Job openings in the U.S. in March hit record-high levels that surpassed the pre-pandemic booms of February 2020 by 24%, even as hiring markedly slowed in April compared to expectations.
There were 8.1 million open jobs across the country in March, up 600,000 from February. Layoffs also declined to record-low levels, at 1.5 million.
The largest job opening gains were in leisure and hospitality (185,000), public education (155,000) and arts, entertainment and recreation (81,000).
Retailers, hotels and restaurants are beginning to cut their hours significantly because they cannot get workers to cover the shifts. Some businesses have had to cancel orders because they don’t have the personnel to do the work.
$300 federal unemployment boost blamed
Unemployed people seem unwilling to take open jobs when they are still getting a $300 per week federal boost in unemployment benefits to stay home and relax.
Several states including Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas and Montana have now revoked the $300 federal boost, and some have also reinstituted requirements that the unemployed look for work.
There are still nine million fewer people working now than at the beginning of the pandemic, even though there are lots of open jobs.
Hospitality, tourism and sports all still have fewer jobs than they did in February 2020 due to some people’s reluctance to engage in these activities.
More states lifting restrictions
Several Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have recently announced they will be lifting capacity restrictions in May, including New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. These states may see a surge of travel and large scale sporting events once restrictions are lifted, exacerbating labor shortages.
Employers who can afford to do so are raising wages and offering bonuses in an effort to encourage workers to come back.
The Wall Street Journal said this week that schools still on a virtual or hybrid learning plan have prevented millions of workers, mostly women, from returning to the workplace because they need someone to be with the children while they are at home.
President Joe Biden said people who refuse to go back to work would risk losing their benefits. “We’re going to make it clear that anyone who is collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits,” he said to the Hill.