As vaccinations accelerate and the states move to fully reopen their economies, the available jobs in the US has reached a record high. The Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS reported on the last business day of March, the job openings level reached a high of 8.1 million. Openings jumped by 597,000 while hires rose by just 215,000. Total separations (which include layoffs and quits) declined by 107,000.
Industries that saw the largest increase in availabilities include
- Accommodation and food services (+185,000)
- State and local government education (+155,000)
- Arts, entertainment, and recreation (+81,000)
Health care and social assistance saw the largest decrease in availabilities (-218,000). The number of job openings increased in the Northeast and Midwest regions.
Many employers say they are unable to fill positions because of ongoing fears of catching Covid-19, child-care responsibilities, and generous unemployment benefits. A sentiment that was backed up in a recent note by Goldman Sachs economists who stated “labor supply appears to be tighter than the unemployment rate suggests, likely reflecting the impact of unusually generous unemployment benefits and lingering virus-related impediments to working”.
Spending too much focus on the unemployment benefits underlines deeper problems. Sooner or later the unemployment benefits end, particularly with so much employment availability. The larger issue we need to address moving forward is proper employee training which makes matching skilled labor with available positions difficult. For example, we are seeing massive spikes in openings for:
- Trade, transportation, utilities, and warehousing
For too long we have devalued jobs in the trades. Great careers that require strong training but not a four-year college degree are in high demand and we do not currently have a workforce able to meet the challenge. A recommitment to protecting and growing industrial jobs, especially in cities can improve not only their economy, but the lives of nearby residents and workers as well.