The number of job openings in the United States ticked down ever so slightly in November, but not enough so to suggest that the labor market is finally coming off the boil. According to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) report, 10.5 million positions remained unfilled on the last business day of November, dashing hopes (and expectations) of a more significant downward trend for the closely-watched indicator of labor demand.
With 10.5 million job openings and just 6.0 million people officially unemployed, there's still more than 1.7 unfilled positions for every job seeker, indicating that the imbalance between labor demand and supply, identified by the Fed as one of the factors driving inflation, persists. Before the pandemic hit in March 2020, there had been 1.2 job openings per unemployed person in an already tight labor market. That indicator then crashed to 0.2 by April 2020 amid mass layoffs in sectors affected by Covid restrictions before climbing as high as 2.0 job openings per unemployed person by March 2022, at the height of the "Great Resignation".
Fed Chair Jerome Powell has repeatedly stressed that the labor market needs to balance out to relieve upward pressure on wages and thus cool inflation, a goal that has proven elusive so far. The latest reading is further indication that the Fed is unlikely to abandon its restrictive stance anytime soon.