Vacancies and the number of people who left their jobs hit records in March

On January 28, 2022, a “Now Entered Service” sign was placed in the window of an ice cream parlor in Los Angeles, California.

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

The number of available jobs surpassed the available workforce by 5.6 million in March, as a record number of people left their jobs, the Labor Ministry reported Tuesday.

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

At the same time, the number of withdrawals was 4.54 million, up 152,000 from the previous month as the so-called Great Resignation continued. The era of the Covid pandemic has provided opportunities for workers who feel confident enough to leave their current situation for better jobs elsewhere.

The report adds to an inflationary picture that is expected to force the Federal Reserve into a series of aggressive rate hikes, starting with a move of half a percentage point on Wednesday.

A shortage of labor supply during the pandemic has led to a rise in wages, with average hourly wages rising 5.6% in March from a year ago. Yet that has not kept pace with inflation, which has risen at a rate of 8.5% over the same period.

Supply was unable to keep up with demand in March, with the number of new hires even falling slightly to 6.74 million despite the increase in vacancies. The total number of separations rose to 6.32 million, an increase of almost 4% compared to February.

The number of vacancies in the critical leisure and hospitality sector fell by 45,000, a decrease of 2.6% on a monthly basis, while the number of vacancies increased by 40,000. The sector is considered an important measure 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 flagship nonfarm payrolls report. Economists polled by Dow Jones expect an increase of 400,000 jobs and a drop in the unemployment rate to 3.5%, corresponding to the pre-pandemic figure which was the lowest since December 1969.

Correction: The number of vacancies in the crucial leisure and hospitality sector decreased by 45,000. In an earlier version, the category was wrong.

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