A job market metric that is closely watched by the U.S. Federal Reserve shows plenty of job openings but a relative lack of hiring, possibly indicating employers are having trouble finding qualified workers.
In its latest monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), the Labor Department on Wednesday said job openings rose increased 228,000 in July to a record 5.9 million. The number of unemployed workers per job opening fell to 1.3, the lowest since 2001.
But hiring was little changed at 5.2 million in July, keeping the hiring rate steady at 3.6% for a second straight month. About 300,000 fewer people are being hired each month compared with the level reached in February.
“There are millions of jobs going begging right now in what has got to be one of the biggest mismatches between skills and lack of qualified help available in the nation’s history,” Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York, told Reuters.
The Wall Street Journal noted that the number of job openings for professional and business services and for health and education services have reached substantial new highs in recent years, while those in manufacturing and construction remain below their levels of a decade ago.
“This lends some support to the idea that openings are going unfilled because workers don’t have the right skills,” the WSJ said.
The JOLTS report also showed layoffs were little changed at 1.6 million in July, holding the layoffs rate at a 3-1/2-year low of 1.1%. Three million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs, keeping the quits rate at 2.1% for a second straight month.
“The pace of hiring and the pace of voluntary job-quitting are both lower than pre-recession levels, a sign of a lack of vibrancy in the labor market,” the Journal said. “Because job-hopping is a key way that many Americans get raises, an increase in voluntary job-quitting tends to coincide with faster wage growth.”
The Labor Department reported last week that hiring slowed in August, with nonfarm payrolls increasing by 151,000 jobs.