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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: U.S. Job Openings Highest Since February '09
by Tom Moeller March 09, 2010

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated improvement in January's job market conditions. The latest Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) showed that the January job openings rate improved to 2.1% which was the highest level since last February. 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. Job availability doubled its December gain with a 7.6% increase and remained off just 2.4% year-to-year. The latest figures reflect benchmark revisions and the series dates back to December 2000. 

The service sector led the improvement last month. Educational & health service jobs rose 13.2% (-0.5% y/y) and leisure & hospitality jobs increased 11.0% (7.2 y/y). Also, the number of professional & business service openings rose 6.9% (-15.0% y/y. Deterioration in the factory sector reversed the December gain with a 10.5% decline but openings were up by one-third from last year. Construction sector job openings also fell sharply for the third month in the last four +81.8% y/y.

The hires rate has been stable near 3.1% since the end of 2008. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The actual number of hires reversed half of the December decline with a 2.1% m/m increase (-5.8% y/y). Professional & business service sector hires recouped most of the December decline with a 13.7% increase (+2.1% y/y) while leisure & hospitality hires gained 8.2% (-1.9% y/y). Factory sector hiring increased 3.3% (18.4% y/y) but construction sector hiring fell 2.7% (-8.9% y/y).

The job separations rate was stable at the series' low of 3.2% where it's been since August with the actual number of separations off 19.5% year-to-year. The layoff rate alone fell to a fifteen-month low of 1.5%. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff rate alone ticked up to 1.6% but was down sharply from the January high of 1.9%.

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) January December November Jan. '09 2009 2008 2007
Job Openings, Total
Rate (%) 2.1 1.9 1.9 2.0 1.9 2.2 3.1
Total (000s) 2,724 2,531 2,456 2,792 2,531 3,078 4,378
Hires, Total
Rate (%) 3.1 3.1 3.2 3.2 37.3 41.1 45.9
Total (000s) 4,080 3,997 4,160 4,330 48,649 56,082 63,234
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
  Rate (%) 1.5 1.6 1.5 1.7 20.7 17.7 16.5
Total (000s) 1,890 2,049 1,973 2,641 27,683 24,589 22,606
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