Job Market’s a Feast for Workers, Famine for Employers

Companies compete for talent as openings continue to outnumber jobless workers

Waiter Taking Orders

Tom Werner/Getty Images

Workers have been in the driver’s seat of the labor market for months, and there was no sign that will change anytime soon in a new government report on job turnover. 

The number of job openings rose to 11 million in October, a pickup of 431,000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said in a report Wednesday. Not only is the number of openings tied with the record high reached in July (after rounding), it dwarfs the 6.9 million unemployed people who are looking for work, according to separate data from the bureau. In other words, there are 1.66 job openings for every unemployed worker—also a record at least since BLS started tracking job openings in 2000.

“Under normal circumstances, a near record number of job openings would be something worth celebrating,” said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, in a commentary. “But no employer is in a celebratory mood. It is difficult to fill orders or meet customer demands if there are not enough people to do the actual work.”

The shortage of labor amid the economic recovery from the pandemic has led to workers being in high demand and left businesses giving out record pay increases as they scramble to fill jobs. 

Not only are employers offering more pay, they’re giving out more hiring bonuses, increasing on-the-job training opportunities, and even easing educational requirements in order to fill their ranks, according to a report by The Conference Board and Emsi Burning Glass released Wednesday.

“Our data has tracked the clear shift in bargaining power from employers to workers over the past year,” Bledi Taska, chief economist at Emsi, said in a release. “To compete in this environment, companies are taking proactive steps that have become increasingly visible in their job ads—from signaling the enhanced pay and benefits on offer to casting a wider net for prospective hires, whether in terms of credentials, experience, or geography.” 

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  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary - 2021 M10 Results.”

  2. BMO. :Any Takers for the Near-Record Number of Job Openings?

  3. AAA. “Gas Prices Retreat on Fears of COVID-19 Resurgence.”

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