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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Increase To Recovery High
by Tom Moeller  May 8, 2012

The rate of labor market improvement picked up as indicated by the March job openings rate. It rose to 2.7%, the highest level since July 2008, and February was unrevised at 2.6%. 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 March rose 4.8% from February (17.2% y/y) and also was at its highest level since July 2008.

The private-sector job openings rate increased to 2.9% and has moved steadily higher versus the recession low of 1.7%. The professional & business services job openings rate rose to 3.9% but it still was off the December high of 4.3%. The rate in education & health services improved to 3.2%, its highest of the recovery. In manufacturing, the rate jumped m/m to a new high of 2.7%, more-than-triple the mid-2009 low. The job openings rate in government slipped to a depressed 1.7%.

Employment gains are following as the hires rate held m/m at an improved 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 remained improved at 3.7% but the government's rate held at a low 1.4%. The factory sector the hires rate was unchanged at 2.2%. Overall hires in the private sector fell 1.9% (+0.3% y/y) while in the public sector they were off 2.8% (+19.9% y/y). Leisure & hospitality business hires rose 6.5% y/y while hires in education & health services increased 11.0% y/y. Hires in professional & business services fell 1.8% y/y while in manufacturing they fell 4.8% y/y.

The job separations rate held steady at 3.1% and the actual number of separations rose 4.1% 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 rate fell to 1.4% while in government 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) Mar Feb Jan Mar'10 2011 2010 2009
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 2.7 2.6 2.6 2.4 2.6 2.2 1.8
 Total (000s) 3,737 3,565 3,477 3,189 3,540 2,902 2,432
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.3 3.3 3.2 3.3 38.0 37.4 35.5
 Total(000s) 4,356 4,444 4,239 4,293 50,006 48,647 46,386
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 15.6 16.7 20.5
 Total (000s) 1,683 1,728 1,684 1,690 20,678 21,737 26,731
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