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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Are Recovering
by Tom Moeller  February 7, 2012

Another sign of economic improvement came in today's report that the December job openings rate improved to 2.5%, the recovery's high, after two months of decline. The Bureau of Labor Statistics figures are in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). The latest reading remained 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 actual number of job openings rose 8.3% (15.6% y/y) and was near the highest level since June 2008. The number of private sector openings rose 8.8% (20.4% y/y) while public sector openings increased 4.0% (-12.8% y/y).

The private-sector job openings rate rose back to its high of 2.7% and has moved steadily higher versus the recession low of 1.7%. The professional & business services job openings rate recovered to 3.6%, its highest since September. In manufacturing the rate rose to a recovery high of 2.2% and was more-than-double the mid-2009 low. The openings rate in trade, transportation & public utilities was at its high of 2.2% but education & health services moved lower to 2.8%, its lowest since February. In leisure & hospitality businesses, the openings rate slipped m/m to 2.9% but was still near its recovery high. The job openings rate in government held for the third month at a low 1.6%.

In a sign that qualified job candidates are difficult to find, the hires rate held for the third consecutive month at 3.1%, up just modestly versus the recession low of 2.8%. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The hires rate in the private sector fell to 3.4%, its lowest since July. The government's depressed 1.3% rate also was near its low. In the factory sector the hires rate rose to 2.2% but remained below its 2010 high of 2.4%. Overall hires in the private sector rose a lessened 3.7% y/y while in the public sector they rose 2.9%. Leisure & hospitality business hires rose nearly one-quarter y/y while hires in education & health services rose 4.7% y/y. Hires in professional & business services weakened substantially and were barely above last year. In manufacturing they fell 1.1% y/y.

The job separations rate held steady at 3.0% but the actual number of separations rose 1.9% y/y. 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% but 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) Dec Nov Oct Dec'10 2011 2010 2009
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 2.5 2.3 2.4 2.2 2.2 2.2 1.8
 Total (000s) 3,376 3,118 3,224 2,921 3,376 2,921 2,376
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.1 3.1 3.1 3.0 37.1 36.3 34.7
 Total(000s) 4,046 4,132 4,042 3,905 48,416 47,190 45,364
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.3 1.2 1.3 15.2 16.4 20.0
 Total (000s) 1,644 1,718 1,595 1,739 20,041 21,225 26,328
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