20210609_Job_Openings_IBT Number of job openings, quits and layoffs in the United States (seasonally adjusted) Photo: Statista/IBT

Job openings surged to a record high in April as businesses, especially in the hospitality sector, are looking to staff up ahead of what is expected to be a busy summer season. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS), the number of unfilled positions reached 9.3 million on the last business day of April, up from 8.3 million at the end of March and almost 2 million higher than the pre-pandemic high of 7.6 million reached in the fall of 2018.

While the high level of job openings is a good sign that the labor market is recovering from its historical slump, businesses are having trouble filling open positions as people are also leaving their existing jobs in record numbers. According to Tuesday’s JOLTS report, nearly 4 million Americans quit their jobs in April, indicating a high level of optimism that they can find another, possibly higher-paid position elsewhere. Meanwhile, the number of layoffs and discharges also reached series lows, completing the trifecta of labor market optimism.

Overall, 6.1 million hirings stood opposite 5.8 million separations (incl. quits and layoffs) in April. The resulting employment change of 300,000 brings the total employment gain to 11.3 million for the past twelve months, although it needs to be noted that this total includes workers who may have been hired and/or fired multiple times during that period.