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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: U.S. Job Openings Hold At Higher Rate
by Tom Moeller   October 7, 2010

Counter to most other indications of increasing labor market slack, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in this JOLTS survey that labor market conditions continued an earlier improvement. The Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) indicated that the job openings rate during August held at 2.4% versus an upwardly revised July. Both figures remained slightly lower than the April high of 2.5% but were much improved versus 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 rose 1.9% in August and was up 32.8% versus August '09. Last year job availability fell 17.8% following a 29.7% decline during 2008.

The private-sector job openings rate rose to 2.6%, its highest since August 2008. The level of job openings rose 35.8% y/y and reflected a 43.3% gain in factory openings as well as a 13.3% increase in retail trade. Job openings in government rose 0.1% y/y. The higher job openings rate was accompanied by a lower hires rate of 3.2% versus its May high of 3.5%. The private sector hires rate ticked down to 3.6% from its 3.7% high while the government sector's rate was just 1.3%. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment.

The job separations rate fell to 3.2% but was up from the series' low of 3.1% in April. The actual number of separations fell sharply for the second consecutive month (+0.7% y/y). However, job separations in the private sector fell a sharp 2.5% y/y as separations in the government sector jumped 45.2 y/y. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff & discharge rate alone fell to 1.4%, as the actual number of layoffs fell 14.0% y/y after a 12.6% increase during 2009. The private sector layoff rate fell back to its earlier low of 1.5% and it fell to 1.0% in the government sector which still was double that twelve months ago.

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) August July June Aug. '09 2009 2008 2007
Job Openings, Total
  Rate (%) 2.4 2.4 2.1 1.8 1.9 2.2 3.1
  Total (000s) 3,201 3,141 2,864 2,411 2,531 3,078 4,378
Hires, Total
  Rate (%) 3.2 3.3 3.3 3.1 37.3 41.1 45.9
  Total (000s) 4,136 4,275 4,250 3,975 48,649 56,082 63,234
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
  Rate (%) 1.4 1.6 1.6 1.6 20.7 17.7 16.5
  Total (000s) 1,830 2,112 2,139 2,12 9 27,683 24,589 22,606
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