The number of job openings in the U.S. jumped to 8 million in the month of March, a new record, according to a report issued this week by the Department of Labor, as cited by CNBC.
According to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, ”the number of job openings reached a series high of 8.1 million on the last business day of March… hires were little changed at 6.0 million. Total separations were little changed at 5.3 million. Within separations, the quits rate was unchanged at 2.4 percent while the layoffs and discharges rate decreased to a series low of 1.0 percent.”
Per Bloomberg News, the report shows that vaccinations and reopening have caused a sharp rise in labor demand.
“Many employers say they are unable to fill positions because of ongoing fears of catching the coronavirus, child-care responsibilities and generous unemployment benefits,” the Bloomberg report said.
“Labor shortages are widespread, pushing up prices and potentially acting as a brake on the recovery,” Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, wrote this week.
“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,” Goldman Sachs said in their own report, per CNBC.
Meanwhile, there has been some pushback on the notion that “nobody wants to work.”
The Guardian looked at that very question this week, quoting several people who disagree that expanded unemployment is the reason for the labor shortage.
“In the absence of the benefits there would probably be a little bit more applications and hiring would be a little bit easier, but the main drive of the recent change in sentiment is that hiring is accelerating,” University of Pennsylvania economist Ioana Marinescu told the Guardian.
The piece went on to argue that while “a sliver of people would rather stay home for a few months making as much, or more, from unemployment than they would defrosting meat patties or answering phones,” there are other reasons for the shortage, including worries about safety in certain industries, while others are declining to return to the workforce due to child card responsibilities and other factors.
Meanwhile, the stimulus checks will soon finish going out, while the expanded unemployment compensation will run out in September.
“You had a tight enough labor market which led to broad-based wage growth of the sort we hadn’t really seen since maybe the 70s,” University of Massachusetts Amherst economist Arindrajit Dube told the Guardian. “And that was unusual and yes, employers had a hard time filling vacancies and they had to raise wages a lot and that’s OK.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.