The volume of openings first topped the number of jobless people in Midwestern states in early 2017. But in recent months that phenomenon has spread to other regions, particularly the South.
The Labor Department on Tuesday is to release the latest data on job openings, from November. The report follows data released last week showing a surge in job growth in December and could help central bankers assess sometimes conflicting anecdotal reports about how hard firms must work to fill jobs.
Economists say the most convincing signs of labor shortages would be a surge in wage growth. While average hourly earnings rose 3.2 percent in December, that is tepid by historical standards.
It is possible that the imbalance between job openings and unemployed workers owes partly to the ease with which online job advertisements can be posted. Additionally, it may overstate labor market tightness because people not actively looking for work are not counted in the ranks of the unemployed.