Workers are still in high demand, according to reports from the Ministry of Labor

Job postings last month remained near record highs and the number of workers voluntarily quitting their jobs rose, the The Department of Labor announced on Tuesday.

data, published as part of the agency’s monthly report on job postings, layoffs and quits, serve as indicators of the demand for workers in the U.S. economy and the extent to which employers are still grappling with labor shortages months after the economy began to recover from the worst damage of the pandemic.

There were about 11.3 million job openings in February, essentially the same as the previous month and a bit down from December’s record, although the number of hires overall increased by 263,000 on last month, reaching about 6.7 million.

After plummeting during the peak of Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020, the rates at which so-called prime-age workers – those aged 25 to 54 – are working or looking for work have returned to pre-pandemic levels. Yet, with the economy growing faster than in recent decades, the demand for labor has exceeded the availability of workers – at least in terms of wages and benefits offered by employers.

There are still around three million people who have not returned to the labor market, according to government data.

“Given our weak workforce growth so far this year, if companies want to win the war for talent, they need to hire the people who may not be actively looking for work right now. or be the first option people see when they return,” wrote Ron Hetrick, senior economist at Emsi Burning Glass, a data and research firm, in a note.

This echoes the sentiment of many unions and labor activists, who have said that while wage growth has accelerated, people do not feel valued enough by employers. This has led to new questions about how bosses might get to know their recruits’ “love language” and find sometimes unconventional ways to show them they care. There are also simpler demands: several progressive economists have noted that employers could, for example, accept certain jobs typically expected to be low-paying, such as fast food service and cashiers, and entice workers by offering them a wage. higher and better benefits.

Large state-owned companies and small businesses often say they already raised wages dramatically before the pandemic and that with inflation raging to heights not seen since the early 1980s, the costs of raw materials and other made business more difficult. A costly surge in commodity markets suggests that food and energy price increases could worsen, especially if companies raise prices further.

Yet, despite widespread frustration over inflation and shortages of certain products and materials, some surveys suggest businesses have become more optimistic about the future. MetLife and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Index recently peaked in the pandemic era, with about three in five small business owners surveyed saying their businesses are in good shape.

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