Economic Milestone: There Is a Job for Everyone Who Wants One

Daniel Fowler
May 9, 2018

There was a record 6.6 million job openings at the end of March, the Labor Department reported on Tuesday.

Despite the surge in job ads, hires and separations were little changed over the month, coming in at 5.4 million and 5.3 million, respectively. Taken together, the two data points are signs of shortages in the labor market.

Companies say they have jobs to fill. Workers typically quit when they have other jobs lined up, or are confident they can find one. Nearly a quarter say it's the biggest problem for their businesses.

"Employers beware", said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Bank.

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From a geographical perspective, the number of job openings increased most in the Northeast and Midwest. Job listings also jumped in education, professional services like accounting, retail, hotels and restaurants, and shipping and warehousing. Typically, there are far more unemployed people than advertised job openings - often twice as many. The kinds of jobs available may not match the distribution of workers' skills, locations or preferences for the kind of work they want to do.

Businesses have added an average of 208,000 jobs a month over the past three months, and unemployment is below 4% for the first time since 2000.

The number of people quitting rose 4.2 percent to 3.3 million, barely ahead of December's total and the highest since January 2001. Workers believe they can find better similar or higher-paying jobs elsewhere.

Interestingly, the vacancies are on par with the number of unemployed workers in the U.S., as per the Labor Department report. The Federal Reserve said in a recent survey of business contacts that raising pay was one way employers were addressing labor shortages. That should discourage advertising more jobs.

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