More on the hiring challenges employers face as the economy reopens.

Yesterday’s newsletter focused on the labor shortage, nationally and here in Washington. The U.S. Labor Department today released a report showing record high job openings. 

The number of job openings reached a series high of 9.3 million on the last business day of April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Hires were little changed at 6.1 million. Total separations increased to 5.8 million. Within separations, the quits rate reached a series high of 2.7 percent while the layoffs and discharges rate decreased to a series low of 1.0 percent. This release includes estimates of the number and rate of job openings, hires, and separations for the total nonfarm sector, by industry, by four geographic regions, and by establishment size class.

More detail in the report.

Here’s the Associated Press story on the new data. 

MyNorthwest reports on the Washington labor market.

“One of our malls had a hiring event,” said Washington Retail AssociationPresident and CEO Renee Sunde. “They had 112 potential applicants — only four of them were willing to take an interview.”

Several factors come into play.

Seattle University economics professor Vladimir Dashkeev attributes at least some of this to the recent influx of federal funds.

“Stimulus benefits are quite substantial,” he said

The $300 weekly checks from the federal government are set to continue until Sept. 4, and he says that may be making workers more willing to take a pass on the first job they’re offered in the hopes of getting a better offer down the road.

[Jeff Shulman, business professor at the University of Washington] says other factors include lingering fears about the pandemic, the availability of child care for working parents, employees going into other lines of work, and businesses all eyeing the same June 30 reopening date.

Eventually, they expect the economy to rebound. But the current labor shortage will clearly slow the pace.