Job openings in U.S. jump to record 6.55mn in March

There are almost as many job openings as unemployed US workers

Companies say they have jobs to fill. At the same time, there were 6.59 million unemployed people. The fact will likely be noted by Federal Reserve policy makers; the previous chair, Janet Yellen, often cited data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS. In March, it fell to 1.

USA job openings surged to a record high in March, suggesting that a recent slowdown in hiring was probably the result of employers having difficulties finding qualified workers.

"Employers beware", said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Bank. That's the last time that wages truly increased significantly, and it attracted plenty of people back into the labor market. Wages rose at almost a 4.5 percent clip the last time the unemployment rate fell below 4 percent.

In March, job openings were concentrated in the Midwest and Northeast regions. Typically, employers should post fewer jobs as the unemployment rate falls. But now, with wage gains sluggish, employers may be willing to post jobs because they don't need to pay so much. That should discourage advertising more jobs. "The majority of workers who voluntarily change jobs receive a pay bump, generating stronger wage growth for job switchers". More Americans than in the past are staying in their jobs rather than switching to new ones for higher pay. That's left more jobs unfilled and lifting openings.

At this rate, vacancies could surpass the 6.35 million unemployed as of April (openings are released with a lag behind the more closely-watched monthly jobs report).

Job openings increased in a number of industries, with the largest increases in professional and business services (+112,000), construction (+68,000), and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+37,000). It takes more effort - and expense - to find workers when the jobless rate is low, and employers typically have to pay more to lure workers into jobs.

That is a sign that job-switching might be recovering.

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