Job Openings Declined Slightly in April From a High Point

on Jun1
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The labor market may be cooling off, but not by much, according to new data on job openings and turnover.

Employers had 11.4 million vacancies in April, according to the Labor Department, down from a revised total of nearly 11.9 million the previous month, which was a record.

The April vacancies represented 7 percent of the entire employment base, and left nearly two available jobs for every person looking for work, reflecting continued high demand for labor even as the Federal Reserve begins to tamp it down.

The number of people who left their jobs was steady, at six million, also close to the highest number ever recorded, as was the number of people hired, at 6.6 million. The data, gathered on the last business day of April, was reported Wednesday in the Labor Department’s monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report.

Employment gaps remain largest in the services sector, where consumers have shifted more of their spending as pandemic restrictions have eased, but they are shrinking. The leisure and hospitality industry had a vacancy rate of 8.9 percent, for example, down from 9.7 percent in March.

The construction and manufacturing industries, however, had the greatest surge in openings. Both reached record highs, showing that demand for housing and goods hasn’t slowed enough to make a dent in available jobs.

Wages have escalated rapidly in recent months as employers have competed to fill positions, peaking in March at a 6 percent increase from a year earlier, according to a tracker published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Although not quite fast enough to keep up with inflation, growth has been stronger for hourly workers and those switching jobs. The millions of workers quitting each month tend to find new jobs that pay better, data shows.

Employers have struggled to bring workers back from the pandemic, which initially sent labor force participation down to levels not seen since the 1970s, before a wave of women entered the workplace. The economy remains more than a million jobs under its peak employment level in February 2020.

Steve Pemberton, chief human resources officer for the employee benefits platform Workhuman, said his firm’s clients gave out 50 percent more monetary awards to their employees in 2021 over the previous year in an effort to increase retention. But he doubts that work force participation will ever reach its prepandemic level given the options available outside traditional employment.

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