Employers cut back on the number of positions they were looking to fill in February, data from the U.S. Department of Labor showed Tuesday.
The number of job openings fell to 9.931 million as of the last day of February, the Labor Department said in its monthly report on the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS.
The size of the decline was unexpected. Economists had forecast jobs openings to fall from the 10.8 million initially estimated for January to 10.5 million. The January figure was revised down to 10.563 million, indicating that the labor market was slightly softer than previously thought.
This was the second consecutive month of declining openings. Despite the decline, openings remain well above historically normal levels. Just prior to the pandemic, there were 7.1 million vacant positions.
The Federal Reserve has been trying to cool demand for labor, fearing that the imbalance between supply and demand for workers might push inflation higher for longer. The declines in February and January suggests Fed policy may be having some effect.
Hiring, however, remains very strong. The number of people hired into new jobs was mostly unchanged at 6.2 million.
Quits, which are considered a measure of worker confidence at finding new and better jobs, rose by 146,000 to four million.