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The US job market hits a milestone it hasn’t reached in nearly 20 years

The number of job openings roughly matched the number unemployed people in the United States for the first time since the Department of Labor began tracking openings in 2000. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

For the first time since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking job openings, the number of available positions was essentially equal to the number of unemployed people at the end of March, according to a report released Wednesday.

The job report revealed that, as of the end of March, there 6.55 million advertised job openings and 6.59 million unemployed Americans, leaving 1.01 job openings for every unemployed worker.

For context, there were approximately 6.6 unemployed workers for every available job in 2009.

The bureau began tracking job advertisements in December 2000.

More from the report

The unemployment rate has dropped below 4 percent for the first time since 2000, and over the past three months, businesses have added about 208,000 jobs per month, CNN Money reported.

Over the previous year leading up to March 2018, the U.S. saw a net employment gain of 2.3 million (65.7 million hires and 63.4 million separations).

The number of new hires fell by 86,000 in March, which is an indicator that there are shortages in the labor market.

Indeed, a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business found that 88 percent of business were struggling to find qualified candidates for their openings, and half of small business owners are dealing with that same issue.

More workers quit their jobs in March than in any month since 2001, reflecting a general confidence among workers in their ability to find equal- or higher-paying jobs somewhere else.

Wage growth on the way?

The abundance of openings and relative shortage of qualified candidates could lead to increased wages.

"We need more people to come off the sidelines, and more attractive wages should be an effective way of encouraging that," Peter Boockvar, CIO at Bleakley Advisory Group, told CNN Money.

Wages have increased by 2.6 percent over the last year, but Matthew Luzzetti, a senior economist at Deutsche Bank told the New York Times that wage growth won't yet have an impact on the Federal Reserve's plans to raise interest rages slowly.

Luzzetti said wage growth "is just not picking up as we would have expected at this point" and that the Fed is able to "continue moving gradually."


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