U.S. labor market loses steam as job openings, resignations decline

The U.S. labor market lost some momentum in July as job openings and worker resignations dropped to their lowest levels in a year, while hiring was the weakest since March 2015.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that job openings fell by 166,000 to 5.99 million during the month. That was the lowest level since August 2016. Meanwhile, resignations dropped to 3.28 million, the fewest since June 2017. Hiring also declined sharply, dropping by 302,000 to 5.54 million, the lowest level since March 2015.

The declines suggest that the U.S. job market could be losing some of its heat. Average hourly wages rose at an annual pace of 2.9 percent in July, matching the pace recorded in April as the fastest in a decade.

At the same time, the U.S. unemployment rate is 3.9%, the lowest level since December 2000. The jobless rate is expected to remain near historical lows over the next several months.

Overall, the data provide some evidence that the tight labor market is starting to slow down, although it remains to be seen how much of a hit the economy will take from the ongoing trade conflict with China. Some economists have warned that the trade tensions could weigh on hiring and investment, leading to slower economic growth.