Job Openings Surge by 10 Percent to 6.6 Million, Topping Expectations

September 9, 2020 Updated: September 9, 2020

Job openings in the United States, which are a measure of labor demand, rose by 10 percent to 6.6 million in July, while the number of people quitting their jobs rose by 2.1 percent between June and July, suggesting an uptick in confidence in being able to find work.

The Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), released Wednesday, showed that the number of job vacancies jumped by 617,000 to 6.6 million on the last day of July, above the 6 million that economists surveyed by FactSet predicted.

Manufacturing saw a 17.9 percent surge in job openings. Industries that saw the largest increases in vacancies were retail trade (172,000), health care and social assistance (146,000), and construction (90,000). The U.S. housing market, in particular, has shown remarkable resilience amid the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus outbreak, with an August report from the U.S. Census Bureau (pdf) showing building permits, a predictor of future activity, rising by 18.8 percent from June to July. Housing starts, meanwhile, surged by 22.6 percent between June and July. In another sign that the economic recovery may be picking up speed, U.S. home sales rose at a record rate for a second straight month in July.

Wednesday’s JOLTS report showed that vacancies were highest in trade, transportation, and utilities (1.292 million), followed by education and health services (1.262 million), and business and professional services (1.2 million), with all three categories seeing growth from the month before.

The number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs increased 344,000 to 2.9 million, a measure typically interpreted as signaling confidence in being able to find a better job. Amid the pandemic, however, an increase in this measure may also suggest people leaving their jobs over fears of exposure to the virus. The JOLTS report showed there were 152,000 workers who quit their jobs in the retail sector, while in the professional and business services sector, 98,000 workers left.

The jobs market has been making a gradual recovery since the economic shutdown associated with containing the CCP virus. After pandemic-driven lockdowns drove non-farm payroll employment to fall by 701,000 in March and plummet by 20.5 million in April, a record drop, the economy has continued to add jobs. Recent Labor Department figures show (pdf) that the unemployment rate in August fell by 1.8 percentage points to 8.4 percent, while the economy added 1.4 million jobs. This comes on the back of total non-farm payroll employment rising by 1.8 million in July, 4.8 million in June, and 2.5 million in May, bringing the total jobs created in the past 4 months to a record 10.5 million.

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