Job Openings Ease But Hit New Record in Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation

Job openings reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics were revised downwards for January and fell further in February, following the trend seen in online job postings.

Overall, the February JOLTS report pointed to normalizing demand for labor, following the mass rehiring frenzy of 2021-2022. But it suggested that some labor market dynamics may be permanently altered in the post-pandemic world: employee quits seem to be permanently higher, and layoffs permanently lower, than was normal before the pandemic. In other words, workers now have more control over when and how they switch jobs. 69% of job separations are employee-initiated quits, up from 60% directly before the pandemic.

Here are key takeaways from the report: 

Quits may remain permanently higher than before the pandemic

Quits ticked back up to 4 million in February, with 2.6% of workers quitting their jobs in one month, up from 2.2% in pre-Covid February 2020. Higher employee turnover may be the new normal, now that remote work has made it easier to switch jobs without having to switch cities. There will always be cyclical fluctuations in quits, but likely around a structurally higher trend.

Layoffs remain historically low

1.3% of workers were laid off or fired in February 2020 before the pandemic. Three years later, just 1% of workers are experiencing the same fate. In other words, workers are still enjoying historically high job security. So far, mass layoffs are still concentrated in tech while consumer-facing industries hold onto workers amid strong personal income and spending.

Demand for labor is normalizing

Job openings have fallen in health care and social assistance in recent months, even as employment levels in the industry have risen. Job openings have also fallen sharply in professional and business services—partly the result of renormalization and partly the result of the cost-cutting measures many businesses are taking to harden themselves against a potential economic downturn.

The arts and entertainment industry is booming

Demand for workers isn’t softening in all industries, however. Job openings in arts, entertainment, and recreation hit a new record high in February, and hiring in the industry picked up as well. The sector was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, and has been one of the slowest to recover, but it is making up ground. As Americans stream back into concert halls and stadiums, employers are competing for employees who can manage events, secure concert facilities, staff concession stands, and entertain the crowds.

Written by

Julia Pollak is Chief Economist at ZipRecruiter. She leads ZipRecruiter's economic research team, which provides insights and analysis on current labor market trends and the future of work.

More Articles by Julia Pollak