While we already knew that the US labor market started off 2021 with a whimper (with a disappointing January jobs report) only to hit a bang in March when almost 1 million new jobs were created, what we didn't know is that the blockbuster March payrolls was being set up by a frenzy in February job openings. Well, moments ago courtesy of the latest BLS JOLTS Job Openings report for the month of February, we learned that in that in the second month of the year there was a surge in job openings which spiked by 268K (and 618K in the past two months) to 7.367MM the highest level in over two years, or since January 2019, when there were 7.478 million job openings, the second highest on record.
The increase in job openings was driven by jobs in health care and social assistance (+233,000); accommodation and food services (+104,000); and arts, entertainment, and recreation (+56,000). The number of job openings decreased in state and local government education (-117,000); educational services (-35,000); and information (-34,000).
Separately, in yet another indication of the solid recovery in the labor market since the collapse in April, when there were 18.1 million more unemployed workers than there are job openings - the biggest gap on record - the gap has since shrunk dramatically to just 2.6 million in February, down from 3.2 million in January.
As a result, there has been even more continued improvement in the job availability series, and in February there were 1.35 unemployed workers for every job opening, down from 1.5 in February and from 4.6 at the peak crisis moment last April.
Meanwhile, confirming the accelerating in the hiring picture as covid lockdowns were lifted, in February hiring jumped for a 2nd consecutive month to 5.738MM, up 273K from 5.465MM in January which in turn followed a jump of 54K from December.
Hires increased in accommodation and food services (+220,000). Hires decreased in state and local government education (-80,000) and in educational services (-25,000). The number of hires increased in the South region.
As hires surged, separations also rose from 5.323MM to 5.456MM in February. Separations decreased in transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-97,000) and in federal government (-17,000); they increased in construction (+90,000); state and local government education (+51,000); and educational services (+36,000).
Finally, confirming the solid labor market data, in February the level of quits - or people leaving their job voluntarily due to better prospects elsewhere - rose by 51K to 3.357 million, after declining in the previous month. The number of quits increased in state and local government education (+29,000); educational services (+22,000); and real estate and rental and leasing (+15,000).