Employers around the U.S. are seeking to fill a near-record high 11 million job openings, the Labor Department said Wednesday. The vacancies show businesses continue to struggle to attract workers due to issues ranging from ongoing concerns about COVID-19 to the wave of retiring baby boomers.
The number of unfilled jobs through the end of October is up from 10.4 million in the prior month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a statement. It represents the highest number of openings since July, when businesses were looking to fill a record 11.1 million slots. The number of Americans quitting their jobs has remained at near-record highs. However, it is now slightly lower, according to the Labor Department. About 4.2 million people quit in October, down from a record 4.4 million in the prior month.
Job openings rose due to employers looking for more seasonal workers. This is because retailers, warehouses, and other businesses are seeking extra help in the holiday season. Many companies struggle to recruit applicants. They offer signing bonuses and raise wages, while lower-wage employees like those in restaurants enjoy the greatest pay increases.
“Although the quits rate came down, we’re near record high job openings — that says employers are still having trouble attracting workers to their jobs,” said Luke Pardue, economist at Gusto, which offers payroll and other services to small businesses. Employers are unable to replace workers who are leaving to decrease the job openings. “
Pardue anticipates that both quits rates and job openings will remain high. Gusto data shows that in November 3.4% of workers left their jobs, as compared to 2.7% the same time last year. The so-called quits rates remain elevated, as Americans seek better-paying jobs, take on more responsibility or resign as the plague lingers. Also dubbed “The Great Resignation,” the shift is prompting a discussion about burnout and work priorities, with women quitting the workforce at higher rates than men.
Women still quit at a higher rate than men. Pardue cited Gusto data. It found that in November about 3.7% of women left their job, as compared with 3.1% for men. COVID-19 cases remain high in much of the nation, while some schools continue to grapple with outbreaks and staff shortages, prompting some to cancel classes or switch to online schooling.
“Two out of the three primary caregivers are women in this country,” Pardue stated. Pardue noted that any uncertainty regarding a family’s childcare arrangements will put disproportionately on women, which could mean they have to step back in order to provide for their families. “
Economists were surprised by the imbalance in the labor markets, as many had expected that workers would flock to the market following the end of the enhanced pandemic unemployment benefit in September. Workers are not returning to work so far.
“So how did we get here? There are really three broad reasons: demographics, pandemic and policy effects on labor supply, and a surge in aggregate demand,” said David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Funds, who had expected about 10.6 million job openings, in a report earlier this week.
Boomers continue to retire in large numbers, with Kelly noting that nearly 3 million Americans over age 65 have left the workforce since the pandemic erupted in 2020.
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