The number of job openings in the U.S. is starting to shrink again as a resurgence of the novel coronavirus — and business shutdowns — threatens to derail the nation's gradual economic recovery from the pandemic.
Over the past two weeks, job openings have fallen by 5.5 percent, according to data published by Glassdoor, revealing a stalling rebound from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
"As the recovery loses steam, declining job openings point to a fragile labor market, where economic progress will be overwhelmingly determined by progress against the virus," the report said.
Since early March, when COVID-19 first gained a foothold in the U.S., hiring has plummeted by 25 percent, with just 4.6 million positions available. Only 22 percent of employers have increased their hiring since June 22, while 35 percent have reduced it, the report found.
Job openings bottomed out in early June and appeared poised for a strong, so-called "V-shaped" recovery. But hopes for a rapid rebound have cooled amid a renewed threat of more layoffs as the U.S. battles a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
Some states have hit pause on their plans to reopen, while others, including California, are reimposing restrictions they had previously lifted, like shuttering restaurants and bars. Workers at Levi's, United Airlines, American Airlines and Wells Fargo learned this past week they were — or could be — laid off or furloughed soon.
|LEVI||LEVI STRAUSS & CO.||25.32||-0.12||-0.45%|
|UAL||UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS, INC.||48.60||+1.14||+2.39%|
|WFC||WELLS FARGO & CO.||48.09||+0.30||+0.63%|
|AAL||AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP, INC.||21.32||+0.42||+2.03%|
"Slumping job openings are a reminder that the virus is firmly in the driver’s seat of the labor market," the report said. "A worsening public health crisis could easily derail an economic recovery that’s already struggling to find its footing."
The decline in job openings over the past two weeks has been broad-based, affecting all of the major industry groups. However, tech, trade and transportation and consumer services accounted for the biggest hiring slowdowns -- evidence that it's the result of not just new COVID-19 cases, but more-sweeping concerns about the sustainability of the recovery, Glassdoor said.
Still, most industries, including retail and consumer services, are hiring more than they were during their crisis lows.
Every state has seen a decrease in job openings over the past two weeks, ranging from Wyoming, down 0.2 percent, and Iowa, which saw a plunge of 16.8 percent.
Interestingly, some states that are battling coronavirus spikes saw some of the small declines in job openings: Arizona (-2.5 percent), Florida (-3.1 percent) and Texas (-3.2 percent). That may be because those states were aggressive in rolling back restrictions implemented earlier this year that required nonessential businesses to close.
However, Glassdoor said the economic progress is "unsustainable" if the crisis escalates and state and local governments are forced to reimpose restrictions. On the other hand, if the public health crisis improves, the recovery may continue.
"The risk of a rollercoaster recovery, where rolling waves buffet the economy up and down, should not be underestimated," the report said.