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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Pull Back
by Tom Moeller  June 19, 2012

The rate of labor market improvement eased during April. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that the rate of 2.5% was down from the March high of 2.7%. Nevertheless, 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 April fell 8.7% from March (+13.3% y/y).

The private-sector job openings rate fell m/m to 2.7% but had moved steadily higher versus the recession low of 1.7%. The professional & business services job openings rate fell sharply to 3.7%. The rate in education & health services dipped to 3.1%, still nearly its highest of the recovery. In manufacturing, the rate fell sharply to 2.0%, its lowest since November. The job openings rate in government fell to 1.5%, its lowest since October.

Employment gains also eased as the hires rate fell to 3.1%, is lowest since July. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The hires rate in the private sector fell to 3.5% but the government's rate was stable at a low 1.3%. The factory sector the hires rate dipped to 2.1%. Overall hires in the private sector fell 3.9% (+3.9% y/y) after a 2.1% March decline while in the public sector they slipped 0.3% (+5.8% y/y), down for three of the last four months. Leisure & hospitality business hires rose 8.6% y/y while hires in education & health services increased 7.0% y/y. Hires in professional & business services rose 2.6% y/y while in manufacturing they slipped 0.8% y/y.

The job separations rate held steady at 3.1% for the third straight month but the actual number of separations rose 7.6% y/y. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff & discharge rate alone nudged up to a still-low 1.3% versus the recession high of 2.0%. The private sector layoff rate was 1.5% while in government it was 0.4%.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey) Apr Mar Feb Apr'11 2011 2010 2009
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 2.5 2.7 2.6 2.2 2.6 2.2 1.8
 Total (000s) 3,416 3,741 3,565 3,014 3,540 2,902 2,432
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.1 3.3 3.3 3.1 38.0 37.4 35.5
 Total(000s) 4,175 4,335 4,444 4,015 50,006 48,647 46,386
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.3 1.2 1.3 1.2 15.6 16.7 20.5
 Total (000s) 1,720 1,652 1,728 1,616 20,678 21,737 26,731
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