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U.S. job openings high for second consecutive month

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There were some 9.2 million new job postings in the May, Bureau of Labor Statistics — nearly the same number that were posted in April. Spencer Platt via Getty Images

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics posted its job openings data for the month of May on Wednesday — 9.2 million new job postings, nearly the same as in April. Those 9.2 million new job openings are actually a little lower than some economists predicted.

But that number, combined with 5.9 million hirings, is still encouraging, according to Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. “So you are seeing both job openings and hiring eating away at the big hole that we have that was left in the labor market when the pandemic hit,” Gould said.

And there’s more in the data.

When Cornell economist Erica Groshen gets these reports, she looks at individual industries to see how job postings in each sector compare with unemployment. In construction, for example, there are more people out of work than new jobs — at least, over the last three months.

“This does not suggest there’s a labor shortage for construction at all,” Groshen said.

She then looks at the service industries, which posted some of the most jobs. Take restaurants. The recent unemployment rate there is pretty close to the number of jobs available. Groshen doesn’t see that as a labor shortage, more an issue with low pay.

“Because somebody somewhere is always going to be having trouble finding workers, because they’re only going to raise their wages after they’ve had trouble doing it,” she said.

Nick Bunker with the job search platform Indeed, a Marketplace underwriter, said he has a different way of describing the number of openings versus applicants. “I think what we’re seeing now in the labor market is more of an urgency mismatch,” Bunker said.

Based on a survey Indeed released in June, most job seekers are not looking urgently for reasons related to the pandemic or because of other income. But still, “lots of employers want to hire, right now,” he said.

Bunker predicts that as the summer ends and school starts, more people will be ready to start work.

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