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Job Openings Exceed Unemployment by Roughly 1 Million

August 10, 2021 by Reece Nations
An employee wears a mask as she cleans exterior windows at an ice cream & yogurt store in Buffalo Grove, Ill. Growth in the U.S. services sector, where most Americans work, increased to a record pace in July even as businesses continued to face challenges in hiring workers. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Monday that job openings increased to their highest ever recorded point at the end of June to 10.1 million available positions, the Department of Labor reported on Friday that some 8.7 million people seeking work were among the nation’s unemployed.

In order to address this discrepancy, companies have been scrambling to entice individuals onto payrolls by including benefits like signing bonuses, flexible scheduling and boosted salaries, according to a survey by the consulting firm Gallagher. Concerns with returning to work amid surging delta variant transmissions coupled with the financial cushion of pandemic unemployment assistance are just some of the factors keeping workers at home.

“Hires rose to 6.7 million and total separations edged up to 5.6 million,” the text of the Bureau of Labor Statistics report read. “Within separations, the quits rate increased to 2.7%. The layoffs and discharges rate was unchanged at 0.9%, matching the series low reached last month.”

Increases in job openings have been growing for some time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. In July, total payroll employment rose by 943,000 and the unemployment rate declined by one-half percentage point.

Despite the promising figures, one that still largely looms over the job market is the 6.1 million fewer Americans working now than just prior to the pandemic in Feb. 2020. Although employers hired 6.7 million workers in June, the divide between openings and hiring suggests that firms are still struggling to fill positions.

“The unemployment rate declined by 0.5 percentage points to 5.4 % in July, and the number of unemployed persons fell by 782,000 to 8.7 million,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ July employment update read. “These measures are down considerably from their highs at the end of the February-April 2020 recession. However, they remain well above their levels prior to the coronavirus pandemic [3.5 % and 5.7 million, respectively, in February 2020].”

Job openings increased across several industries, with the most significant improvement coming from the professional and business services industry which added 227,000 jobs in June. Further, retail trade added 133,000 jobs and accommodation and food services added 121,000 jobs, according to the BLS report.

The rate of hires increased in June in the retail trade by 291,000 jobs and in state and local government education by 94,000, predominantly in the South and Midwest regions. Telework decreased from 14.4% of all workers in June to 13.2% in July.

Between January and June, employment rose by more than 3 million jobs under the Biden administration. This figure represents more jobs added to the U.S. economy than every other newly elected post-World War II president in the same span of time.

“With an average of 832,000 new jobs over the past three months, this robust and sustained job growth is built on the Biden administration’s progress getting people vaccinated and investing in America’s workers, businesses and communities,” Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said in a written statement. 

“Our labor force is healing, our economy is reopening, and people are getting back to work, but we still have a way to go. Economic recovery depends on our commitment to public health, so I urge every eligible person to get vaccinated against COVID-19 who has not done so already. It’s how to protect yourself, protect your family, and help our economy move forward.” 

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