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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS Rate Gains
by Tom Moeller  April 13, 2011

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that the February job openings rate improved to 2.3% from an unrevised 2.1% during January. The latest reading was the highest since April 2010 and was improved versus the recession low of 1.6%. 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 jumped to 2.5%, the highest level since August 2008. After a January drop, professional & business services job openings rebounded smartly to 3.8%, also the highest since 2008. Openings in leisure & hospitality, education & health and construction also improved. In manufacturing, openings slipped m/m but remained double the mid-2009 level. The job openings rate in government ticked up after the January plunge to nearly its 2009 low.

The hires rate recovered to 3.0% and it equaled the second-half, 2010 average. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The 3.4% rate in the private sector also was stable with the second half of last year. The government's lower, but stable, 1.2% rate was up from the low but the actual number of hires was down 13.0% y/y. Hires in arts, entertainment & recreation were strongest with a 21.2% y/y rise followed by a 13.2% gain in professional & business services. During the last ten years there has been a 56% correlation between the total hires rate and the m/m change in payroll employment.

The job separations rate ticked up to 2.9% from close to its cycle low. The actual number of separations recovered most of its sharp 5.8% drop but also remained near the cycle low. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff & discharge rate alone remained at its all-time low of 1.2%. The private sector layoff rate was 1.4% and in the public sector it was 0.5%.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey) Feb Jan Dec Feb'10 2010 2009 2008
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 2.3 2.1 2.2 1.9 2.2 1.8 2.1
 Total (000s) 3,093 2,741 2,921 2,523 2,921 2,369 2,937
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.0 2.8 3.0 2.9 35.9 34.6 39.3
 Total (000s) 3,907 3,769 3,905 3,784 46,557 45,207 53,901
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.2 1.3 1.4 16.0 19.9 17.6
 Total (000s) 1,591 1,541 1,677 1,755 20,614 26,191 23,705
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