Companies didn’t have quite as much trouble finding employees in November, but workers still had leverage — and they continued to take advantage of it.
There were 10.6 million job openings posted on the last day of November, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That was down from 11.1 million in October, but still more than in any month before the pandemic began.
The number of Americans voluntarily quitting their jobs — whether to take another position or to take some time off work — rose to 4.5 million, a record high. With job openings still high and labor scarce, particularly in the service sector, many workers have been taking advantage of the opportunity to look for jobs with better pay or working conditions.
“Employer demand is still extremely high, and the result of that is increased competition for workers,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the career site Glassdoor. “That means more job openings, higher wages and more churn in the labor market.”
Competition for workers has led to faster wage growth this year, particularly for those changing jobs. Hourly wages for job switchers were up 4.3 percent in November on average, compared to a 3.2 percent gain for people who stayed in their jobs, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
The data released Tuesday is from the Labor Department’s survey of job openings and labor turnover, known as JOLTS. On Friday, the department will release data from December on employment, unemployment and earnings, which most forecasters expect to show that job growth accelerated at the end of the year.
The data in both reports, however, predates the recent explosion of coronavirus cases across the country. The latest Covid-19 wave, linked to the Omicron variant of the virus, has forced airlines to cancel flights, businesses to delay return-to-office plans and school districts to return temporarily to remote learning. How that will affect the broader economy, Mr. Zhao said, remains unclear.
“The data that we’re getting now isn’t fully capturing the impact of Omicron,” he said.