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February JOLTS: Job Market in State of Suspended Animation; Business Owners Exercising Extreme “Wait-and-See" Caution

The U.S. economy had 8.8 million job openings in February, down from 8.9 million the month prior, according to the newly released Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). Additionally, the number of hires and total separations were little changed at 5.8 million and 5.6 million. 


However, when removing seasonal adjustments, the actual job openings fell to 7.5 million, down 1 million from this time last year. This confirms the recent data from the Freedom Economy survey which found that the highest number of employers are neither hiring nor removing staff, instead holding in a “wait-and-see" pattern. 


“The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey is all about labor demand, not actual jobs filled, and so this report shows us that demand continues to slowly soften, as business owners try to assess what the 2024 economy will look like,” said RedBalloon CEO Andrew Crapuchettes, who also pioneered the use of labor market data analytics in business development and growth. “Although fewer small business owners expect a major recession this year, most simply don’t know which direction the economy is headed. Out of caution, they’ve put their job demands on hold.”    

According to the March Freedom Economy Index, a joint project of PublicSquare and RedBalloon, small business owners are holding their resources awaiting economic direction. Business owners told us this month that they are spending cautiously and only making essential purchases. In addition, the number of respondents who are neither hiring nor firing is at the highest level since the FEI began tracking that statistic. 

Here is a sampling of their responses: 

  • “Cautious, but trying to find ways to grow.” 

  • “Cutting back, finding ways to save.” 

  • “Investing in new products for when the dam breaks.” 

  • “Spinning in a circle, not knowing WHAT to do.” 

  • “Borrowing heavily just to make ends meet.” 

  • “Very targeted spending.”

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