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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: U.S. Job Openings Remain At Series' Low
by Tom Moeller January 13, 2010

The Bureau of Labor Statistics continued to indicate little improvement in hiring, but layoffs have diminished. In its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) job availability during November fell 6.1% from October and is off 27.1% year-to-year. The series dates back to December 2000. As a result of the decline the job openings rate fell to 1.8% and remained off sharply from the 3.1% rate before the current recession began. 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 service sector weakened last month. The number of retail job openings fell 15.8% (-49.3% y/y) and the number of professional & business service jobs fell 9.2% (-13.7% y/y). Leisure & hospitality jobs also were off, by 7.8% (-21.2% y/y), but educational & health service jobs rose 4.2% (-21.7% y/y). Even the number of government sector job openings fell 9.8% (-10.3% y/y). Countering weakness in service sector hiring was the factory sector where job openings rose for the fourth consecutive month but they remained off 28.6% y/y. Construction sector job openings were firm for the third of the last four months and posted an 11.6% (+1.3% y/y) increase.

The hires rate picked up slightly m/m to 3.2% and was improved from the series' low of 3.0% last spring. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The actual number of hires also rose 3.2% m/m but was down 1.2% year-to-year. Professional & business service sector hires rose 14.1% (7.2% y/y) while leisure & hospitality hires rose 8.4% (4.0% y/y). Factory sector hiring slipped 0.8% and was off a diminished 5.4% y/y while construction sector hiring also dipped m/m (-10.0% y/y).

The job separations rate increased modestly from the series' low to 3.3% with the actual number of separations off 10.8% year-to-year. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff rate alone held steady at 1.6% for the third consecutive month. That was down sharply from the rate's high of 1.9% last winter.

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) November October September Nov. '08 2008 2007 2006
Job Openings, Total
  Rate (%) 1.8 1.9 1.9 2.4 2.3 3.1 3.3
  Total (000s) 2,415 2,571 2,586 3,311 3,224 4,382 4,606
Hires, Total
  Rate (%) 3.2 3.1 3.1 3.1 41.1 46.1 47.6
  Total (000s) 4,176 4,045 4,061 4,226 56,486 63,666 64,879
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
  Rate (%) 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.7 1.5 1.4 1.3
  Total (000s) 2,054 2,128 2,128 2,253 24,362 22,613 21,546
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