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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: U.S. Job Openings Steady But Hires & Fires Diverge
by Tom Moeller May 12, 2010

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that labor market conditions remained in a state of flux during March. The latest Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) indicated that the job openings rate held steady at 2.0% with a downwardly revised February reading. 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 1.8% after the downwardly revised February decline. Nevertheless, the latest availability level was improved by 0.9% year-to-year. Last year job availability fell 17.8% following a 29.7% decline during 2008. The series dates back to December 2000.

Improvement in the government sector's job openings rate compensated for a modest deterioration in the private-sector during the last two months and returned it to the highest level since early last year. The private-sector job openings rate was steady following modest improvement in January. That reflected fewer professional, education & health services jobs but the number of factory and retail trade jobs grew strongly.

The hires rate moved up modestly to its highest since late-2008. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment.The level of hiring rose 10% from its low in June of last year. The gain was led by a 48.5% rise in hiring in the construction sector and a 28.6% rise in factory jobs.

The job separations rate remained at the series' low of 3.1% with the actual number of separations off 14.7% year-to-year. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff & discharge rate alone remained at the nineteen-month low of 1.4% as the actual number of layoffs fell 25.7% y/y after the 12.6% increase during 2009.

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) March February January March '09 2009 2008 2007
Job Openings, Total
  Rate (%) 2.0 2.0 2.2 2.0 1.9 2.2 3.1
  Total (000s) 2,694 2,647 2,854 2,671 2,531 3,078 4,378
Hires, Total
  Rate (%) 3.3 3.1 3.2 3.0 37.3 41.1 45.9
  Total (000s) 4,242 4,011 4,087 4,095 48,649 56,082 63,234
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
  Rate (%) 1.4 1.4 1.5 1.9 20.7 17.7 16.5
  Total (000s) 1,830 1,823 1,953 2,462 27,683 24,589 22,606
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