While the number of weekly jobless claims has been hovering around 800,000 since late summer, the U.S. job market has continued its gradual recovery over said period. The number of job openings, a measure of labor demand, climbed to 7.4 million by the end of February, the highest level since the onset of the pandemic. Meanwhile the unemployment rate dropped to 6.0 percent in March, the lowest since the first lockdown saw unemployment soar to 14.8 percent in April 2020.
Despite the increase in job openings and the gradual decline in unemployment, the number of jobless people still exceeds unfilled positions by a significant margin. According to the BLS, 9.97 million Americans were unemployed at the end of February compared to 7.37 million job openings.
As the following chart shows, the ratio of unemployed persons per job opening now stands at 1.4, 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.