Job openings in U.S. decline to lowest level since May 2017

A now-hiring sign is posted in front of an oil-changing business in this 2017 file photo.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

U.S. job openings plunged in March to the lowest level since May 2017 as the COVID-19 pandemic began unleashing its devastating impact on the economy.

The number of available positions plummeted to 6.19 million from a revised 7 million in February, according to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, released Friday. That compares with a median forecast for a drop to 5.8 million in a Bloomberg survey.

The figures follow other labor market indicators that have recently shown the swift deterioration across the economy as businesses closed during the national health emergency. A report Thursday showed 36.5 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past eight weeks, while the Labor Department reported last week that employers slashed a record 20.5 million workers from their payrolls in April.

There were 1.2 unemployed people vying for every opening in March, bringing an end to a two-year trend in which vacancies exceeded the number of unemployed.


The JOLTS report showed hires declined to 5.2 million in March from almost 5.9 million a month earlier. Separations soared to 14.52 million from 5.6 million, led by leisure and hospitality.

Job openings slumped to 699,000 in the leisure and hospitality industry from 950,000 a month earlier, while vacancies in manufacturing dropped by more than 100,000 to 320,000. Openings in trade and transportation fell to 1.09 million from 1.17 million.