- US job openings jumped to 9.3 million from 8.3 million in April, setting a new record high.
- The reading comes in above the median estimate of 8.2 million and marks a fourth straight gain.
- Roughly 1.1 Americans competed for every opening, down from 1.2 as the labor shortage intensified.
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Demand for workers in the US intensified in April as nationwide reopening squared off with an unprecedented labor shortage.
Job openings rose to a record-high 9.3 million from 8.3 million in April, according to Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, data released Tuesday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg held a median estimate of 8.2 million openings.
The reading marks a fourth consecutive jump in openings. The report also sheds more light on how the labor market performed through April. The month’s nonfarm payrolls report, released in early May, showed hiring drastically slowing as businesses reported difficulties finding workers.
The April payroll gains have since been revised slightly higher, and data published last week showed hiring rebound in May. Yet job growth is still down from the pace seen in March despite openings climbing further. Democrats have attributed the slowdown to a push for higher wages, while Republicans largely blame enhanced unemployment insurance.
The Tuesday JOLTS report showed fewer Americans competing for each opening. About 1.1 available workers existed for each open job, down from 1.2 in March. The reading compares to a pre-pandemic average of 0.8 and a crisis peak of 5.
A detailed look at April hiring and firing
Like the jobs report published on Friday, the JOLTS release includes more a granular look at which sectors thrived and which lagged, albeit one month behind the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report.
The accommodations and food services sector added the most job openings throughout April, with a gain of 349,000 positions. The educational services sector shed 23,000 openings, setting the month’s largest decline.
Separations, which include layoffs and quits, jumped by 324,000 to 5.8 million.
Quits rose to a record-high 4 million from 3.6 million. Layoffs and discharges fell by 81,000 to 1.4 million, mirroring the downward trend in weekly jobless claims.
The US hiring rate held steady at 4.2%. That’s just above the pre-pandemic trend and suggests the labor shortage intensified through April.
The latest labor-market diagnosis
While the JOLTS report lends more detail to how the economy fared in April, Friday’s jobs report gave the most up-to-date look at the labor market’s performance. The US added 559,000 nonfarm payrolls last month, missing the median estimate of 674,000 jobs but improving significantly from the April pace.
The unemployment rate fell to 5.8% from 6.1%. The decline, powered by strong hiring and a slight drop in labor-force participation, beat the median estimate of 5.9%.
Economists largely viewed the report as a lukewarm print. “With unemployment benefits set to fade in the fall, we may be waiting until the end of summer before we see clear evidence of a fundamentally healing labor market,” Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors, said.
The Friday report also showed wages surging for a second consecutive month. Economists have looked to average hourly earnings for signs of whether labor shortages are merely overblown anecdotes or signs of a more widespread shift. Combined with the marked climb in openings through the spring, the strong upward pressure on wages backs up reports that Americans are holding off on returning to work.