Employers were less eager for workers in May as job openings fell for a second straight month from a record high in March.
The Labor Department said Wednesday in its monthly job openings and labor turnover survey that open positions fell to 11.3 million from an upwardly revised 11.6 million in April. That still leaves nearly two jobs for every unemployed person in the U.S.
Job openings in retail, hotels and restaurants have skyrocketed as Americans resume summer leisure spending and employers struggle to keep pace.
By most indications, the labor market remains very strong, with the number of people filing for unemployment insurance rising only marginally in recent months. In the May survey, the share of the workforce who quit their jobs held steady, as did the share who were fired.
Concerns among business leaders about finding enough qualified employees increased in the second quarter of this year, according to a survey of chief financial officers by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
“Labor shortages are absolutely at the top of every industry I talk to,” said Dave Gilbertson, vice president of UKG, a software company that monitors the payroll and shift management software of 4 million hourly workers. “Every one of them is trying to recruit. So far, I haven’t seen a drop in vacancies. A lot of these jobs have been open for a long time.”
The Fed has been trying to curb inflation by using interest rates to slow business activity so that worker shortages are no longer a constraint on productive capacity, but without causing mass unemployment. Job openings are tapering off, while layoffs remain low, suggesting its strategy may be working.