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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: U.S. Job Openings Fell To New Low, Off One-Third From Last Year
by Tom Moeller October 12, 2009

For August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that job availability fell to a new series' low in August. The 0.9% downtick in the number of job openings followed a 4.2% July decline and openings were off by 35.9% from last August. The series dates back to December 2000.

The actual number of job openings in the construction sector has been rising of late and is roughly double the series' low reached in February (-26.2% y/y) while factory sector job openings also have been rising modestly (-58.35 Y/Y). The level of professional & business services job openings reached a new series' low (-42.1% y/y as did education & health sectors jobs (-27.3% y/y). Openings in retail trade have risen slightly from their April low (-28.5% y/y) while government sector job openings reflected reduced tax revenues and fell to a new low (-27.1% y/y.

The job openings rate remained stable at the July series' low of 1.8%. These rates were 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 hires rate at 3.1% has improved slightly from its May-June lows but still was 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 also was off its low but was still down by 13.4% year-to-year. Leisure & hospitality industry jobs were down by 16.5% but declines have stabilized since March. Factory sector (-12.6%) job declines also have stabilized as they may have in the retail sector (-18.4%). In the professional & business services dustry, the hires rate also has picked up recently -12.6% y/y while education & health services jobs are well up from their low (-2.3% y/y). The decline in hires in the construction sector also have may have stabilized but remain off 27.8% y/y.

The job separations rate reached a new series' low of 3.3% with the actual number of separations off 12.7% year-to-year. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements.

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.

Financial market utilities and the challenge of just-in-time liquidity from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago can be found here.  

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor  Turnover Survey) August July August '08 2008 2007 2006
Job Openings, Total              
  Rate (%) 1.8 1.8 2.8 2.3 3.1 3.3
  Total (000s) 2,387 2,408 3,722 3,224 4,382 4,606
Hires, Total            
  Rate (%) 3.3 3.3 3.7 41.1 46.1 47.6
  Total (000s) 4,029 4,228 4,654 56,486 63,666 64,879
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