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There Are More Than 11 Million Open Jobs in America Right Now—and Workers Have the Upper Hand

The labor market is seeing sustained pressure where there are tons of job openings, new hires and people leaving all at once — which is proving to be great for jobseekers and tough for hiring managers.

In January there were 11.3 million job openings, 6.5 million hires and 6.1 million separations, according to the Department of Labor's latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Openings increased in other services (which ranges from auto workers to hairstylists to laundry workers) and in durable goods manufacturing, while hiring remained steady from the previous month.

The total number of people who quit voluntarily edged down to 4.3 million, or 2.9% of the labor force, which is down from a record high in November but still incredibly elevated and signals people feel confident about finding a better job. Quits decreased in retail trade and in information but increased in finance and insurance.

Elise Gould, senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute, noted that the rate of hiring remains higher than the rate of quitting in any industry, which means that when people quit, they're moving to better jobs in the same industry rather than switching careers or leaving the workforce.

Why people quit

Americans said their biggest reasons for quitting in the last year were low pay, a lack of career advancement and because they felt disrespected at work, according to a new report from Pew Research Center.

Organizations have raised wages and worked on retention efforts throughout the Great Resignation, but San Francisco-based therapist Avigail Lev says companies need to recognize another point of friction causing employees to quit: company leadership.

She says the pandemic has made people reevaluate how they want to spend their time and who they want to spend it with. She adds people are questioning traditional workplaces that reward psychopathic traits in leaders, like seeking recognition, being self-centered and having a high sense of entitlement.

"People don't want to be engaged in these dynamics" and they're "sick and tired of trying to please these types of people," Lev says.

The Pew survey also finds people who quit for a new job say their new role offers them better pay, more opportunities for advancement and more work-life balance and flexibility.

Jobseekers have a lot of leverage

Recruiters are fighting to hire for historically high openings and backfill for people moving to new jobs. As of January, there were roughly six jobseekers for every 10 openings — or nearly two open roles for every available worker.

"The problem right now is there aren't enough bodies to fill jobs," says Rucha Vankudre, a senior economist at Emsi Burning Glass, a labor market analytics firm. "Without a major change in the labor force participation rate or employer behavior, like deciding they are willing to let positions stay empty instead of hiring for them, it seems unlikely things will change."

Throughout the pandemic many workers, especially women and caregivers, have been unable to rejoin the labor force due to ongoing child-care challenges and health concerns over the virus.

The U.S. labor market added 678,000 jobs in February, with the largest gains in hard-hit sectors including leisure and hospitality, education and health services, and professional and business services. The February jobs report "indicates that the job market is healthy and resilient to the ebbs and flows of the pandemic," Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao told CNBC. "We've seen that job gains have been over 400,000 for 10 months in a row."

The overall unemployment rate fell to 3.8% in February but remains high for some groups. Broken down by race, the jobless rate is 6.6% for Black workers, 4.4% for Hispanic workers, 3.3% for white workers and 3.1% for Asian American and Pacific Islander workers.

Check out:

6 ways to figure out how much you should be getting paid—before negotiating your salary or a raise

Women are using the Great Resignation to negotiate raises or quit for better pay elsewhere

This company pays new hires to take a vacation before they even start

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