The number of vacancies in the US will fall more than expected in April

(Reuters) – U.S. job openings fell more than expected in April to the lowest level in more than three years, a sign that labor market conditions are weakening in a way that could help the Federal Reserve battle inflation.

Job openings, a measure of labor demand, fell by 296,000 to 8.059 million on the last day of April, the lowest level since February 2021, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said Tuesday in its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS. report.

March data has been revised slightly lower, showing 8.355 million unfilled positions instead of the previously reported 8.488 million. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 8.355 million vacancies in April. The number of vacancies peaked in March 2022 at a record number of 12.0 million.

The number of people who quit their jobs rose by 98,000 to 3.507 million in April.

Federal Reserve officials next week are expected to leave the U.S. central bank’s policy rate at the same 5.25%-5.50% level it has been since last July. They have said a rate cut will likely wait until data shows inflation is back on track to the 2% target after a stronger-than-expected run in the first quarter.

Fed officials have said that only an unexpected and meaningful weakening in the labor market could lead to a rate cut sooner than otherwise.

So far, they have welcomed signs of a cooling in the labor market as a sign of a rebalancing that eases upward pressure on prices.

The financial markets are expecting a first interest rate cut in September and a second in December.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Chizu Nomiyama)