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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: U.S. Job Openings Rate Reverses Earlier Improvement
by Tom Moeller  March 11, 2011

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that the January job openings rate slipped to 2.1% from a downwardly revised 2.2% during December. Nevertheless, these levels remained improved versus the recession low of 1.6%. Figures back to December 2005 were revised 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.

The private-sector job openings rate also fell m/m to 2.2%, its lowest since August. Professional & business services job openings led the decline to the lowest rate since last June. In construction the rate increased just modestly from its December low while the rate in manufacturing also ticked up m/m but was double the mid-2009 level. The job openings rate in government reversed all of its December improvement and was barely improved from the 2009 low.

The hires rate fell to 2.8%, its cycle low. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The 3.2% rate in the private sector was down sharply from December but up moderately from the cycle low. The government's lower 1.2% rate also was up from the low but the actual number of hires was down 5.5% from last year. Hires in professional & business were the strongest with a 13.8% y/y rise followed by a 12.5% gain in trade, transportation and utilities.

The job separations rate reached a new low of 2.7%. The actual number of separations fell 7.3% to a new low. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff & discharge rate alone also fell to its all-time low of 1.2%. The private sector layoff rate was 1.3% and in the public sector it was 0.4%.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor  Turnover Survey) Jan Dec Nov Jan'10 2010 2009 2008
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 2.1 2.2 2.2 1.8 2.2 1.8 2.1
 Total (000s) 2,760 2,921 2,966 2,399 2,921 2,369 2,937
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 2.8 3.0 3.0 2.8 35.9 34.6 39.3
 Total (000s) 3,712 3,905 3,943 3,585 46,557 45,207 53,901
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.3 1.3 1.4 16.0 19.9 17.6
 Total (000s) 1,519 1,677 1,738 1,707 20,614 26,191 23,705
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