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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: U.S. Job Openings Improved While Hiring Remains Steady
by Tom Moeller November 11, 2009

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that job availability improved during September by 2.4% from August. The rise in the number of job openings followed a 0.6% August uptick that was revised from the initial report of a slight decline. Despite these improvements, however, openings were off 25.9% from September of last year. The series dates back to December 2000.

Factory sector job openings rose sharply for the second consecutive month but they remained down 42.4% y/y. The recent rise in the actual number of construction sector job openings paused last month. Though still down 59.2% y/y in September, openings were roughly double the series' low reached in February. The level of professional & business services job openings posted its second consecutive monthly gain (-25.2% y/y) and education & health sectors job openings (-12.3% y/y) reversed most of an August decline. Openings in retail trade have risen slightly from their April low (-9.8% y/y) while government sector job openings reflected reduced tax revenues and fell to a new series' low (-38.1% y/y.

The job openings rate rose slightly from the series' low reached this summer to 1.9%. These rates were down from more than 3% in 2007. Recent gains have been led by the factory & construction sectors. 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 held steady at 3.1%, up slightly from the May-June low of 3.0%, and still was nearly 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 11.0% year-to-year. Factory sector hiring recently has picked up slightly but remains off 14.1% y/y while construction sector hiring has moved sideways since the winter (-3.3% y/y). Leisure & hospitality industry jobs fell 6.0% to a new series' low (19.8%) as did retail sector hiring (-19.1%). In the professional & business services industry hires slipped after two strong monthly gains (-11.2% y/y) while jobs in the education & health services jobs gave back the July increase but remained up 3.6% y/y.

The job separations rate remained at the series' low of 3.3% with the actual number of separations off 11.2% 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.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor  Turnover Survey) September August Sept. '08 2008 2007 2006
Job Openings, Total  
  Rate (%) 1.9 1.8 2.4 2.3 3.1 3.3
  Total (000s) 2,480 2,423 3,346 3,224 4,382 4,606
Hires, Total
  Rate (%) 3.1 3.1 3.3 41.1 46.1 47.6
  Total (000s) 4,010 4,040 4,505 56,486 63,666 64,879
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