Businesses in the U.S. would be on a hiring spree if only they could find workers willing to fill open jobs.
Job openings in the U.S. jumped to 8.1 million in March, a record high, the Labor Department said Tuesday.
The number of job openings is not only above pre-pandemic levels, it exceeds the total job deficit from the pre-pandemic level. According to the Department of Labor, there were 7.6 million fewer people in employed in April 2021 than February 2020.
The openings level also exceeds the all-time peak of 7.57 million set in November 2018. Economists had forecast 7.455 million openings following the initial report of 7.367 million in February. February’s number was revised up to 7.5 million.
Despite the record number of openings and better than expected rise, hires were little changed from the previous month at 6 million.
Many businesses say they are having troubling hiring workers to fill open positions. A record 44 percent of small business owners said they could not fill open jobs in April, according to a survey released Tuesday by the National Federation of Independent Business.
Enhanced unemployment benefits, which pay an additional $300 per week, appear to be holding back jobless Americans who would otherwise return to the workforce. As well, many families need a caregiver at home because so many schools have not reopened for full-time instruction.
President Joe Biden has claimed, without evidence, that unemployment benefits are not a significant factor in the labor shortage, but most ecoomists who have looked at the issue disagree. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also downplayed the role of benefits.
Thee record number of job openings could sap support for the Biden administration’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill, which it has billed the American Jobs Plan. With so many unfilled positions, some lawmakers may doubt that the U.S. needs to spend trillions for a jobs plan now.