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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate is the Highest in 2013 Since 2007
by Tom Moeller  February 11, 2014

Here's another sign of improvement in the U.S. labor market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that for all of last year the job openings rate improved to 2.8%, its highest level since 2007. The December job openings rate slipped m/m to 2.8% from an upwardly revised 2.9% in November. That nevertheless was up from 2.7% twelve months earlier. 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 5.6% y/y to 4.001 million.

The private-sector job openings rate rose to 3.1% last year, also the highest level since 2007. The rate in leisure & hospitality businesses increased to a recovery high of 3.7%. The rate in professional & business services held at 3.7%, but remained down from the 4.2% high early last year. In the health & social assistance sector, the job openings rate fell to 2.9%, its lowest level since early 2009. The rate in manufacturing nudged up to 2.4% and in construction it held at 2.4%. Still lagging was the job openings rate in the government sector where it fell to 1.6%, its lowest level since October 2012.

The hires rate improved last year to a recovery high of 39.1%. It slipped at yearend to 3.3%, down from its expansion high of 3.4% in September. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The hires rate in the private sector fell in December to 3.6% from its September high of 3.8%. Amongst leisure & hospitality firms it held at 5.4%. In construction the hires rate fell to 4.6% and remained below the 6.5% rates common early in 2011. The hiring rate in retail trade edged up to 4.5% while in education & health services it fell to 2.4%. In the factory sector, the hiring rate increased m/m to 2.1% and remained improved from 1.7% in March. The government sector hires rate ticked down to 1.3%.

The number of hires fell 2.0% m/m in December and but were 5.8% above last year. Private sector hires increased 6.3% y/y but jobs in hiring in professional & business services increased 17.4% y/y. Jobs in retail trade weren't far behind and jumped 16.0% y/y. New employment gained 8.5% y/y in the factory sector but hiring in leisure & hospitality grew 2.0% y/y. New hires in health services declined 1.2% y/y while government sector hiring rose was off 1.8% y/y.

The job separations rate notched up to 3.2% during December but the actual number of separations rose 7.6% y/y. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The private sector separations rate ticked up to 3.6% and the government sector's rate held at 1.3%. The layoff & discharge rate rose to 1.2% in December. That's versus a recession peak of 2.0% in early 2009. The private sector layoff rate ticked up from the 1.2% record low to 1.3% 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.

Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress by Fed Chair Janet L. Yellen is available here.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Dec Nov Oct Dec'12 2013 2012 2011
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 2.8 2.9 2.8 2.7 2.8 2.6 2.5
 Total (000s) 3,990 4,033 3,931 3,612 3,990 3,612 3,384
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.2 3.3 3.3 3.3 39.1 38.9 37.7
 Total (000s) 4,437 4,529 4,484 4,195 53,317 51,946 49,644
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.1 1.1 1.2 14.4 15.4 15.4
 Total (000s) 1,608 1,499 1,504 1,569 19,505 20,670 20,320
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