It has become common for economists to cite the rise in the ratio of job openings to hires as evidence that employers can't find people with the necessary skills. This then leads to an argument that our problem is not a lack of jobs in the economy, but rather that workers don't have the skills that are in demand in today's economy. We then tell workers that they need more skills, rather than blame our policymakers for not generating enough demand.

As I have been fond of pointing out, one of the sectors with the sharpest rise in openings to hires is the restaurant sector. I would not demean restaurant workers, it can be very demanding work (I did it for several years in my college days), but this is not an industry that is generally thought to demand highly skilled workers. 

Anyhow, the April data on from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) indicate that restaurants are finding it even harder now to find workers with the necessary skills. The job openings rate rose from 5.5 percent to 5.7 percent, while the hire rate inched up from 6.1 to 6.2 percent. The figure below shows the longer term picture for the somewhat larger leisure and hospitality sector.

fredgraph5

My takeaway is that we can either believe that restaurant work requires many more skills than is generally realized or that the job openings to hires ratio means something different than it did two decades ago.