1 of 2 | The JOLTS market report - Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary – show job openings decreased to 9.9 million as of the last full business day in February. File photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
April 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. economy may be cooling off as federal data Tuesday show job openings declined dramatically in February to a two-year low.
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, or JOLTS report, showed job openings decreased to 9.9 million as of the last full business day in February.
More people quit their jobs -- an estimated 4 million people -- than were laid off or discharged, at 1.5 million.
Most of the job losses came from professional and business services. In terms of size, smaller companies saw little change in job openings and new hires, though layoffs declined. Bigger companies saw "little change in their hires rate and total separations rate while the job openings rate decreased," the government explained.
OPEC's decision to trim crude oil production starting in May, concerns about the health of the global financial sector and aggressive rate hikes from the world's central banks all lead to concerns of a repeat of the so-called Great Recession from 2007-08.
Jeffrey Roach, the chief economist at LPL Financial in San Diego, told CNBC recent trends in employment could prompt the Fed to pause rate hikes, though only if weakness lasts.
"The labor market is starting to loosen as the number of job openings declined in most sectors," he said. "As the economy slows, firms will likely cut openings and workers will be less likely to quit in search of better hours and higher pay."
While February data like the number of people quitting their jobs offer an indication of broader economic health, more recent data show job losses remain static. Data from March show job losses were only around 1,000 and the less-volatile, four-week moving average declined by only 250 or so.
New non-farm payroll data are out on Friday.
Market indices were in the red on Tuesday. The Dow was off by 0.63%, while the S&P 500 was trading 0.54% lower as of 11:30 a.m. EDT. The tech-heavy NASDAQ was down 0.5%.