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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Hold Steady
by Tom Moeller  April 10, 2012

Labor market improvement continued as indicated by the February job openings rate. For February, it held at a 2.6% for the third consecutive month which was the recovery's high. January was revised up from 2.5%. The figures are in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). The latest reading 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 actual number of job openings in February ticked 0.6% higher (16.1% y/y) and was nearly its highest level since June 2008.

The private-sector job openings rate held at 2.7% and has moved steadily higher versus the recession low of 1.7%. The professional & business services job openings rate fell to 3.7% versus its December high of 4.3%. In professional & business services the slipped to a still-strong 3.7% but at its highest since 2008 was the rate in education & health services of 3.1%. In manufacturing slipped m/m but remained near the recovery high at 2.1%, more-than-double the mid-2009 low. The job openings rate in government ticked slightly higher m/m to a depressed 1.7%.

Showing renewed vigor was the hires rate which rose to 3.3%, its highest since may 2010. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The hires rate in the private sector improved to 3.7% but the government's rate was a low 1.4%. The factory sector the hires rate ticked up to 2.2%. Overall hires in the private sector jumped 3.3% (5.8% y/y) while in the public sector they rose 5.8% (30.1% y/y). Leisure & hospitality business hires rose 19.7 y/y while hires in education & health services rose 15.6% y/y. Hires in professional & business services recovered 13.0% y/y while in manufacturing they were up just 0.4% y/y.

The job separations rate ticked up to 3.1% and the actual number of separations rose 5.5% y/y. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff & discharge rate alone held at a low 1.3% versus the recession high of 2.0%. The private sector layoff held at 1.4% while in government it as 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 2011 2010 2009
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 2.6 2.6 2.6 2.3 2.6 2.2 1.8
 Total (000s) 3,498 3,477 3,540 3,012 3,540 2,902 2,432
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.3 3.2 3.2 3.1 38.0 37.4 35.5
 Total(000s) 4,385 4,239 4,188 4,089 50,006 48,647 46,386
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.2 15.6 16.7 20.5
 Total (000s) 1,673 1,684 1,685 1,624 20,678 21,737 26,731
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