US hires jump to a record and job openings increase, fuelled by economic reopenings

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  • US hires jumped a record 2.4 million in May to an all-time high of 6.5 million, according to the Job Openings and Labour Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, released Tuesday by the Labour Department.
  • Job openings also increased to 5.4 million during the month. The JOLTS report lags the nonfarm payrolls release by one month.
  • “These improvements in the labour market reflected a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it,” the Labour Department said in the report.
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US hires jumped a record amount in May and job openings increased as the economy reopened following lockdowns to contain coronavirus that began in mid-March.

The number of hires jumped 2.44 million in May to an all-time high of 6.5 million, according to Tuesday’s Job Openings and Labour Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, from the Labour Department. The hires rate rose to 4.9% from 3.1% a month earlier. The hires numbers do not include rehired workers.

Available jobs also unexpectedly increased, rising to 5.4 million during the month from 5 million in April. The median estimate from economists was for a decrease to 4.5 million openings, according to Bloomberg data.

“These improvements in the labour market reflected a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it,” the Labour Department said in the report. The JOLTS report lags nonfarm payrolls by one month.

Separations, which include quits, layoffs, and discharges, decreased by 5.8 million to 4.1 million, the largest decline in the survey’s history. The layoffs and discharges rate fell to 2.4% in May, the second monthly decline since hitting a record high of 7.6% in March.


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The quits rate, which measures the number of quits in the month as a percentage of total employment, rose to 1.6% from 1.4%. In February, before the coronavirus pandemic hit the US labour market, the rate was 2.3%, near an all-time high.

While the report shows that the labour market began to bounce back in May, job openings are still down more than 20% from pre-pandemic levels in February, showing that demand for workers is still depressed.

At the same time, the number of unemployed workers has surged, meaning it’s harder to get a job. In May, there were 3.9 workers for every job opening, a stark contrast from earlier in the year when job openings outnumbered unemployed workers.

The May data “suggest that even if workers start to search more intensely, they have fewer job opportunities,” said Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed.