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Economic Report: U.S. job openings hit record 9.3 million – but more people are quitting than ever

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The numbers: Companies have a record number of open jobs, but they can’t find enough people to fill them and more workers are quitting than ever.

Job openings in the U.S. soared to 9.3 million in April from a revised 8.3 million in the prior month, the Labor Department said Tuesday.

The number of job openings had fallen to as low as 4.6 million last year in the early stages of the coronavirus crisis.

The huge cache of available jobs is not being filled very rapidly, however.

The economy added a combined 837,000 new jobs in May and April, but that still leaves the U.S. more than 7.6 million short compared to the last month before the onset of the pandemic.

Read: The U.S. added 559,000 new jobs in May. It’s OK, not great.

Many companies big and small say it’s hard to find qualified workers. A record 48% of small businesses, for instance, said they could not fill open jobs in April.

Read: ‘We are struggling to find employees to help us keep up,’ manufacturers say

At the same time, a record number of people are quitting their jobs. Nearly 4 million people quit in April — double the number from just one year ago.

Big picture: The economic recovery is pretty strong, but it would be even stronger if companies could hire more people. Many businesses say they are losing out on sales because they don’t have enough staff to produce goods or serve customers. Even higher pay hasn’t been enough to lure enough workers.

The surprising difficulty in getting people to return to work is tied to a number of problems, economists say. They blame a wave of early retirements, a lack of child-care options, a lingering fear of the coronavirus and generous unemployment benefits.

Read: Record job openings and higher pay still not enough to get Americans back to work

These problems probably won’t fully clear up at least until the fall, they say.

Key details: Job openings at hotels and restaurants jumped by 349,000 to mark the biggest increase in April. Openings also rose sharply in manufacturing.

Job listings fell in private education.

About 6.1 million people were hired in April, but that still left one in three job openings unfilled. And there’s now more job openings than there are unemployed people.

The number of people who left jobs — either by quitting, retiring, getting laid off or fired — rose slightly to 5.8 million.

Americans are quitting jobs more than ever. The so-called quits rate rose one tick to a record 2.8% among private-sector employees.

More people quit when the economy is doing well or they think they can find a better, or better-paying, job.

At the height of the coronavirus crisis, the quits rate had fallen to a seven-year low of 1.8%. 

The percentage of people being laid off also fell to the lowest level on record, signaling that “firms prefer to hold on to labor they already have as they struggle to fill open positions,” said economist Daniel Vielhaber of Nationwide Economics.

The government’s job-openings report is released with a one-month lag.

What they are saying? “Given the tightness of the labor market, employees and job seekers may have a stronger hand right now,” said Nick Bunker, director of research at Indeed Hiring Lab.

“Despite strong wage growth, generous unemployment benefits and stimulus funds have prevented workers from re-entering the labor force,” said economist Katherine Judge of CIBC World Markets.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+0.03%

and the S&P 500
SPX,
+0.05%

fell in Tuesday trades.

: IRS investigating leak of tax returns from Elon Musk, Warren Buffett and other billionaires

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