Openings Still High and Layoffs At Record Low

The April JOLTS

June 1, 2022 by Lightcast

Despite rumors of recession, the number of job openings reached 11.4 million in April and the number of layoffs reached its all-time low at 1.2 million. 

“If we do see an economic slowdown, we’ll see layoffs,” said Bledi Taska, Emsi Burning Glass Chief Economist. “The fact that we’re not seeing layoffs means we’re not in an economic slowdown.” 

Taska was joined by Emsi Burning Glass Senior Economist Layla O’Kane for a discussion on their first reactions right after the report came out today. A full recording of that conversation is available here. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey tracks hiring, resignations, and layoffs. This morning’s release shows that the patterns of the past several months have continued, indicating a new normal in a labor market marked by ongoing talent shortages.

The previous JOLTS showed that March had set the all-time record for job openings, but today’s report showed that that record was even higher than previously thought: the number of March openings was revised upward from 11.5 million to 11.9 million.

While the number of openings declined to 11.4 million in April, the record-low number of layoffs indicates that the labor market remains very tight, with too many employers competing for not enough workers. For every 100 job openings, there are only 52 unemployed individuals in the labor force to fill them.

Though the total number of openings stayed high overall, some individual industries saw some notable shifts.

Retail Trade and Accommodation and Food Services were two of the top four industries seeing the largest decline in job openings, though demand for jobs in those industries remains high. This could indicate that employers have come to accept that it won’t be possible to fill their need for low-wage retail and restaurant jobs, so they’re listing fewer postings for those roles. Emsi Burning Glass data also show that wages are leveling off in most industries that pay less than $20 an hour, which suggests that employers are no longer willing to fill those positions at all costs.

Quits also declined dramatically in Accommodation and Food Services, indicating that the number of workers in the industry is beginning to stabilize. 

“The services industry has been battling labor shortages for a long time; throughout the pandemic and in this post-pandemic world, and I think we’re seeing some softening there,” O’Kane said during our  live discussion. “That’s going to make employers feel a little bit better.”

In that graph we also see a sizable decline in the number of quits from the Construction industry. Construction has shown strong growth, hitting its all-time record in job openings in April at 449,000. Part of that gain is seasonal—hiring picked up again with warmer weather in April—but this is also a reflection of the nationwide housing shortage. Home prices are up sharply over the past two years, and builders are likely hoping to both capitalize on higher prices and also respond to increased demand for units. 

Overall, this JOLTS report shows a continuation of the labor market tightness that has made its impact felt across all sectors of the economy over the past two years. While the overall number of openings did decline from March, it remains one of the highest ever recorded. 

The ongoing tension means potential employees will have no shortage of jobs to choose from, while those aiming to hire will likely need to look beyond their traditional talent pools in their attempts to recruit the workforce they need. 

This Friday, our economists will be discussing the monthly BLS Employment Situation report right after its release. Join us live at 9:00 a.m. ET/6:00 a.m. PT to learn the latest about today’s complex and evolving job market.