The numbers: Job openings in the U.S. rose slightly in May to a record 9.21 million, reflecting an insatiable demand for labor as the economy fully reopens and businesses scramble to keep up with soaring sales for their goods and services.
The number of available jobs has set a record for three straight months. The number of job openings had fallen to as low as 4.6 million last year after the coronavirus briefly shut down much of the economy.
Businesses are trying to fill the mountain of available jobs, but it’s not going as fast as they would like. Although the U.S. created 850,000 new jobs in June, it would take more than a year at that rate to restore employment to pre-pandemic levels.
The competition for workers has given jobseekers the upper hand. A record 4 million people quit in April — most to take a better or better-paying job. That’s nearly double the number of people quitting a year earlier.
“People are moving from one job to the next,” said Anthony Nieves, chairman of a monthly survey of service-oriented companies that asks how business is going. The survey is compiled by the Institute for Supply Management.
Big picture: The U.S. economy is as hot as a summer day in July, but a surprising labor shortage of sorts threatens to rain on the recovery.
Businesses can’t hire enough new workers to keep up with customer demand and even some of their veteran employees are being poached by rivals offering higher pay.
Economists predict millions of people who left the labor force during the pandemic will return to work in September and beyond as schools and daycare centers reopen, Covid peters out and extra government unemployment benefits expire.