Washington, DC - The U.S. had more job openings this spring than unemployed Americans.
For the first time since such record-keeping began in 2000, the number of available positions exceeded the number of job seekers, the Labor Department said Tuesday, a shift that is rippling across the economy and affecting the behavior of employers and workers.
U.S. job openings rose to a seasonally adjusted 6.7 million at the end of April, a record high, and more than the 6.3 million Americans who were unemployed during the month. Openings had exceeded the available labor pool beginning in March, according to revised figures released Tuesday.
The figures are the latest sign the U.S. is facing a historically tight labor market. The jobless rate ticked down further in May to a seasonally adjusted 3.8%, the lowest since April 2000, the Labor Department said last week. The last time the rate was lower was in 1969, when young men were being drafted into the Vietnam War.
“This is a very tight labor market,” said Adam Kamins, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics. “Most everyone who wants a job has one.”
For now, the market is opening up possibilities for those who have struggled in recent years. Geremy Mincey, 26 years old, had bounced between temporary jobs since dropping out of college seven years ago, working at factories, fast-food restaurants and even as the mall Easter Bunny. He would often go months between paychecks.
Earlier this year, he landed a temporary job as a saw operator at Williams Metals and Welding Alloys in Birmingham, Ala. Last month, the firm asked him to take a full-time position with health benefits and retirement savings.
“I feel like I broke the cycle,” he said.
Hourly pay for nonsupervisors rose 2.8% in May from a year earlier, the best annual gain since mid-2009.