WASHINGTON – For the first time on record, the number of job openings in the United States exceeds the number of unemployed Americans — a trend that may soon give workers more leverage to demand pay raises.
With employers struggling to fill openings, the number of available jobs in April rose 1 percent to 6.7 million from 6.6 million in March, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That’s the most since records began in December 2000.
The figures underscore the consistent strength of the nation’s job market. The unemployment rate has reached an 18-year low of 3.8 percent. Employers have added jobs for a record 92 straight months. And the abundance of openings suggests that hiring will continue and that the unemployment rate will fall even further. Not since December 1969, when the rate was 3.5 percent, has unemployment been lower than it is now.
Employers appear confident about the economic outlook and growth. Analysts expect faster consumer spending to help accelerate growth to roughly a 3.5 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, after growth had lagged slightly in the first three months of the year.
In July 2009, just as the Great Recession was officially ending, there were, on average, 6.7 unemployed people for each job. Now, that figure has fallen to just 0.95 jobless people per opening.