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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: U.S. Job Openings Fall Further
by Tom Moeller March 11, 2009

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated in its January report on Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that job availability fell 7.2% from December and by more than one-third from the June 2007 peak. The latest level was a record low for the series which dates back to December 2000.

The job openings rate also fell. The January rate was down to 2.2% versus an upwardly revised 2.3% rate in December, down from more than a 3% rate in 2007. 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 in the construction and manufacturing sectors fell by roughly two-thirds from the 2007 averages. Professional & business services job openings fell by one-third year-to-year while openings in the education & health sectors also were weak and they fell 7.6%. Openings in retail trade fell a slight 0.3% y/y.

By region, openings in the South, the Midwest and the West were down by roughly one third year-to-year and in the Northeast they were down by one quarter.

The hires rate held steady versus December at 3.3% which was still near the lowest in the series' short eight year history.The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment.The actual number of hires fell by 11.9% year-to-year. The construction sector showed a 4.3% increase versus last year but elsewhere hires were quite weak. In the factory sector, hires fell 33.5% y/y and in the professional & business services sector they fell 14.8%. In the leisure and hospitality sector, hires fell 18.1% y/y. Even in the educational & health sector hires fell 5.0%.

The job separations rate held steady at 3.6%, about where it's been since early 2008. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The level of job separations fell 3.5% y/y.

The JOLTS survey dates only to December 2000 but has 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 and the figures are available in Haver's USECON database.

Explaining trends in wages, work and occupations from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago is available here.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor  Turnover Survey) January December January '08 2008 2007 2006
Job Openings, Total              
  Rate (%) 2.2 2.3 3.0 2.3 3.1 3.3
  Total (000s) 2,991 3,224 4,332 3,224 4,382 4,606
Hires, Total            
  Rate (%) 3.3 3.3 3.6 41.1 46.1 47.6
  Total (000s) 4,399 4,508 4,995 56,486 63,666 64,879
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