The US still faces severe worker shortages 1:04
New York (WABNEWS Business) — The shortage of workers has been one of the hallmarks of the pandemic economy, and it’s far from resolved. In February, US companies had 11.3 million job openings to fill, slightly more than economists had forecast.
The level of available jobs has changed little compared to the beginning of the year, but it is below the december record highof 11.4 million, according to the Survey of Job Offers and Labor Rotation of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, for its acronym in English) published this Tuesday. For each American looking for a jobthere was a little less than 1.8 positions availableequaling the December high.RELATED
Last month more jobs were available in the arts, entertainment and leisure, educational services and federal government sectors.
Separately, the number of Americans leaving their jobs rose to 4.4 million in February, up slightly from the previous month but down from November’s high of 4.5 million. A greater number of workers quit their jobs in retail sales, manufacturing, and state and local education. Fewer people left finance and insurance jobs.
Companies hired 6.7 million people in February.
The American job market has come a long way since the early days of the pandemic, when more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs. For now, it’s still going strong. The next analysis of the employment situation will come on Friday, when the BLS releases the March employment report.
“Should Friday’s payroll report disappoint, it will be due to a lack of supply of workers to fill available jobs, rather than a demand problem,” said James Knightley, chief international economist at ING. .
The labor shortage has left companies struggling to find staff, despite offering higher wages. Wages have been rising, supporting consumer spending even amid runaway inflation. In February, the pace of price increases reached a level not seen in 40 years, according to the latest data from the Consumer Price Index.
“In a service sector economy, the biggest cost is your labor. Given the clear evidence of the pricing power of business, this means that inflation will stay higher for longer as businesses shift higher costs to their customers,” Knightley said.
The strength of the labor market, in which many workers who quit their jobs are moving to others with better pay or benefits, contrasts with consumer concerns about rising prices.
In March, US consumer confidence rose after declines in early 2022, according to data from The Conference Board released Tuesday.
It’s a promising sign that the economy continued to grow in the first three months of the year, said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board.
But there are dark clouds on the horizon.
“Expectations … weakened further with consumers citing rising prices, especially gasoline, and the war in Ukraine as factors,” Franco said. “Meanwhile, buying intentions for big-ticket items like cars have weakened a bit in recent months as interest rate expectations have risen.”