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Job Openings Increase While Quits Fall

Americans had been quitting their jobs at a quickening pace in January, but in the snows of February, that momentum stalled, according to data out this morning from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

First, the good news: The number of job openings in February was up nicely, a gain of 168,000 to 5.13 million. That’s the highest level since 2001, with gains across most industries, although not in manufacturing.

But the number of people quitting their jobs fell by 92,000, to 2.69 million, with declines across almost all private sector industries. When people quit their jobs, it shows they either have another job lined up, or they are confident they will find one.

It’s hard to say what was driving the mixed signals, and whether weather, or just ordinary volatility, was to blame for the lower number of quits, said Bob Hughes, senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research.

“It’s nothing worth panicking over,” Hughes said. “It’s just a one-month downtick, but it’s a move in the wrong direction, particularly for an indicator Janet Yellen has been paying attention to.”

The soft data will give Yellen and the Fed more flexibility in the timing of the first rate increase and the pace of additional increases, Hughes said. “There’s no pressure on them to increase quickly,” he said.

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