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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: Job Openings Unchanged, Hires Rate Depressed
by Tom Moeller November 6, 2007

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in the Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that the September job openings rate was unchanged from the prior month at 2.9%. That level was, however, down from the highs of late last year. The job openings rate is the number of job openings on the last business day of the month as a percent of total employment plus job openings.

The actual number of job openings was down 0.5% m/m to 4.115 million (-0.7% y/y). While the y/y comparison shows a moderate 0.7% decline in the number of job openings, they are down nearly 6% from year end 2006. Professional & business service sector openings fell 10.2%, retail trade fell 20.4% and while openings in the construction industry rose slightly it was after steep declines late last year.

The hires rate fell just slightly m/m to 3.4%. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment.

The actual number of hires fell 3.3% (-4.9% y/y) to 4.677 million and hires are down 5.5% since the end of last year. Hires in the construction industry remained down 1.2% since yearend and factory sector hires were 8.3% lower.

The job separations rate in September was steady at 3.2%, but down from 3.3% a year earlier. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The level of job separations fell 4.1% since yearend 2006.

The JOLTS survey dates only to December 2000 but has since followed the movement in nonfarm payrolls, though the actual correlation between the two series is low.

A description of the Jolts survey and the latest release from the U.S. Department of Labor is available here.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor  Turnover Survey) September August Sept '06 2006 2005 2004
Job Openings Rate: Total 2.9% 2.9% 3.0% 3.1% 2.8% 2.5%
Hires Rate: Total 3.4% 3.5% 3.6% 43.6% 43.1% 41.7%
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