May JOLTS Report: Still a Job Seeker’s Market

Daniel Zhao

July 7, 2021

The latest JOLTS report is out from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. What does it mean for job seekers, employers and investors? Here’s a quick take from Glassdoor Senior Economist Daniel Zhao.

It’s a job seeker’s market as worker demand remains at record highs, according to May’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job openings were flat in May due to declining job openings in professional & business services (-100,000) and financial activities (-44,000). Accommodation & food services continues to drive gains in job openings (+89,000) as labor shortages persist and restaurants are desperate for workers. Overall, May’s report continues to show elevated churn. The current market is opportune for workers, but remains challenging for many employers still struggling to hire.

Quits fell to 3.6 million, erasing April’s record high. The slowdown was largely driven by professional & business services which accounted for almost half of the decline. Quits continued to rise in leisure & hospitality, one of the few industries to do so. While no longer at record levels, the high level of quits means workers are still confident enough to leave their jobs for a new one. Elevated quits emphasize that labor shortages are a double whammy for employers—it's not just harder to hire workers right now, it's also harder to retain them.

Labor demand shows no signs of peaking as the recovery continues. Last Friday's jobs report shows that job gains are speeding up but there are still 6.8 million fewer workers in jobs than before the pandemic. Matching the unemployed to new jobs and pulling in more workers from off the sidelines will not happen overnight. While the labor force is likely to grow through the end of the year as the pandemic abates, both labor demand and worker confidence to quit are likely to remain elevated.

For workers considering their next move, now is still an opportune time to find a new job or ask for a raise. It’s unclear how long the market will remain tight, so workers may want to lock in gains now while the ball is in their court.

Today's report reflects data from May and thus is unlikely to capture any effects from state UI withdrawals. While BLS data comes on a lag, alternative data can offer some early hints on the impact of these changes. Early analysis using Glassdoor data finds no significant effect of the state UI withdrawals on job applications on Glassdoor. The holistic picture suggests that state withdrawals from UI may very slightly boost jobs growth, but is unlikely to supercharge the recovery.

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