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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: Job Openings Broadly Down Early in 2008
by Tom Moeller March 12, 2008

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in the Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that the January '08 job openings rate was unchanged from the prior month at 2.8%. That level was, however, down from early 2007. Past year's figures were revised. 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. In private industries the rate fell in January to 2.9% from 3.0% in December and from 3.2% in 2006.

The actual number of total job openings fell 1.2% m/m to 3.925 million and the number of job openings was down 8.9% from one year earlier. Job openings in retail trade fell 16.7% y/y. They were down 34.6% in construction and down 14.0% in manufacturing. Education & health services jobs fell 3.1% y/y and leisure & hospitality job openings fell 7.1%. Only openings in the professional & business services industry rose, by 3.4% y/y.

The hires rate also fell m/m to 3.3% to its lowest level since 2004. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment.The decline was across most industries. The actual number of January hires fell 3.6% (-9.0% y/y) to 4.545 million.

The job separations rate in January fell to 3.1% from 3.2% at yearend 2007 and from 3.3% at yearend 2006. 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) January December January '07 2007 2006 2005
Job Openings, Total      
  Rate (%) 2.8 2.8 3.0 2.8 3.0 2.8
  Total (000s) 3,925 3,974 4,307 3,974 4,272 3,863
Hires, Total  
  Rate (%) 3.3 3.4 3.6 41.9 43.4 43.1
  Total (000s) 4,545 4,717 4,992 57,771 59,153 57,501
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