Just How Crazy is Today’s Job Market?

Naples, Florida - June 14, 2019: Tourist walk and shop along the restaurants and luxury stores of 5th Avenue in downtown Naples Florida USA

More than 9.2 million.

That’s how many job openings there were around the country in May, according to the Department of Labor’s latest JOLTS report which tracks job openings and labor turnover. It’s a survey that measures how many job vacancies there are during any given month.

And in May, as mentioned, there were more than 9 million. 

That’s a long way from 2020 when some 22.2 million people lost their jobs as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it marks the third straight month of record highs as the economy continues to reopen and gain speed. Food service, hospitality, and other hard hit sectors during the pandemic are driving a lot of this growth as they bounce back.

By the numbers:

  • 9.2 million job openings is 31% higher than the market’s pre-pandemic level in 2020.
  • Records were set in both March and April before being broken again in May.
  • There were roughly 5.9 million new hires in May.

On the whole, there is almost enough work for people who are unemployed. JOLTS data showed that the number of unemployed workers per job opening fell to 1 in May, down from its peak of 5 in April 2020. Before the pandemic that number was about 0.8.

Quote: “This is still a really large number of job openings. Demand seems to still be extraordinarily high. Even though job openings didn’t increase [significantly], the number of unemployed people did [decrease]. That suggests that there is sort of continued bargaining power for job seekers.” — Nick Bunker, director of research at Indeed. 

My take: This is a worker-friendly job market like few have ever seen, and it’s creating a perfect storm of challenges for employers. After a year-plus on the sidelines during the pandemic many businesses are eager to reopen and make up for lost time. But the tightness in the hiring market has given workers the upper hand, pushing up wages, driving down interest in less desirable positions and forcing employers to get creative in order to find and retain employees. This could easily change in the months ahead, but for now this crazy job market is reality and we all just have to adapt to it.


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