Job Openings Plunged in April as Millions Were Laid Off

A man looks at signs for a store closure in Niles, Ill., on May 21. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

(CN) — The number of open jobs advertised by employers plummeted by nearly a million in April while layoffs continued at historic levels, another sign of the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating impact on the U.S. economy.

A Labor Department report released Tuesday shows that the number of job openings in the U.S. fell to 5 million in April, a drop of 965,000 from the month before and the lowest level since 2014.

Total separations – which includes quits, layoffs and firings – hit 9.9 million, the second-highest level on record. But it’s actually a decrease from March, when separations soared to a record high of 14.6 million.

There were 7.7 million layoffs and firings – almost 4 million fewer than in March, but still a very high number. In February, there were only 1.8 million layoffs and discharges.  

Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed Hiring Lab, said the numbers suggest “the labor market has probably already hit the bottom.”

“Layoffs were still extremely elevated in April, but were lower than what we saw for March, particularly for directly affected sectors,” he wrote. “We may continue to see elevated rates of layoffs and job cuts may continue to spread to other sectors, but the tidal wave of layoffs appears to be behind us.”

Quits dropped by a million to 1.8 million in April, and new hires fell to 3.5 million, the lowest number on record. By comparison, American employers made 5.1 million new hires in March, when the pandemic first began to drag down the economy.

But Bunker said the outlook for hiring might actually be better than it appears.

“Job openings continue to hold up stronger than we might have expected. Employment has dropped to levels not seen in decades, but job openings are only back to 2014-era levels,” he said. “Even openings in accommodation and food services, the industry sector most affected by the pandemic, was essentially flat over the month after dropping in March.”

Tuesday’s report on job openings and labor turnover in April lags more recent data. It comes four days after the Labor Department reported the U.S. economy added 2.5 million jobs in May. The unemployment rate is still historically high, at 13.3%, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.  

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