Job vacancies and the number of job terminations hit records in March

On January 28, 2022, a sign reading ‘Hire Now’ is posted in the window of an ice cream parlor in Los Angeles, California.

Frederic J Brown | AFP | Getty Images

Job vacancies in March exceeded the level of the available labor force by 5.6 million, while a record number of people quit their jobs, the Labor Department reported on Tuesday.

The number of job postings reached 11.55 million for the month, also a new record for data going back to December 2000, according to the Job Vacancy and Labor Turnover Survey. That was 205,000 more than February and representative of a job market that is still historically tight.

At the same time, terminations totaled 4.54 million, up 152,000 from the previous month, as the so-called Great Retreat continued. The era of the Covid pandemic has created opportunities for workers who feel confident enough to abandon their current situation for better employment elsewhere.

The report adds to an inflationary picture that’s expected to push the Federal Reserve into a series of aggressive rate hikes, beginning with a half-percentage-point move on Wednesday.

A labor shortage during the pandemic has pushed up wages, with average hourly wages up 5.6% in March from a year earlier. However, that has not kept pace with inflation, which has risen by 8.5% over the same period.

Supply failed to keep up with demand in March, with the number of new hires actually falling slightly to 6.74 million despite the increase in vacancies. The total number of breakups rose to 6.32 million, up nearly 4% from February.

Job vacancies in the key leisure and hospitality industry fell by 45,000, down 2.6% on a monthly basis, while new hires rose by 40,000. The sector is seen as a key indicator of economic recovery and has an unemployment rate of 5.9%, still slightly above pre-pandemic levels.

Tuesday’s release comes in the same week as April’s key nonfarm payrolls report. Economists polled by Dow Jones expect jobs to rise by 400,000 and the unemployment rate to fall to 3.5%, which would be its lowest pre-pandemic rate since December 1969.

Correction: Vacancies in the core leisure and hospitality industry fell by 45k. In a previous version, the category was specified incorrectly. Job vacancies and the number of job terminations hit records in March

Jane Marczewski

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