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Job openings set new record of 9.3 million amid economic reopening

Job openings in April soared to a new record high, with 9.3 million vacancies coming as the economy rapidly recovered from its pandemic depths.

The standard set in April was well above the 8.3 million in March that itself was a new series high going back to 2000 for the Labor Departments Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Federal Reserve policymakers closely watch the JOLTS numbers for indications of labor market slack, though they run a month behind the more widely publicized nonfarm payrolls count.

Markets had been looking for a JOLTS number around 8.18 million, according to FactSet.

The big jump in job openings came during a month when hiring disappointed. Payrolls increased by just 278,000 at a time when economists had been looking for growth of around 1 million.

However, the Labor Department has struggled with seasonal adjustments compounded by the uniqueness of the virus situation, and the JOLTS numbers indicated that the jobs market is poised for continued strong growth ahead.

One big challenge for employers, however, is finding available labor. Child care issues, ongoing fears about the pandemic and the lure of enhanced unemployment benefits has kept the unemployment rolls at 9.3 million, about 3.6 million higher than pre-pandemic.

The hire rate for April remained subdued at 69,000, or an unchanged 4.2% from the previous month.

Quits, which are seen as a gauge of worker confidence that they can find other employment, rose considerably, to 3.95 million. That represented growth of 384,000, an increase of 10.8% that took the quits rate as a share of the labor force up to a record 2.7% from 2.5%.

Retail saw a particularly sharp rise in quits up to 4.3% from 3.6%.

Total separations increased to 5.76 million, a gain of 324,000 that took the rate up to 4% from 3.8%. Layoffs and discharges edged lower to 1%, also a new series low.

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