US job openings in July post third straight monthly drop

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An employee hiring sign with a QR code is seen in a window of a business in Arlington

An employee hiring sign with a QR code is seen in a window of a business in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., April 7, 2023. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz Acquire Licensing Rights

WASHINGTON, Aug 29 (Reuters) - U.S. job openings fell for a third straight month in July as the labor market gradually slows, but conditions remain tight, likely ensuring that the Federal Reserve would keep interest rates high for some time.

Job openings, a measure of labor demand dropped 338,000 to 8.827 million on the last day of July, the lowest level since March 2021, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, on Tuesday.

Data for June was revised lower to show 9.165 million job openings instead of the previously reported 9.582 million. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 9.465 million job openings in July.

The labor market has remained resilient despite 525 basis points in interest rate hikes from the Fed since March 2022, in part as employers filled positions, which opened up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies have also been reluctant to lay off workers after experiencing difficulties finding labor during the pandemic. The unemployment rate is hovering around levels last seen more than 50 years ago.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said at the annual Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium last Friday that the U.S. central bank "will proceed carefully as we decide whether to tighten further or, instead, to hold the policy rate constant and await further data." Financial markets expect the Fed will leave its benchmark overnight interest rate unchanged at the Sept. 19-20 policy meeting, according to the CME Group's FedWatch Tool.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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