The number of job openings was 11.3 million in January, evidence that companies still have more jobs than there are workers to fill them, the Labor Department reported on Wednesday.
That compares to 10.9 million openings in December. The rate of people quitting their jobs declined slightly, by 151,000.
Job growth has been strong so far in 2022, with the February jobs report from the Labor Department last Friday showing employers added 678,000 jobs. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, dropped to 3.8%, not far from its pre-pandemic level of 3.5%.
But the Federal Reserve is set to raise interest rates next week and the war in Ukraine has rattled markets and threatens to slow the global economy. The price of oil has soared and, with it, gas prices. The national average of a gallon of gas is now $4.25, a record in non-inflation adjusted dollars.
A Bankrate survey out Wednesday found that 1 in 4 Americans say higher prices are hurting them, with older consumers especially hard hit.
Older Americans are being hit hardest by the rapid inflation we are experiencing for two main reasons,” said Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst Ted Rossman. “One is that they’re more likely to be in retirement, or close to it, and are focused on drawing down their savings and investments rather than building them up. The other is more psychological, as they have bad memories of the rampant inflation that dominated much of the 1970s and early 80s. It’s clear that inflation – not higher interest rates – is the dominant kitchen table economics concern right now. This has major ramifications for consumers, the economy, politics and more.”
Whether this begins to slow down the economy and hiring depends on how long it lasts, but the labor market is likely to remain tight nonetheless due to demographics trends such as the rise in baby boom retirements and lower participation in the workforce by women.
“The worker shortage is not new,” KIm says. “Companies are still working on a very rigid set of schedules and shifts.”
“If you have 50 jobs open at your warehouse and you need 10 people at 9 to 5, it’s quite limited,” he adds. “But what if you have 200 people, retirees, stay-at-home people? … If you can make up a 50 people requirement from a 200 people labor pool, then companies can make up their needs.”
Kim says that current data on the job market does not capture the reality of the modern-day workplace. “Most of the hourly workers are not captured by the (government) numbers. What we are seeing is the situation is not as bleak as it seems.”
Separately, a Pew Research survey released Wednesday found that low pay, a lack of opportunity and feeling underappreciated drove millions to quit their jobs in 2021.
COVID-19 played a far smaller role in encouraging workers to quit their jobs and seek another, the survey found, as did having to get a coronavirus vaccine.
Overall, 63% cited low pay, the same percentage as said they perceived no opportunities for advancement. More than half, 57%, said feeling disrespected at work led them to quit.