Job Openings at 8.1M Record High, but Companies are Struggling to Hire Employees

There is a growing demand for workers as more Americans are vaccinated, and states reopen their economies.  According to the data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) of the Labor Department, the number of job vacancies increased to 8.12 million starting March, the highest in data that dates back to 2000. The figure rose from February with upwardly revised 7.53 million jobs that opened. 

“The increase puts job openings 16% over pre-crisis levels and points to surging labor demand as the economy reopens,” said Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at Glassdoor.

However, many companies are encountering difficulties in hiring new employees, and the report showed that job vacancies exceeded hires by a staggering 2 million. This large gap is the highest ever recorded in the US economy. The National Federation of Independent Business reported that about 44% of small businesses have said they could not fill open jobs in April. Labor shortages are felt in several industries, including hotels, bars and restaurants, manufacturing, construction, and retail businesses. 

Experts analyzed that there could be several reasons for the labor shortage. One is the lack of available child care. Second is the lingering fear of contracting COVID-19. Another reason is the $300-a-week federal unemployment benefits. 

Following the release of the Labor Department’s April payroll report, the debate over the sweetened jobless aid intensified last week. The data showed that employers added 266,000 jobs last month, missing the 1 million forecast by Refinitiv economists. 

On Monday, President Joe Biden rejected a call by Republicans to stop, or significantly curtail, the $300 per week unemployment benefits extension included in the Administration’s American Rescue Plan. 

“We’ll insist that the law is followed with respect to benefits, but we’re not going to turn our backs on our fellow Americans,” Biden said. “Twenty-two million people lost their jobs in this pandemic, through no fault of their own. For many of those folks, unemployment benefits are a lifeline.”