US job openings unexpectedly grew in May, reflecting a still resilient labor market | CNN Business (2024)

US job openings unexpectedly grew in May, reflecting a still resilient labor market | CNN Business (1)

Job seekers attends the South Florida Job Fair held at the Amerant Bank Arena on June 26, 2024, in Sunrise, Florida.


The number of available jobs in the US unexpectedly grew in May, signaling continued resilience in the nation’s labor market.

Job openings jumped higher to 8.14 million in May, from a downwardly revised 7.91 million in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report released Tuesday.

Economists had expected openings would fall to 7.91 million, according to FactSet consensus estimates.

Despite the uptick in job postings, which can be quite volatile, May’s JOLTS report marked a significant milestone for the US labor market: The ratio of job openings to those who are unemployed fell to 1.22 available jobs per job seeker, matching the figure seen in February 2020, a month prior to the pandemic lockdowns that shocked the global economy.

That ratio has been steadily moving lower since hitting a record 2.0 in March 2022, JOLTS data shows.

“The report was another sign that the labor market is holding firm,” Robert Frick, corporate economist with Navy Federal Credit Union, said in a statement issued Tuesday. “So far there are no indications that job growth will flag this year, so consumer spending power will continue to increase and the expansion looks solid.”

Industries seeing the biggest increase in openings included manufacturing (specifically durable goods) and government (federal, state and local). Those seeing the greatest pullback from April included real estate and leisure and hospitality, BLS data shows.

Pendulum swings away from workers

Other seasonally adjusted measures of labor turnover showed continued stability in the US jobs market, which has gradually cooled in recent months while remaining historically strong.

The estimated number of hires moved up to 5.76 million from 5.62 million in April; layoffs and separations bounced higher to 1.65 million in May, up from 1.54 million; while the number of voluntary quits inched upward to 3.46 million from 3.45 million.

While both hires and job openings rates (as a percentage of total employment) ticked higher for May, the quits rate and layoffs rate were unchanged.

Economists have been closely watching the quits rate — which has held steady at 2.2% for seven months running — as it serves as a signal for workers’ willingness to test the labor market’s waters. When people switch jobs, that typically can correlate to bigger pay bumps, which in turn potentially could make it more difficult to rein in inflation.

A worker holds a tray of fried chicken inside a Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen Inc. restaurant location in Latham, New York, US, on Thursday, April 25, 2024. Angus Mordant/Bloomberg/Getty Images Related article US employers want more part-time workers. Here’s what that means

Job-switchers’ pay raises have pared down significantly from the “Great Resignation” period, according to a newly released analysis from Bank of America.

Economists there analyzed internal customer data and found that median wage hikes are about half the size they were during the height of pandemic-era job changes.

In fact, the median pay raises are just below 2019 levels, David Tinsley, senior economist at the Bank of America Institute, told CNN.

“People are still moving between jobs at a slightly faster rate than they were pre-pandemic … but the pay raises they’re getting when they make those moves is a degree softer,” he said. “That sort of suggests that the pendulum has swung slightly more in favor of firms and away from workers.”

Labor market steady or a turning point?

The labor market appears to be at a crossroads, Nick Bunker, Indeed Hiring Lab’s head of economic research, wrote in commentary posted Tuesday.

“The words ‘little changed’ were repeated no fewer than a half dozen times in the May JOLTS release, and virtually every key indicator tracked showed limited notable movement, either up or down,” Bunker wrote. “This short-run stability is a good thing. But the question remains if this period of calm can continue or if more unsteady times are on the horizon.”

“This current level of job openings is consistent with a healthy, sustainable and balanced market, but any continued declines below these current levels will quickly become more worrisome,” he wrote.

It may take an interest rate cut to ensure employers’ demand for workers doesn’t tumble too far, he added.

Federal Reserve officials still broadly believe the job market remains on solid footing, which is allowing central banker to comfortably keep interest rates perched at a 23-year high as they await more evidence that inflation is under control.

But some Fed officials have noted that the job market has lost momentum recently and that it’s highly unclear whether it will continue to hold steady or weaken further.

“If employment starts falling apart or if theeconomybegins to weaken, which you’ve seen some warning signs, you’ve got to balance that off with the progress you’re making on the price front,” Chicago Fed President Austan Goolsbee told Bloomberg TV on Tuesday during a conference hosted by the European Central Bank in Sintra, Portugal.

“The unemployment rate is still quite low, but it has been rising,” he said.

More jobs data coming Friday

In May, the US unemployment rate increased to 4%, a rate that hadn’t been seen since January 2022. Still, job growth remained strong in May, coming in at an estimated net gain of 272,000.

Economists largely expect that job gains cooled off in June. As of Tuesday, FactSet consensus estimates are for a 189,000 net gain.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits (considered a proxy for layoffs) have drifted higher in recent weeks, landing in line with pre-pandemic averages.

“They’re still low, historically speaking, but they are up between the May and June payroll survey reference months, so we do think we could see some slowdown in job growth over the month,” Marisa DiNatale, head labor economist for Moody’s Analytics, told CNN in an interview.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the latest jobs report at 8:30 a.m. ET on Friday.

CNN’s Bryan Mena contributed to this report.

US job openings unexpectedly grew in May, reflecting a still resilient labor market | CNN Business (2024)


How has the pandemic affected the job market? ›

The recession induced by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic resulted in steep job losses, pushed the unemployment rate to a high of 13.0 percent in the second quarter of 2020, and caused many people to leave the labor force.

Why are so many businesses struggling to find workers? ›

When businesses reopened, they found that many of their workers had either dropped out of the labor force or migrated elsewhere, leaving jobs that went unfilled. California's sharp drop in population over the last few years has also meant a sharp drop in the number of Californians who are working or available for work.

What do employers hope to achieve by using the hidden job market? ›

The hidden job market refers to jobs that employers do not advertise or publish publicly. Not publicizing these openings can help these employers save on the costs and time associated with posting and evaluating job applications or interviewing.

How is the job market in the USA now? ›

How Is the Current US Job Market? Nonfarm payroll employment growth was 2.1% annualized in the three months ended March 2024, with about 303,000 jobs added in March. This growth rate is in line with the 2% in the prior three months and slightly above the 1.7% average annual growth from 2015 through 2019.

Is the job market getting better? ›

At the end of May 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 8.1 million job openings in the U.S., compared to 5.2 million unemployed persons. That means there are more jobs than unemployed people seeking work. The number of job openings trended lower in 2024 but stabilized in May.

Why is it so hard to get a job now? ›

A trio of factors: Layoff spillover, AI and market re-correction. Some experts say that companies and workers are having a hard time meeting each others' needs right now. But Goldstein pinpoints three specific factors fueling the job search drag.

Is the US still in a labor shortage? ›

Is there currently a labor shortage in the US? Job openings outnumbered unemployed people in the US from May 2021 to December 2023, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. In December 2023, there were 0.7 unemployed people per job opening.

Why are companies struggling to hire? ›

The current staff shortage in the U.S. poses a unique challenge for employers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported approximately 8.8 million job openings in November 2023, but there aren't enough workers to fill them. There are 2.2 million fewer workers in the workforce than in February 2020.

How to crack the hidden job market? ›

But before you can strategize your job search for the hidden job market, you have to find it.
  1. Start With Internal Exploration.
  2. Build Authentic Relationships.
  3. Stay Active and Visible.
  4. Attend Virtual Job Fairs.
  5. Check Your Alumni Association.
  6. Learn to Cold Pitch.
  7. Embrace Social Media.
  8. Go to Conferences.

Does the hidden job market exist? ›

Additionally, some employers prefer to have more personal connections with potential job candidates and to be discreet about open positions. Is there a hidden job market for most industries? Yes. Most industries have a hidden job market, although that is not to say that most jobs have a hidden job market.

What jobs are kept secret? ›

9 Jobs for People Who Can Keep a Secret
  • Cyber Security Worker. What you'd do: The best protection for computer systems is a strong—and silent—defense. ...
  • Executive Assistant. ...
  • Housekeeper. ...
  • Lawyer. ...
  • Nuclear Plant Technician. ...
  • Physician. ...
  • Private Investigator. ...
  • Psychologist.

How did COVID lead to unemployment? ›

A decade-long economic expansion ended early in 2020, as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it led businesses to suspend operations or close, resulting in a record number of temporary layoffs. The pandemic also prevented many people from looking for work.

What impact has the coronavirus pandemic had on healthcare employment? ›

Unlike past recessions, health sector employment saw a big drop in early 2020 but has rebounded since. As of February 2024, the health sector added 66,700 jobs over the previous month. Jobs in the health sector are 5.7% higher than in February 2020 (the previous peak), compared to 3.4% in all other sectors.

Is the job market cooling off? ›

As prices shot higher, fears rose of a wage-price spiral. Recently, though, the labor market has cooled, and indeed, looks like something close to normal. Unemployment has crept up from a half-century low of 3.4% a year ago to 4% in May, consistent with what economists consider full employment.

How did unemployment affect the economy? ›

A high unemployment rate affects the economy in many ways. Unemployed people tend to spend less and may accrue more debt and unemployment may lead to higher payments from state and federal governments for things like food stamps.

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