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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: U.S. Job Openings Rate Pulls Back
by Tom Moeller  February 8, 2011

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that the December job openings rate slipped to 2.3% from an upwardly revised 2.4% during November. For the full year the job opening rate improved modestly to 2.3%, its highest since 2007. 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 slipped m/m from its highest level since August 2008. Nevertheless, job availability recovered roughly one-quarter last year after the 17.8% decline during 2009.

The private-sector job openings rate also fell m/m to 2.4%, its lowest since June. It was down for the fourth month in the last five. For the full year, however, openings rose 23.7%. Factory sector openings fell sharply during December and by one-quarter for the full year. Professional & business services job openings rose 5.3% in December but ticked down 0.5% for the year. The job openings rate in government remained a low 1.4%. However, it was up for the year due to a mid-year surge with Census taking..

The hires rate remained low at 3.2% for the fourth month in the last five. 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 1.4%, The actual number of hires rose 4.5% last year, after three years of decline. Hires in professional & business were the strongest with a 12.6% full-year rise followed by a 13.7% gain in manufacturing.

The job separations rate held at 3.2% for the fourth month in the last five, near its lowest. The actual number of separations ticked 0.8% lower m/m but were off 6.6% for the year. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff & discharge rate alone held m/m at a reduced 1.4% and fell y/y to 17.3%, its lowest since 2007. The private sector layoff rate fell for the year to 19.0%.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor  Turnover Survey) Dec Nov Oct Dec'09 2010 2009 2008
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 2.3 2.4 2.5 1.9 2.3 1.9 2.2
 Total (000s) 3,063 3,202 3,328 2,531 3,063 2,531 3,078
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.2 3.2 3.3 3.1 39.1 37.3 41.1
 Total (000s) 4,184 4,214 4,249 3,997 50,838 48,649 56,082
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.3 1.4 1.3 1.6 17.3 21.2 18.0
 Total (000s) 1,838 1,854 1,755 2,049 22,628 27,683 24,589
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