February Job-Openings Data Show Economic Calm Before Coronavirus Storm

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of job openings was little changed in February from January. That was the calm before the coronavirus storm: Millions recently applied for unemployment benefits.
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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the February Job Opening and Labor Turnover Summary, or Jolts data, showed that the number of job openings, 6.9 million, was little changed from January. 

The February report provides a snapshot of the U.S. economy and employment situation in the month before the response to the coronavirus pandemic led to record unemployment.

The February Jolts report "paints a very different picture than the labor market today, and shows just how fast things can drastically change," Nick Bunker, Hiring Lab's director of research, told TheStreet. Hiring Lab is a labor-market-research arm of Indeed.com, the job-search site.

"In what will almost certainly be the last month of this trend, job openings outnumber unemployed workers for the 24th straight month. The shock to the labor market from the coronavirus likely stopped this unprecedented streak." 

Over the month, 5.9 million people were hired and 5.6 million separated, including those who quit, those who were laid off or dismissed, and other separations.

As of the last business day of February, job openings were little changed month to month in all four economic regions of the report.

Two notable points: The real estate and rental leasing segment saw a decline of 30,000 openings while the information sector saw a drop of 29,000. 

U.S. companies shed 701,000 positions in March, pushing the jobless rate up almost a full percentage point to 4.4%. That marked the most monthly job losses since March 2009 and the end of a 10-year run of employment gains as the start of the biggest full-stop in the economy in history began to unfold.