While total nonfarm employment still trails its pre-pandemic level by more than 7 million jobs and unemployment remains elevated, the U.S. job market continues to show strong signs of recovery. The number of job openings, a measure of labor demand, climbed to an all-time high of 9.3 million in April while layoffs simultaneously dropped to a record low. Meanwhile the unemployment rate slid back to 5.8 percent in May, the lowest since the first lockdown saw unemployment soar to 14.8 percent in April 2020.
As a matter of fact, the number of job openings is now nearly matching the number of unemployed people, showing that work is in high demand as more and more businesses, especially in the hospitality sector, are staffing up again. According to the BLS, 9.81 million Americans were unemployed at the end of April compared to 9.23 million job openings.
As the following chart shows, the ratio of unemployed persons per job opening now stands at 1.1, down from 5.0 in April 2020. Prior to the pandemic, the number of job openings had exceeded the level of unemployment since March 2018, indicating high demand for labor following a long recovery from the financial crisis. In July 2009, the number of unemployed persons per unfilled position had peaked at 6.4, mainly due to a collapse of job openings.