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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Ease
by Tom Moeller  March 13, 2012

Recent labor market improvement hesitated as indicated by the slip in the January job openings rate. The figure slipped to 2.5% from the recovery's high of 2.6%. The figures in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) were revised back three years. 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 in January fell 2.3% (+20.9% y/y) but still was near the highest level since June 2008.

The private-sector job openings rate slipped from its high to 2.7% but has moved steadily higher versus the recession low of 1.7%. The professional & business services job openings rate slipped from its high to 4.0%. It too remained near the recovery high. In manufacturing the rate rose to another recovery high of 2.3% and was more-than-double the mid-2009 low. Offsetting this strength was more-moderate improvement in education & health services. In leisure & hospitality businesses, the openings rate slipped m/m to 3.1% 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 slipped to 3.1%, its lowest in six months. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The hires rate in the private sector held near a low 3.5% while the government's rate improved to the highest since the end of Census taking. The factory sector the hires rate fell to 2.1% and reversed most of this recovery's improvement. Overall hires in the private sector fell for the third month in the last four (+4.5% y/y) while in the public sector they jumped 8.0% (22.8% y/y). Leisure & hospitality business hires rose nearly one-quarter y/y while hires in education & health services rose 13.7% y/y. Hires in professional & business services weakened substantially and fell 5.8% y/y while in manufacturing they were off 5.0% y/y.

The job separations rate held steady at 3.0% but the actual number of separations rose 3.4% 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 fell to its recovery low of 1.2%; 1.4% in the private sector and 0.6% in government.

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 2011 2010 2009
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 2.5 2.6 2.4 2.1 2.6 2.2 1.8
 Total (000s) 3,459 3,540 3,274 2,860 3,540 2,902 2,432
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.1 3.2 3.2 3.0 38.0 37.4 35.5
 Total(000s) 4,158 4,188 4,268 3,934 50,006 48,647 46,386
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.3 1.3 1.3 15.6 16.7 20.5
 Total (000s) 1,646 1,685 1,770 1,659 20,678 21,737 26,731
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