US Job Openings Rose Unexpectedly to Record 11.5 Million

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U.S. job openings and the number of Americans who quit their jobs in March rose to record highs, indicating that employers continue to struggle to retain and hire workers.

The number of available positions increased to 11.5 million in the month from 11.3 million in February, the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey ( JOLTS) showed May 3. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 11.2 million openings.

Meantime, a series high of 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in March, in data back to 2000. The quits rate, a measure of voluntary job leavers as a share of total employment, rose slightly to 3%.

The vacancy figures suggest that employers’ needs for workers remained strong in March as employers staff up to meet solid consumer demand for goods and services. Also, businesses still are struggling to recruit qualified workers, which has put upward pressure on wages and led to a surge in job openings.


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The data come ahead of May 6’s monthly jobs report from the Labor Department, which currently is forecast to show the U.S. added 390,000 jobs in April.

Openings Jump

The increase in job openings was driven by retail trade and durable goods manufacturing. That echoes data from the Institute for Supply Management on May 2, which found that manufacturers still are struggling to solve labor shortage issues.

Vacancies decreased in transportation, warehousing and utilities; state and local government education; and accommodation and food services.

Quits increased in professional and business services and construction, the JOLTS data showed.

There were 1.9 jobs for every unemployed worker in March, up from February. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has pointed to that figure as an indication of the tightness in the American labor market.

While staffing has improved for some companies, many continue to point to challenges on earnings calls. Domino’s Pizza Inc. said last week that when adding up all of the lost operating hours in the first quarter, U.S. stores were cumulatively closed for the equivalent of almost six days.

Hires were little changed at 6.7 million in March. By industry, leisure and hospitality rose.

— With assistance from Kristy Scheuble and Reade Pickert.

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