May 8, 2018 3:00 PM, EDT

US Job Openings at Record, Almost Matching Unemployed Workers

Matthew Busch/Bloomberg News

U.S. job openings surged to a record in March, putting vacancies at about par with the number of unemployed workers, Labor Department data showed May 8.

Highlights of March Job Openings

• Number of positions waiting to be filled rose by 472,000 to 6.55 million (estimated 6.1 million) from upwardly revised 6.08 million in February, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS.

• Hiring fell to 5.43 million from 5.51 million; hiring rate unchanged at 3.7%.

• 3.34 million Americans quit their jobs, up from 3.21 million; quit rate rose to 2.3% from 2.2%.

• Layoffs declined to 1.56 million, the lowest since September 2016, from 1.62 million.

Key Takeaways

The figures are in sync with a Labor Department report last week that showed demand for workers remains solid. Employers increased payrolls in April, pushing the unemployment rate down to 3.9%, the lowest since December 2000, and March job gains were revised upward. Wage increases, though, remained tepid.

The increase in the quit rate, which is considered a measure of workers’ willingness to voluntarily leave because they’re confident of finding better employment, should be a positive for worker pay. Although it lags the Labor Department’s other jobs data by a month, the JOLTS report adds context to monthly payroll figures by measuring dynamics such as resignations, help-wanted ads and the pace of hiring.

Other Details

• There was about one unemployed person per opening in March, compared with 1.9 people when the recession began at the end of 2007.

• Openings rose in sectors including construction, retail, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality; fell in manufacturing, finance and insurance.

• In the 12 months through March, the economy created a net 2.3 million jobs, representing 65.6 million hires and 63.3 million separations.

With assistance from Chris Middleton and Brandon Kochkodin.