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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: U.S. Job Openings Rate Improves But Hires Are Stable
by Tom Moeller   December 08, 2010

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that the October job openings rate improved to 2.5% from an upwardly revised 2.3% during September. These levels remained 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 reached its highest level since August 2008 following declines during four of the previous five months. Job availability has risen nearly one-third since December after last year's 17.8% decline which followed a 29.7% drop during 2008.

The private-sector job openings rate jumped m/m to 2.7%, its highest since August 2008. The level of job openings rose 42.1% this year, reflecting a 19.9% gain in factory openings as well as an 84.2% increase in professional & business services. Also, education & health services openings increased 16.0% since December after declines of roughly 16% during the last two years. Job openings in government fell 16.5% since December and the rate remained a low 1.5%.

The hires rate remained at a lower 3.2% for the third straight month. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The 3.6% rate in the private sector easily surpassed the government's at 1.2%, The actual number of hires rose 5.0% this year led by a 5.8% increase in the private sector but a 5.3% decline in government. Hires in professional & business were the strongest with a 19.3% rise followed by 10.2% gains in both manufacturing and retail trade.

The job separations rate slipped to 3.1%, its lowest since April and equaled the series' low. The actual number of separations fell for the forth consecutive month and they're off 3.5% this year. Job separations in the private sector fell 3.0% but separations in the government sector fell 10.3%. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff & discharge rate alone slipped to 1.3%, as the actual number of layoffs fell 16.2% since December following a 12.6% increase during 2009. The private sector layoff rate held at its low of 1.5% and it fell to 0.5% in the government sector.

The JOLTS survey dates only to December 2000 and the figures are available in Haver's USECON database.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor  Turnover Survey) Oct. Sept. Aug. Oct..'09 2009 2008 2007
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 2.5 2.3 2.3 1.9 1.9 2.2 3.1
 Total (000s) 3,362 3,011 3,092 2,546 2,531 3,078 4,378
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.2 3.2 3.2 3.2 37.3 41.1 45.9
 Total (000s) 4,196 4,208 4,156 4,001 48,649 56,082 63,234
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.3 1.4 1.4 1.6 20.7 17.7 16.5
 Total (000s) 1,717 1,808 1,861 2,063 27,683 24,589 22,606
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