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Employers post record 11.5 million job openings in March – Reading Eagle

By PAUL WISEMAN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Employers posted a record 11.5 million job openings in March, meaning the United States now has a record two job openings for every unemployed person.

The latest data released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics further reveals an extraordinarily tight labor market that has encouraged millions of Americans to seek better-paying jobs, while contributing to the biggest spike in inflation in four decades.

A record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in March, a sign they are confident they can find better pay or working conditions elsewhere.

Layoffs, which hovered around 1.8 million a month before the pandemic hit the economy in early 2020, hit 1.4 million in March from 1.35 million in February.

The US labor market is booming. Employers have created an average of more than 540,000 jobs per month over the past year. The Labor Department is expected to report on Friday that the economy generated an additional 400,000 new jobs in April, according to a survey by data firm FactSet. It would mark an unprecedented 12th consecutive month where hiring reached 400,000 or more.

The US economy and labor market rebounded with unexpected strength from the brief but devastating coronavirus recession of 2020, fueled by massive government spending and ultra-low interest rates engineered by the Federal Reserve.

Caught off guard by the sudden rebound in consumer demand, businesses rushed to hire workers and stock their shelves. They were forced to raise wages, and factories, ports and freight stations were overwhelmed with traffic. The result was shipping delays and higher prices.

In March, consumer prices rose 8.5% from a year earlier, the highest inflation since 1981.

Where things go from here is uncertain. The Fed raises short-term interest rates to fight inflation. The federal government’s COVID-19 stimulus package is gone. And the war in Ukraine has clouded the economic outlook.

Despite strong hiring, the United States is still short of 1.6 million jobs compared to the jobs it had in February 2020, just before the coronavirus hit the economy; and this shortfall does not take into account the additional jobs that should have been created by a growing population.

For the moment in any case, the labor market seems solid.

“Employees have strong job security and confidence in their ability to find new work,” said Nick Bunker, director of economic research at the Indeed Hiring Lab. “The labor market is still a market of job seekers. Something drastic will have to happen for that to change anytime soon.