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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Returns to Earlier High
by Tom Moeller  October 24, 2013

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its August Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that the job openings rate rose to 2.8%, up from July but about where it's been all year. 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 6.9% y/y to 3.883 million.

The private-sector job openings rate increased to 3.0% from an upwardly-revised 2.9% in July. The rate in education & health services jumped to a new cycle-high of 3.5%. Also, the rate in leisure & hospitality businesses rose to a new high of 3.5% while the rate in manufacturing moved up to 2.2%, recovering from the 1.7% low in June. The rate in professional & business services businesses also held at 3.5%, about where it's been all year. That's down, however, from the 4.2% high early last year. In the government sector, the job openings rate dropped sharply to 1.6%, its lowest level since April of last year.

The hires rate was steady at 3.3%, but July was revised up. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The hires rate in the private sector held at 3.7%, near the high end of its recent range. The hires rate of 5.3% in leisure & hospitality remained down from its March '12 high of 5.9%. Also the, relatively high 5.1% in construction was well below the 6.5% rates common early in 2011. The hiring rate of 4.4% in retail trade was near the high for the economic expansion while hiring rate in education & health services rebounded to 2.7%. In the factory sector, the rate was stable m/m at a low 1.9%, down sharply from the 2012 high of 2.4%. The government's hires rate was stable at 1.3%.

The number of hires slipped 0.2% m/m in August but were 1.9% higher than last year. This represents, however, lost momentum versus the roughly 7.0% gains realized early last year. Private sector hires advanced 2.7% y/y, down from the roughly 7.0% growth early last year. Hiring in retail trade advanced 13.7% y/y while in education & health services it grew 11.1%. On the weak side was hiring in professional & business services, up 2.9% y/y. To the downside by 2.5% y/y were hires in leisure & hospitality. Also falling by 8.7% y/y was government sector hiring.

The job separations rate rose to 3.2% during August as the actual number of separations notched up 0.8% y/y. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff & discharge rate was 1.2% in August and remained near the series low. That's versus a recession peak of 2.0% in early 2009. The private sector layoff rate notched up to 1.4% while the government's rate held at 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, SA) Aug Jul Jun Aug'12 2012 2011 2010
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 2.8 2.6 2.8 2.6 2.6 2.5 2.2
 Total (000s) 3,883 3,808 3,869 3,632 3,612 3,384 2,930
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.3 3.3 3.2 3.3 38.9 37.7 37.4
 Total (000s) 4,488 4,497 4,318 4,405 51,946 49,644 48,637
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.4 15.4 15.4 16.8
 Total (000s) 1,648 1,589 1,602 1,859 20,670 20,320 21,747
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