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Economic Report: U.S. job openings hit record 9.3 million, but hiring lags and many jobs going unfilled

The numbers: Companies have a record number of open jobs, but they can’t find enough people to fill them despite still-high unemployment tied to the pandemic.

Job openings in the U.S. soared to 9.3 million in April from a revised 8.3 million in the prior month, the Labor Department said Tuesday.

The number of job openings had fallen to as low as 4.6 million last year in the early stages of the pandemic.

The huge cache of available jobs is not being filled very rapidly, however.

The economy added a combined 837,000 new jobs in May and April, but that still leaves the U.S. more than 7.6 million short compared to the last month before the onset of the pandemic.

Read: The U.S. added 559,000 new jobs in May. It’s OK, not great.

Many companies big and small say it’s hard to find qualified workers. A record 48% of small businesses, for instance, said they could not fill open jobs in April.

Read: ‘We are struggling to find employees to help us keep up,’ manufacturers say

Big picture: The economic recovery is pretty strong, but it would be even stronger if companies could hire more people. Many businesses say they are losing out on sales because they don’t have enough staff to produce goods or serve customers. Even higher pay hasn’t been enough to do the trick.

The surprising difficulty in getting people to return to work is tied to a number of problems, economists say. They blame a wave of early retirements, a lack of child-care options, a lingering fear of the coronavirus and generous unemployment benefits.

Read: Record job openings and higher pay still not enough to get Americans back to work

These problems probably won’t fully clear up at least until the fall, they say.

Key details: About 6.1 million people were hired in April, but that still left one in three job openings unfilled. And there’s now more job openings than there are unemployed people.

The number of people who left jobs — either by quitting, retiring, getting laid off or fired — rose slightly to 5.8 million.

Americans are quitting jobs more than ever. The so-called quits rate rose one tick to record 2.8% among private-sector employees.

More people quit when the economy is doing well or they think they can find a better, or better-paying, job.

At the height of the coronavirus crisis, the quits rate had fallen to a seven-year low of 1.8%. 

The government’s job-openings report is released with a one-month lag.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-0.23%

and the S&P 500
SPX,
-0.18%

fell in Tuesday trades.

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