Employers are slowly regaining the upper hand in the labor market, a chart of the job-workers gap shows.
That’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which said Tuesday that the number of job openings fell to 9.9 million in February, the lowest since May 2021 and far below the peak of 12 million it hit in March 2022. That means there are now 4 million more jobs than workers to do them—the smallest the gap has been since September 2021.
The closing of the job-worker gap suggests the Federal Reserve’s campaign of interest rate hikes—which is meant cool the labor market to curb pay raises and inflation—is indeed generating a chill wind, economists said.
“This is another sign that the job market is cooling and is also a sign that we could see some downward pressure on wage demands and, thus, cooler inflation,” said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, in a commentary. “However, the job market is still not at the point where the Fed can take a step back and chill.”
The job-workers gap, a metric favored by economists at Goldman Sachs, compares the total number of jobs in the economy—the number of people working, plus the number of job openings—to the total size of the workforce.
Despite declining for two months, the gap between jobs and workers remains close to its March 2022 peak. The BLS first started tracking this metric in 2000, and typically, there have been more workers than jobs, rather than the other way around.