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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: U.S. Job Openings Slip Month over Month But Remain Well Improved From Low
by Tom Moeller July 13, 2010

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that labor market conditions remained improved. The Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) indicated that the job openings rate during May slipped to 2.4% from 2.5% during April. Nevertheless, the rate remained improved from the recession low of 1.8% 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 also slipped from April but it was up 28.9% versus May '09. Last year job availability fell 17.8% following a 29.7% decline during 2008.

The private-sector job openings rate held on to its sharp improvement in April. At 2.4% it was improved from 2.0% during all of last year. The level of job openings rose 28.9% y/y and reflected roughly a doubling of factory & construction sector openings as well as a 7.6% increase in leisure & hospitality. These openings translated into an elevated hires rate of 3.4% and a 13.7% increase in overall hiring, but private sector hires grew a lesser 2.4%. This was led by a 26.5% rise in factory sector jobs and a 4.8% increase in education and health services employment. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment.

The job separations rate remained at the series' low of 3.1% where it's been for four months. The actual number of separations fell 7.2% year-to-year with a 7.9% drop in the private sector. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff & discharge rate alone remained at the two-year low of 1.4% as the actual number of layoffs fell 20.4% y/y after a 12.6% increase during 2009. The private sector layoff rate was 1.6% and it was 0.7% in government.

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) May April March May '09 2009 2008 2007
Job Openings, Total
  Rate (%) 2.4 2.5 2.1 1.9 1.9 2.2 3.1
  Total (000s) 3,206 3,302 2,785 2,488 2,531 3,078 4,378
Hires, Total
  Rate (%) 3.4 3.3 3.3 3.0 37.3 41.1 45.9
  Total (000s) 4,504 4,292 4,331 3,962 48,649 56,082 63,234
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
  Rate (%) 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.8 20.7 17.7 16.5
  Total (000s) 1,865 1,760 1,821 2,342 27,683 24,589 22,606
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