Here's another sign the job market is bouncing back from the pandemic

Denitsa Tsekova
·2 min read

After a better-than-forecast jobs report last week, new economic indicators this week are pointing to a rebounding labor market, offering more opportunities and bargaining power for American workers.

The number of job openings was up 5.1% in February compared with a year ago before the economic fallout from the pandemic took hold in the U.S., according to the Labor Department’s latest JOLTS report. There were almost 7.4 million openings on the last business day in February.

“[The] report is a cause for more optimism for job seekers,” Nick Bunker, director of research at Indeed, told Yahoo Money. “If you’re someone who's out of work, there are more opportunities for you to find a job. If you already have a job but are looking for a new one, it does look like there are more chances to find a new position.”

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Hires also increased, reaching 5.7 million in February, with accommodation and food services — one of the hardest-hit industries in the pandemic — hiring 220,000 people in February.

The number of unemployed workers per job opening remained at 1.4 from January, but that’s a significant drop from its peak of 5 unemployed workers per job opening in April. Despite the improvement, workers still have less bargaining power than before the pandemic when the rate was 0.8, meaning there were more job openings than jobless workers.

A man walks past a
A man walks past a "Now Hiring" sign in front of a store on December 1, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

“It's still above what we're seeing prior to the pandemic,” Bunker said. “It's good to see progress there, but if we want to get back to the labor market we had in early 2020, we still have progress to make on that front.”

Read more: How to negotiate a work-from-home arrangement permanently

While the JOLTS report is for February, real-time data suggests that the upward trajectory for job openings hasn't waned. Job postings were 16.4% higher as of April 4 versus February 2020, the last normal, pre-pandemic month, according to data from Indeed.

“My hope and expectation is that financial data, as it gets released, will show more job openings,” Bunker said. “It does seem like from what we see in our data…that there's going to be some good numbers coming down the pipeline.”

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Denitsa is a writer for Yahoo Finance and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @denitsa_tsekova

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