Shoppers use stairs at the Menlo Park Mall in Edison, New Jersey, U.S. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

There Are Almost As Many Job Openings As Unemployed U.S. Workers

(Bloomberg) -- There’s a job vacancy waiting to be filled for every unemployed American -- almost.

The labor market has come within a hair of reaching that milestone for the first time in records going back to 2000. Job openings surged to a record 6.55 million in March, the Labor Department reported Tuesday. That compares with the 6.585 million unemployed workers in March -- just 35,000 more than the number of available positions.

With rising vacancies almost helping to close the gap with the ranks of the unemployed, the job market is increasingly tight. The fact will likely be noted by Federal Reserve policy makers; the previous chair, Janet Yellen, often cited data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS. At this rate, vacancies could surpass the 6.35 million unemployed as of April (openings are released with a lag behind the more closely-watched monthly jobs report).

At the same time, the increase in job openings doesn’t necessarily mean a boon for anyone who’s unemployed, given hurdles such as the lack of relevant skills that employers frequently cite. In addition, workers may be reluctant to relocate to where the jobs are, or to accept a position with lower pay or in a different field, for example.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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