The report released yesterday by the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey shows that April job openings reached a historic high of 9.3 million, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. The number of hires remained essentially unchanged at 6.1 million. However, separations, or the number of people who quit or left their jobs, increased to 5.8 million.
This suggests that the labor shortage reported with last month’s jobs report could persist. According to the JOLTS numbers, there is a labor gap of around 3 million ahead of the upcoming jobs report, which is expected in the coming week.
Job availability surged 32.7% in the leisure and hospitality sector according to the BLS, one of the sectors most-hurt during the pandemic. In the same month though, the amount of hires missed targets by almost 700,000. In one of the most disappointing jobs reports in recent history, the amount of jobs added totaled around 236,000 instead of the 1,000,000 expected by economists. Although the hospitality sector provided the most amount of new jobs, it is also experiencing the most difficulty in filling these new positions.
Ongoing coronavirus concerns, lack of childcare, delayed vaccine rollouts and low wages have prevented many employees from returning to service jobs they once had.
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These issues seem to have played out in separations numbers as well. In April, the number of total separations increased by 324,000 to 5.8 million. Total separations includes quits, layoffs and discharges amongst other separations. Quits are considered to be generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee, according to the BLS. They add that the quits rate serves as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs.
In April, the quits level and rate increased to 4 million and 2.7% respectively — the highest ever recorded in the history of the series. Interestingly, quits increased in a number of industries with the largest increases seen in retail trade, professional business services and transportation, warehousing and utilities. Quits mostly increased in the Southern, Midwestern and Western regions.
J.P. Morgan economist David Silver believes that both of these factors signal a need for firms to raise wages. He said that “this recent surge in openings suggests that firms are having a hard time filling positions, and the number of quits reported in the JOLTS data also has surged largely, suggesting workers are able to find — or confident in their abilities to find — new positions.”
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