The economy added 372,000 jobs in June, a hotter-than-expected boost to the labor market that may ease worries of an impending recession, but that also complicates the job of the Federal Reserve as it seeks to quell inflation.

The unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, the same as a month earlier, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Employers have continued to compete for workers in recent months, with initial unemployment claims rising only slightly from their low point in March.

There is no guarantee that swift growth will continue indefinitely, however, as sky-high prices weigh on consumer spending. The labor force remains constrained by aging demographics, low levels of immigration, and barriers to work that keep many people on the sidelines.

“We weren’t going to keep up the employment growth that we had been seeing — it needed to stop,” said Julian Richers, the vice president of global economics research at Morgan Stanley. He said it would take a while, however, to exhaust America’s appetite for labor.

“There’s still a lot of pent-up demand for workers,” Dr. Richers said. “It does make sense that as the economy slows, employment should slow as well, once we’ve worked through the backlog of labor demand.”

That backlog is evident in the 11.3 million jobs that employers had open in May, a number that remains close to record highs and leaves nearly two jobs available for every person looking for work. In that equation, any workers laid off as certain sectors come under strain will most likely find new jobs quickly — for a time, at least.

But a number of headwinds are creating a time limit to that seller’s market for labor. Business leaders report that, while domestic demand remains strong and some supply chain issues have eased, order backlogs are no longer growing and savings accounts are shrinking. Whenever possible, employers are automating tasks rather than bringing on new employees.

“Employers are getting less anxious to fill those job postings as they watch the economy slow,” said Bill Adams, the chief economist at Comerica Bank. “I would expect that probably businesses will slow-walk filling open positions before they actually pull job postings.”

There are early indications that some employers have started to shed workers — either because of easing demand or because of rising interest rates that are starving them of capital.

The outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported Thursday that its count of announced layoffs in June rose 57 percent from the previous month, to the highest total since February 2021. Cuts were concentrated in the automobile industry, which has been bedeviled with supply shortages and high gasoline prices.

Lauren Herring, the chief executive of the outplacement and coaching firm Impact Group, has also seen an uptick in business.

“We feel like we may be at an inflection point, as the numbers of employees who have been affected have been rising throughout the year,” she said. But for the moment, she’s been able to find new jobs for most laid-off workers quickly.

“People are still having the sense that the grass is greener, and ‘I can still go across the street and get a signing bonus at XYZ company,’” Ms. Herring said.

By w3my7

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