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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: U.S. Job Openings and Hiring Falls
by Tom Moeller December 09, 2009

The labor market remains soft. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that job availability during October gave back half of the September increase with a 3.1% decline. Openings were off 26.1% from October of last year. The series dates back to December 2000.

The job openings rate held steady m/m at 1.9%. These rates were down from more than 3.0% 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.

Factory sector job openings rose for the third consecutive month but they remained down 41.3% y/y. Construction sector job openings gave back all of their September increase and were down 27.8% y/y. Nevertheless, openings here were nearly double the series low reached in April. The level of professional & business services job openings gave back half of the September increase (-23.1% y/y) while education & health sector job openings (-17.6% y/y) also reversed half the prior month's gain. Openings in retail trade rose slightly m/m (-24.2% y/y) and remained up sharply from the April low while government sector job openings rose m/m from slightly from the series low (-23.4% y/y).

The hires rate dipped m/m to 3.0% and returned to the series record low. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The actual number of hires also fell 2.3% m/m and was down 11.6% year-to-year. Factory sector hiring recently gave back most of its September increase and was off 13.4% y/y while construction sector hiring also dipped m/m (-10.0% y/y). Leisure & hospitality industry jobs fell 1.3% to a new series low (-16.0% y/y) and retail sector hiring (-15.5% y/y) remained quite weak. In the professional & business services industry, hires fell 2.1% (-10.0% y/y) after three months of increase. In the education & health services industries, past jobs figures were revised sharply and in October they fell moderately, down 5.9% y/y.

The job separations rate fell to a new series low of 3.2% with the actual number of separations off 14.4% year-to-year. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. Layoffs and discharges alone dipped 0.3% (+0.5% y/y) during October  but are down 17.4% from the January peak.

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) October September August Oct. '08 2008 2007 2006
Job Openings, Total
  Rate (%) 1.9 1.9 1.8 2.4 2.3 3.1 3.3
  Total (000s) 2,506 2,586 2,423 3,390 3,224 4,382 4,606
Hires, Total
  Rate (%) 3.0 3.1 3.1 3.3 41.1 46.1 47.6
  Total (000s) 3,966 4,061 4,040 4,486 56,486 63,666 64,879

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