U.S. job openings unexpectedly rose in December, and last month’s data was revised upward, suggesting the labor market remains strong for the Federal Reserve to start cutting interest in the first quarter.
Job openings, an indicator of labor demand, rose by 101,000 positions to 9.026 million on the last day of December, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday in its monthly Job Openings Survey report. Job Rotation (JOLTS).
The November data was revised upward to show 8.925 million unfilled positions instead of the previously reported 8.79 million. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 8.75 million job openings in November.
In March 2022, job openings reached a record 12.0 million.
The market expects Fed officials to leave rates unchanged at the end of a two-day policy meeting on Wednesday. Financial markets have reduced the odds of a rate cut in March to less than 50%.
The Labor Department is expected to report on Friday that nonfarm payrolls rose by 180,000 jobs in January, according to a Reuters poll of economists. The economy added 216,000 jobs in December.
Although employment growth has slowed from its strong pace in 2022, wage growth remains above the 100,000 jobs needed each month to keep up with the growth of the working-age population.
The unemployment rate is expected to rise to 3.8% from 3.7% in December. The unemployment rate remains below 4% as companies gather workers after difficulties in finding work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.