Here We Go Again: Following Big Payroll Miss It’s The Level Of Hiring, Not Job Openings

That rate of HI was about the same as December 2019 when recession possibilities were still piling up. Following the COVID recession in 2020, and with the labor market still deeply depressed even after almost a year of rebound and reopening, why isn’t hiring more like the first couple months in May and June last year? It really should be a million or so better – and that would be just Reopening 2.

Though the estimate for April payrolls came out first, these HI figures from March are foreboding in the sense of how the former would come up so short.

Not so – says those carrying on the inflation case and its now-deepening tradition. Making the rounds again is the idea that what’s stopping employers from hiring at much higher rates each and every month is how those very same otherwise overly eager HR departments cannot locate and persuade enough candidates to come aboard.


After all, contained within the same JOLTS data package are those for Job Openings (JO), purportedly the top-notch measure of labor demand. For the month of March 2021, this other metric just went vertical:

Climbing to more than 8.1 million, by far a record, it wasn’t just up 41% year-over-year on base effects from March 2020, this was an eye-opening 7% better than the previous high set way, way back in November 2018.

And that particular month, if you recall, only brings back memories of this same exact debate. In 2018, not unlike 2014, the JOLTS JO number was used to justify the LABOR SHORTAGE!!!! narrative otherwise short on data (plenty of anecdotes). Relying on the identical mismatch between low levels of HI and huge levels of JO, like now it had been said then that companies wanted workers but they couldn’t find nearly enough of them.

The discrepancy became so large that it made its way into Jay Powell’s hawkish brew.

He, perhaps unlike many others, seems to have learned from what was – before September 2019 – his gravest error.

Not only had there been suspiciously little corroboration for the widely reported worker shortage, there had been plenty of similar data starkly indicating only its hype. The Conference Board, for one, published then and still does now a competing metric for practically the same idea – online help-wanted ads (HWOL) as a proxy for commercial labor demand.

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Disclosure: This material has been distributed for informational purposes only. It is the opinion of the author and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any ...

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