- The number of open job positions exceeds the number of unemployed people by 1 million as of October, per the Labor Department.
- The open jobs are primarily in retail and food services, but healthcare, manufacturing and business services all have over 100,000 unfilled openings.
- Despite the tight labor market, wage growth is still well below pre-recession levels.
Unfilled jobs in the United States grew by another 1.02 million in October, compared to the same time last year. With employers struggling to find workers to fill open positions and unemployment holding at record lows, it could indicate that wage growth might be on its way up as businesses try to entice workers with better incentives.
Unskilled Jobs Going Unfilled
As of the end of October, the Labor Department measured some 7.08 million job openings, about 1 million more than the number of unemployed people who are without a job and actively searching for work. You would have to go through more than 17 years of monthly records before finding another time when job openings exceeded unemployed workers prior to March of this year.
The jobs that aren’t attracting applicants would appear to reflect the ongoing shift toward a service economy. The industries currently in the greatest need of labor include accommodation and food services, healthcare and social assistance, retail and business services. However, No. 5 on that list is manufacturing with over 100,000 unfilled openings.
The fact that there are so many jobs in accommodation and food services (at least 200,000 unfilled positions) and retail (nearly 150,000) could indicate that a strong economy is providing many workers with better options than low-skill, low-pay work that’s traditionally reserved for entry-level employees.
So Where Is the Wage Growth?
A labor market that’s so tight for employers should translate to better conditions for employees, with businesses needing to attract more workers. Wages should rise and benefits should increase as companies fight hard to attract and retain talent. There is some sign of improvement as wages have climbed by roughly 3 percent between November 2017 and November 2018.
However, by historical measures, wage growth remains stubbornly low even 10 years after the financial crisis. Although it’s currently at its highest rates since the crisis, wage growth hit nearly 3.6 percent in December 2008.
There are some signs that could point toward U.S. workers missing out in the end. Corporations have primarily opted to shower the benefits of the 2017 tax cuts on shareholders, not workers, as share buybacks cleared $1 trillion in 2018. And with markets falling and a recession potentially looming in the not-so-distant future, it seems at least possible that workers could see this historic labor market come and go without the sort of real wage growth many have been waiting on.
Click through to read more about the best time to ask for a raise.
More on the Economy
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- Recession Signs Are Everywhere — Is the Next One Really Closer Than We Think?
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