in July, the Labor Department said Tuesday in its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, report.
Economists had forecast a decline to 6.25 million after the very high initial reading of 6.6 million.
Hiring picked up pace in August, perhaps because the end of enhanced unemployment benefits incentivized some Americans to return to work
The federal government saw a huge increase in hires, up 246,000 to 318,000, largely because of temporary 2020 Census hiring. That was partially offset by a big decline in hires in accommodations and food services, down from just over one million to 824,000.
Hires also increased in durable goods manufacturing by 41,000 to 216,000, a sizeable increase for this sector and evidence that manufacturing has bounced back faster than the broader economy.
Businesses slowed the rate of layoffs and discharges in August. The number and rate of layoffs and discharges decreased to series lows of 1.5 million, a decline of 272,000, and 1.0 percent, respectively in August. The largest decreases in layoffs was in professional and business services, which saw a decline of 95,000. Layoffs in accommodation and food services fell by 62,000, suggesting some stabilization in a sector brutally hit by the pandemic. Durable goods manufacturing layoffs fell by 42,000.