The number of job openings in the United States climbed to a record 10.1 million in June, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Monday. And in a sign that Americans are feeling very confident about their job prospects, 3.9 million workers quit their jobs the same month.
The snapshot of job openings and labour turnover in the world’s largest economy reflected the continuing strength of the economic rebound as consumers – buoyed by increasing vaccination rates and COVID-19 restriction rollbacks – boost demand for services like dining out and staying at hotels.
But clouds could be gathering over the nation’s economic recovery as the fast-spreading Delta variant rages in parts of the country, raising the spectre of business-sapping restriction being re-introduced.
Monday’s report is also bound to add more fuel to the debate about why millions of Americans remain unemployed in a nation awash in job opportunities.
US employers added 943,000 jobs to their payrolls in July, beating most analyst forecasts, while the number of unemployed workers in the US fell by 782,000 last month to 8.7 million.
That mismatch between job openings and unemployed workers has weighed on jobs creation and left businesses across the country scrambling to fill positions. Many have opted to increase hourly wages or offer signing bonuses to fill positions.
Analysts have suggested myriad factors for keeping jobless workers on the sidelines – such as people opting to retire early as the prices of assets like houses and stocks swell during the economic rebound.
Other factors include businesses opening at once chasing the same skill sets, a continuing lack of childcare options for working parents, fears of contracting COVID-19, or a reluctance to comply with the growing number of businesses requiring employees to be vaccinated against the virus.
The most contentious factor by far though is the $300-a-week federal top-up to state unemployment benefits that some analysts have blamed for enabling jobless workers to be more selective about their next position.
That belief has prompted dozens of states – all but one of them led by Republican governors – to withdraw early from federal pandemic unemployment programmes that are not set to expire until September 6.
By the time data was collected for the July employment report, roughly half of the US states had ended the federal weekly top-up, which could explain the better-than-expected acceleration in jobs added.
However, the number of Americans either working or actively looking for a job – a metric known as the labour force participation rate – has been stuck in a narrow range of 61.4 percent to 61.07 percent during the pandemic.
Job openings in June increased largely in services industries, which continue to ramp up operations as consumers unleashed pent-up demand.
The largest gains in June openings were in professional and business services, which saw a 227,000 bump, followed by retail trade which added 133,000 openings and accommodation and food services which added 121,000.