Hires Surged to All-Time High and Job Openings Unexpectedly Soared in May

Woman engineer in hardhat .
Getty Images

The reopening of the U.S. economy in May saw a frenetic pace of hiring never before seen in a single month, according to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, released Tuesday

The number of hires, which includes employees rehired to jobs in business shuttered during lockdowns, soared a record 2.44 million to 6.5 million, the highest monthly number ever recorded in data stretching back to the turn of the century.

The hires rate hit a record high of 4.9 percent, from 3.1 percent in April.

The number of available but unfilled jobs, known as openings, surged to 5.4 million, up from an upwardly revised 5 million in April. Economists had expected around 4.5 million openings. This figure does not included workers recalled from temporary layoffs or furloughs or positions only offered to already existing employees.

Layoffs and discharges plummeted to a rate of 1.4 percent, down from 5.9 percent in April. Pre-pandemic this rate was 1.2 percent. The level of layoffs fell to 1.796 million, about average for the series, from 7.7 million in April and 11.5 million in March.

The quits rate, which measures the share of workers voluntarily leaving a job, rose to 1.6 percent from 1.4 percent, the lowest level in 9 years. A rising quit rate is considered a sign of an improving jobs market as workers are more likely to voluntarily leave their jobs when they have other offers or consider the prospects for finding new work good.

The economy is still reeling from the sudden shift from a tight labor market with record low unemployment and surprisingly robust job creation to one with record-high unemployment, record-high layoffs, and lower levels of overall employment. Over the 12 months ending in May, total separations exceeded total hires by 11.3 million, representing a loss in overall employment.

Manufacturing hired 426,000, the most since April of 2001. Layoffs fell t0 118,000, around the pre-pandemic levels, from over 630,000 in April and March. This indicates a net expansion in manufacturing employment for the month but still far below pre-pandemic levels. Job openings, however, remain relatively weak at 328,000. Excluding March and April, that is is the lowest level of Trump’s presidency.

Construction hired 673,000, the highest on record, up from 246,000, the lowest on record. Layoffs and discharges fell to 174,000, the lowest level since June of 2019. Openings rose to 365,000, the highest level since May of last year.

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.