By Lucia Mutikani
WASHINGTON, Apr 6 (Reuters) – U.S. job openings rose to a two-year high in February and hiring rebounded as domestic demand for COVID-19 vaccination and additional aid strengthened The government made companies need more workers.
The Department of Labor’s monthly report on job vacancies and job turnover (JOLTS) was the latest sign that the trend in the labor market has changed following job losses in December, when the country was hit by a new wave of infections and government aid was exhausted.
“This report is further proof that the demand for labor is increasing,” said John Ryding, chief economic adviser at Brean Capital in New York. “But the level of demand for labor relative to the potential supply of labor is still low, albeit on the rise.”
Job vacancies, a measure of labor demand, rose 268,000 to 7.4 million through the last day of February. The highest level since January 2019 and pushed job openings 5.1% above their pre-pandemic level.
The second consecutive monthly increase in vacancies raised the job opening rate to a record 4.9% from 4.7% in January.
Economists polled by Reuters estimated that job vacancies would rise to 6.995 million in February. The report follows news on Friday that the economy added 916,000 jobs in March, the most in seven months.
The job market is being boosted by the acceleration of virus vaccination and the recently approved $ 1.9 trillion pandemic aid package by the White House, which is sending checks for $ 1,400 to households that meet certain requirements and funds to companies.
Demand for labor could rise further as more service companies reopen.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that fully vaccinated people could travel safely and with “low risk.”
In February, hires increased by 273,000 to 5.7 million. This raised the hiring rate to 4.0% from 3.8% in January.
Despite the improving job market outlook, competition for jobs remains stiff and unemployment remains well above pre-pandemic levels.
In February, there were 1.4 unemployed for every job open, well above the 0.82 on the eve of the first wave of closures in the pandemic, 12 months ago.
“This means that employers will have an easier time hiring, while job seekers still don’t have the bargaining power they had before the pandemic,” said Nick Bunker, research director at Indeed Hiring Lab.
(Report by Lucia Mutikani, Edited in Spanish by Javier López de Lérida)