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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: U.S. Job Openings Slip
by Tom Moeller April 7, 2010

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday that the rate of improvement in job market conditions eased in February. The latest Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) indicated that the job openings rate slipped to 2.1% from an upwardly revised 2.2% in January. Nevertheless the rate was near the highest in roughly one year. 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 fell 4.6% and retraced nearly half of its upwardly revised January increase. It remained off 3.8% year-to-year. Last year job availability fell 17.8% following a 29.7% decline during 2008. The series dates back to December 2000.

The government sector led the latest decline in the job openings rate. It fell to the lowest level since November after several months of improvement. A slip in the private sector rate reflected fewer professional, education & health services jobs but factory and retail jobs grew strongly.

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 all of the January increase (-3.3% y/y) but the rate of decline has moderated substantially since the recession.

The job separations rate eased to a new series' low of 3.1% with the actual number of separations off 18.7% year-to-year. The layoff rate alone fell to a nineteen-month low of 1.4%. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff rate alone fell to 1.4% from 2.0% twelve months earlier.

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.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor  Turnover Survey) February January December Feb. '09 2009 2008 2007
Job Openings, Total
  Rate (%) 2.1 2.2 1.9 2.1 1.9 2.2 3.1
  Total (000s) 2,723 2,854 2,531 2,830 2,531 3,078 4,378
Hires, Total
  Rate (%) 3.1 3.2 3.1 3.1 37.3 41.1 45.9
  Total (000s) 3,961 4,087 3,997 4,095 48,649 56,082 63,234
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
  Rate (%) 1.4 1.5 1.6 2.0 20.7 17.7 16.5
  Total (000s) 1,822 1,953 2,049 2,593 27,683 24,589 22,606
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