Even more job openings were posted in October while quits stayed near record highs
- US job openings rose to 11 million in October, according to JOLTS data out on Wednesday.
- Economists expected openings to be at 10.5 million but they shot higher just shy of July's record high.
- Another 4.2 million Americans quit, a drop from September's record but the third highest ever.
Job openings rebounded to historic highs in October as both strong job creation and a high number of people quitting kept the labor shortage alive into the holiday season.
Open positions in the US rose to 11 million from 10.4 million in October, according to Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, data published Wednesday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected openings to climb to 10.5 million. That means October's figure was just shy of the all-time record of 11.1 million openings, from July.
The report suggests the labor market remained unusually tight with millions still out of work compared to early 2020. US job growth sharply accelerated in October as the Delta wave faded and companies ramped up their holiday hiring efforts. But while payroll creation surged, the latest JOLTS data shows openings still sitting close to record highs.
Hotels and restaurants posted 254,000 openings in October, more than any other sector. Nondurable goods manufacturers followed with 45,000 new postings, and education services listed 42,000 new positions. Openings slid by 115,000 across state and local government roles excluding education, according to the report.
Fewer employees quit their jobs than in the month prior, but just barely. Quits fell to 4.2 million in October, according to the report. That's down from the record 4.4 million quits seen in September, but it's still the third-highest quit number ever.
Quitting eased the most in the transportation, warehousing, and utilities sector, with quits at such businesses falling by 57,000 through the month. The print is an encouraging sign of how the supply-chain crisis is progressing. Worker shortages at warehouses and trucking businesses have presented major hurdles to getting products delivered from ports. The JOLTS data signals firms did a better job at retaining workers as the spending-heavy holiday season approached.
Quitting declined in finance and insurance firms by 45,000, according to the report. The arts, entertainment, and recreation sector saw quits decline by 33,000.
State and local governments struggled to hold on to their employees, with quits increasing by 21,000 in non-education jobs. Mining and logging firms saw quits climb by 6,000.
How the labor shortage fared in October
The JOLTS report signals that, although hiring accelerated into the fall, demand for workers still handily outpaced supply. There were roughly 67 unemployed workers for every 100 job openings in October, according to the new data. That's the lowest ratio of workers-to-openings on record.
The gap points to unusual tightness in the labor market. Such unmet demand for workers usually only shows up late in economic expansions, when unemployment is low. Yet nearly 7 million Americans remained unemployed at the end of November. It's not that there aren't enough workers to fill openings; many unemployed people just aren't taking jobs.
The JOLTS data also suggests the easing of the Delta wave did little to end the labor shortage. Daily case counts fell through the month as more Americans got their booster shots and restrictions staved off the variant's spread. The October jump in openings not only snapped a two-month streak of declines, but it erased most of the recent decline in job listings.
Recent hiring data points to even slower progress toward filling jobs through November. The US added just 210,000 jobs last month, according to the government's Friday payrolls report. That's less than half of the jobs created the month prior and well below the median forecast of 550,000 new payrolls. The month saw virus cases trend higher again and the supply-chain crisis also weigh on hiring. The otherwise healthy data from that report — such as on unemployment and wages — suggest the labor shortage is turning semi-permanent.
The 11 million openings aren't likely to be filled soon. And as the Omicron variant emerges as the latest risk to the recovery, Americans waiting on the sidelines might decide to stay there a while longer.