The number of positions waiting to be filled rose by 346,000 in March to 7.49 million, from an upwardly revised 7.14 million in the prior month, according to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey or JOLTS released Tuesday. The quits rate remained at 2.3%, matching the highest level of the economic expansion and signaling confidence from workers that prospects remain strong.
The rebound in job openings means the economy is continuing to grow and generate demand for workers. Vacancies exceeded the number of jobless Americans by about 1.28 million. At the same time, monthly payrolls data showed hiring topped estimates in both March and April, indicating companies and government agencies are having some success filling jobs.
The quits rate stood at 2.3% for a 10th straight month as 3.41 million Americans left their jobs, down slightly from the prior month. Federal Reserve officials watch the rate for signs of upward pressure on worker pay that may feed into inflation, with the long stretch at this elevated level indicating employers are facing expectations to raise pay.
Hiring edged down to 5.66 million, while separations slipped to 5.43 million. Gains for openings were led by transportation, warehousing, and utilities, as well as construction and real estate. Manufacturing and retail were little changed. Although it lags a month behind other Labor Department data, the JOLTS report adds context to monthly employment figures by measuring dynamics such as resignations, help-wanted ads and hiring.