It’s a hallmark sign of this strange pandemic labor market: America had a record 10.1 million jobs available in June, as businesses struggled to hire enough staff to support the full reopening of the economy.
That mismatch between worker demand and supply has been a defining characteristic of the pandemic recovery.
Hiring is rampant across industries, as businesses are still rebuilding the capacity lost during last year’s lockdowns. Professional and business services, retail, hotels and restaurants added the most job openings, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Monday.
But many jobless workers are facing complexities. Some continue to struggle with finding child care, while others are concerned about the risk of contracting the virus at work.
“If we want to sustain our economic recovery, we have to get serious about removing barriers to filling these open jobs,” said Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer of the US Chamber of Commerce.
Specifically, Bradley added, “that includes addressing childcare needs, rightsizing unemployment programs, skills training, and increasing legal immigration.”
Economists expect that at least the child care aspect will be addressed when schools reopen in person after the summer. But the rampant spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant is adding exposure risk. Meanwhile, the generous pandemic-era unemployment benefits that have already ceased in multiple states will run out in September, which could affect the rate of hiring as well.
Hires, layoffs and voluntary quits
In June, the number of hires rose to 6.7 million, particularly due to increased activity in retail and education.
The layoff rate was unchanged at 0.9%, the lowest level on record and flat from May, while the voluntary separation rate rose to 2.7%.
The uptick in the quits rate is likely due “in part to increased opportunities for workers to find better job matches, potentially with higher wages or safer working conditions in the lingering pandemic,” said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, in a tweet.
The buoyant job openings report is further proof that America’s employment recovery picked up speed over the summer months. Between June and July, the nation added nearly 1.9 million jobs.
The unemployment rate fell to 5.4% in July and economists are getting more optimistic that it will reach pre-pandemic levels next year: Goldman Sachs (GS) predicts 3.5% unemployment by the end of 2022.
That said, the overall jobless rate is just one measure of the labor market. Participation rates are still down and even though unemployment sank across most demographic groups in July, it remains higher for Black, Hispanic and Asian workers.