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CNBC Daily Open: Everyone's Holding Their Breath for Friday's Jobs Report

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This report is from today's CNBC Daily Open, our new, international markets newsletter. CNBC Daily Open brings investors up to speed on everything they need to know, no matter where they are. Like what you see? You can subscribe here.

Markets — and Powell — are holding their breath for Friday's jobs report.

What you need to know today

  • Two data points released yesterday showed that the labor market's still tight. There were 10.824 million job openings in January, down 410,000 from December but still higher than expected. Private payrolls in February increased by 242,000 month over month, reported payroll services firm ADP.
  • PRO Yesterday was International Women's Day. To commemorate the occasion, CNBC highlighted this ETF, which only invests in companies led by women — and is expected to rise by 20% this year, beating the S&P 500.

The bottom line

Yesterday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell called the jobs market "extremely tight." It was a prescient comment.

Two jobs reports released yesterday showed the labor market remaining stubbornly robust. First, the U.S. Labor Department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS. While it indicated that job openings fell in December, the absolute number's still uncomfortably high (for economists worried about inflation, at least): there were 1.9 job openings per available worker. Indeed, according to ADP, private payrolls in February increased, led by an 83,000 addition in the leisure and hospitality sector. The combination of a tight labor market and — perhaps more crucially — the concentration of job additions in the service sector means that risks of inflation from services persist.

There's some good news buried in the reports, however. (Again, a caveat first: It's only good news in terms of controlling inflation; it might not be music to workers' ears.) The JOLTS report showed that workers quitting — a sign of confidence in mobility — fell to the lowest level since May 2021. Layoffs rose sharply, hitting 241,000, a 16% month-over-month increase. Wage growth decelerated in February, too. Workers remaining in their jobs saw a 7.2% annual increase, down 0.1 percentage points from January; job changers saw a more drastic fall of 0.6 percentage points.

Markets chewed on that mixed bag of data and made little movement. The Dow dipped 0.18%, while the S&P 500 edged 0.14% higher and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.4%. They also paused yesterday's selloff after hearing Powell's fresh comments on Wednesday that the Fed has not decided what to do during its March meeting. "We will be guided by the incoming data," Powell said, suggesting that he, like investors, is holding his breath until Friday, when the more comprehensive nonfarm payrolls report is released.

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