Job openings declined for six consecutive weeks, but now moderating

More than 1 in 4 job openings closed as an economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic, dropping to levels unseen since 2014, reports Glassdoor research.

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The dramatic decline of job openings--28% between early March and April 27--is finally somewhat leveling out, a new report from Glassdoor indicated. Supported by figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the latest data shows job openings across the country have declined 27.7% since the beginning of March, out-matching 2009's Great Recession.

However, the weekly job opening decline-rate has moderated from March 23 (-7.8%) to April 27 (-2.8), a fact independent of the rolling waves of decline, which are affected by the effects COVID-19 has on different  industries. For example, the most dramatic decline in job openings was consumer services (due to the shutdowns), while more recent declines in job openings have been predominantly white collar and health care jobs. 

Job openings are industry-specific

But the hiring rate, spread among employers, does distinguish between industries. Two in three employers had fewer job openings on April 27, than in mid-March, and nearly one-in-four pulled down all job openings. Between Feb. 3 and March 16, job openings increased 34%, 26% reflected no change, 28% reduced openings, and 12% halted all openings indefinitely.

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From March 16 to April 27, though, there was an 11% increase in job openings, 23% had no change, 42% showed reduced openings, and 25% paused all job openings.

Increase in job openings

There's light at the end-of-the-tunnel (and it's not a train): 11% of employers are still increasing job openings, a "small pocket pocket of companies that have had to ramp up hiring to accommodate the massive shift in demand," the report said.

"With data showing 28% of job openings gone since early March, the prolonged impacts of the coronavirus may soon outmatch the rate of job posting declines seen during the Great Recession," said Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao. 

Jobs hardest hit due to the coronavirus

Consumer jobs that feature employees interacting with customers in person were hardest hit, as were travel and tourism, retail, food services, business facilities, and private security.

Shelter-in-place orders in most parts of the country forced companies to immediately make changes to their workforce, and there was a deep decline in job openings in the first full week of the pandemic.

Declines in job openings slowed in industries like manufacturing, energy, and production industries--the pace was less frantic because the declines in job openings "took longer to ripple through employers," according to the report.

How healthcare is faring

There's been a steady decline in job openings in the healthcare industry, starting to accelerate through April 5, and today remains pretty much unchanged. Health care is one of the US' largest job providers, but accounts for one-third of the weekly decline in the last two weeks.

Tech job openings may be on the upswing

The report said, "Tech may however be turning the corner, with job openings rising 4.9 percent from April 13 to April 27. The shift in demand to online services, combined with a highly mobile workforce, may help tech weather the crisis better than other industries. While the small increase is not enough to offset the total declines over the duration of the crisis, it is a reason for optimism." The steadiest jobs in hiring are at supermarkets.

The April job report from BLS is expected to report tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and the unemployment rate spiking above 10%--notably, though, the BLS report will cover April 12 to May 1. The referenced Glassdoor report which chronicles data post-April 12, "signals that while the labor market is still reeling, we may begin seeing green shoots of recovering labor demand in the weeks ahead. The pace of the decline in job openings is slowing, and some industries like tech may be turning the corner."

Will industry return to normal?

It concluded, "The ultimate question is how quickly can the labor market return to normal once the worst of the crisis has passed. If the decline in job openings continues to slow, job openings could bottom out soon. While any economic recovery will depend largely on the effectiveness of the public health and government response, Glassdoor data shows that there may be signs for optimism around the bend.

"Despite an abundance of grim news these days," Zhao said, "Glassdoor data reveals there may be glimmers of optimism ahead as certain industries see hiring declines steadying or turning a corner. The ultimate test will be how quickly the labor market can return to normal once the worst of the crisis has passed."

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