Job Openings Dropped Only Slightly Ahead of Virus Impact

People stand in line at a job fair in Miami last year. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

(CN) – American employers advertised 6.9 million open jobs in February, indicating only a slight slowdown in the labor market in the weeks before the coronavirus outbreak effectively shut down the U.S. economy.

The decrease of just 130,000 job openings between January and February shows that for the most part, businesses hadn’t yet been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic that has now brought much of the world to a standstill.

For nearly two years, the number of open jobs had outpaced the number of unemployed Americans as the U.S. economy continued a record decade-long growth streak. However, the virus abruptly reversed that streak as employers shed 701,000 jobs in March alone. And with roughly 10 million people seeking unemployment benefits in the past few weeks, there are now millions more jobless people than job openings.

There were 5.9 million new hires in February, roughly the same as the month before, according to a Labor Department report released Tuesday. The number of people quitting their jobs also held steady at 3.5 million. Quits are seen as a positive sign because most people who leave their job do so for higher-paying positions.

The record high of 7.63 million open jobs was set in November 2018.

February’s job openings statistics don’t reflect the current reality of the U.S. economy, as the Covid-19 pandemic has upended daily life around the globe.

Economists at Indeed Hiring Lab looked to their own internal data and found that job postings are down considerably so far in 2020.

“The global economy is coming under considerable strain from the coronavirus pandemic. The slowdown in the US labor market is showing up in the data for job postings on Indeed,” Chief Economist Jed Kolko wrote. “Normally postings increase early in the year. In normal times they’d grow at roughly the same rate from a set point earlier in the year. But in 2020, the trend in job postings is 23.6% lower than in 2019, as of April 3.”

Postings that have been on Indeed for a week or less are down 49% compared to 2019, as of last Friday.

President Donald Trump said two weeks ago that he wanted to reopen the economy by Easter, April 12, only to announce days later that he would extend social-distancing guidelines through April 30.

After a tumultuous several weeks, U.S. stock markets opened to sizeable gains Tuesday for the second straight day, as investors are hoping the number of coronavirus cases are at or near their peak.

There are more than 368,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. and over 11,000 people have died as of Tuesday morning, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

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