Hiring Lags Openings, Prices Rise: June 7 – 11

Employers have many jobs that they would like to fill. Here are the five things we learned from U.S. economic data released during the week ending June 11.


A growing number of jobs go unfilled. There were a seasonally adjusted 9.286 million open jobs on the final day of April. Never in the 21-year history of the Bureau of Labor Statistics data series has there been so many available employment opportunities. The measure up 998,000 for the month and more than double the count of openings in April 2020 (during the early days of the pandemic). Private-sector employers had 8.374 million unfilled jobs in April, including 1.586 million in leisure/hospitality, 1.517 million in professional/business services, 1.439 million in education/health services, 965,000 in retail, and 851,000 in manufacturing. Hiring grew slowly, however, up 69,000 for the month to 6.006 million. Private-sector employers hired 5.728 million people. Job separations increased by 324,000 to 5.760 million (off 51.1 percent from April 2020), reflecting quits rising by 384,000 to 3.952 million and layoffs slowing by 81,000 to 1.444 million.

Inflation continued to take hold in May. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) jumped a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent during the month, following gains of 0.6 percent and 0.8 percent in March and April, respectively. The Bureau of Labor Statistics measure has risen 5.0 percent over the past year (highest since August 2008). Energy CPI held steady during the month as gasoline prices declined 0.7 percent. Food CPI increased by 0.4 percent for a second straight month. Core CPI, which nets out energy and food, swelled 0.7 percent after having surged 0.9 percent in April. Shortages led to significant rises in prices for both new (+1.6 percent) and used (+7.3 percent) vehicles. Transportation services saw their third consecutive jump in prices with a 1.5 percent bump while apparel and shelter prices advanced 1.2 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively. Core CPI was up 3.8 percent year-to-year, its largest 12-month comparable since June 1992.

The trade deficit narrowed in April. The Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that exports increased by $2.3 billion during the month to a seasonally adjusted $205.0 billion while imports declined by $3.8 billion to $273.9 billion. As a result, the trade deficit shrank by $6.2 billion to its smallest reading since January at -$68.9 billion (which was, nevertheless, up 30.1 percent from a year earlier). The goods deficit fell by $6.2 billion to -$86.7 billion (+16.2 percent versus April 2020), while the service surplus essentially held steady at +$17.8 billion (-17.9 percent versus April 2020). Boosting the former were increased exports of civilian aircraft and crude oil/petroleum products and smaller imports of consumer goods and automotive vehicles.

The inability to fill open jobs is clipping small business owner sentiment. The Small Business Optimism Index from the National Federation of Independent Business slipped by 2/10ths of a point in May to a seasonally adjusted 99.6. While up 5.2 points from a year earlier, the index has been unable to cross the century mark for six consecutive months. Five of ten index components improved during the month (including measures for plans to increase employment and the number of current job openings), while three declined (including a sharp decline in expectations for the economy). The press release noted that businesses “are struggling at record levels trying to get workers back in open positions,” warning that higher wages were resulting in “higher selling prices” for consumers.

Credit card balances shrank again in April. The Federal Reserve estimates outstanding non-real estate consumer credit balances grew by $18.6 billion during the month to a seasonally adjusted $4.237 trillion. Credit balances have risen by 2.4 percent over the past year. Revolving credit (e.g., credit cards) balances narrowed by $2.0 billion to $963.6 billion and have fallen 5.5 percent since April 2020. Nonrevolving credit (e.g., college loans, auto loans) balances jumped by $20.6 billion in April to $3.274 trillion and have risen by 4.9 percent over the past year.

Other U.S. economic data released over the past week:

  • Jobless Claims (Week ending June 5 First-Time Claims, seasonally adjusted): 376,000, -9,000 vs. the previous week, -1,161,000 vs. the same week a year earlier). 4-week moving average: 402,500 (-77.6% vs. the same week a year earlier).
  • University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers (June 2021-preliminary, Index of Consumer Sentiment (1966Q1=100), seasonally adjusted): 86.4 (vs. May 2021: 82.9; June 2020: 78.1).
  • Monthly Treasury Statement (May 2021—First 8 Months of FY21, Federal Budget Deficit): -$2.064 trillion (vs. First 8 Months of FY20: -$1.880 trillion).
  • Wholesale Trade (April 2021, Inventories of Merchant Wholesalers, seasonally adjusted): $698.0 billion (+0.8% vs. March 2021, +5.2% vs. April 2020).

The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Kevin’s current employer. No endorsements are implied.

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