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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Perks Up
by Tom Moeller  April 8, 2014

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that the job openings rate improved to 2.9% during February versus a downwardly revised 2.7% in January. The latest level reached the high for the economic expansion. 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 3.9% y/y to 4.173 million.

The private-sector job openings rate jumped to 3.2%, its highest level of the economic recovery and up from the recession low of 1.7%. The rate in professional & business services surged to 4.1%, near the recovery high of 4.3%. The rate in leisure & hospitality businesses slipped to 3.9%. In the health care & social assistance sector, the job openings rate held at a higher 3.4%. The rate in construction was steady at 2.0%, down from the 2.7% high three months ago. In manufacturing it declined to 2.0%, the lowest level since July. Still lagging was the job openings rate in the government sector where it held m/m at a low 1.8%.

The hires rate held at 3.3% for the fifth straight month but was below its expansion high of 3.4% in September. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The private sector hires rate remained at 3.7% for the fifth consecutive month. Amongst leisure & hospitality firms it rose to 5.7%. In construction, the hires rate slipped to 4.4% and remained below the 6.9% rates in early 2011. The hires rate in retail trade recovered to 4.4% while in education & health services it slipped to 2.5%. In the factory sector, the hires rate slipped m/m to 1.9% and remained down from the 2.5% high in late 2010. The government sector hires rate notched up to a low 1.4%.

The number of hires rebounded 1.6% m/m but were only 0.8% higher y/y. Private sector hires increased 1.3% y/y as hiring in professional & business services surged 14.8% y/y. New retail trade increased 3.1% y/y while leisure & hospitality jobs increased 3.1%. Education & health services jobs edged 0.4% higher y/y but new hires in construction were off 28.0% y/y. Government sector hiring declined 5.4% y/y and new factory sector jobs fell 2.9% y/y.

The job separations rate held at 3.2% but the actual number of separations rose 4.1% y/y. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The private sector separations rate slipped to 3.5% and the government sector's rate was stable at 1.4%. The layoff & discharge rate held at 1.2% for the third straight month but was up from the recovery low of 1.1%. The private sector layoff rate fell m/m to 1.3% and the government's rate slipped to 0.4%.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Feb Jan Dec Feb'13 2013 2012 2011
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 2.9 2.7 2.8 2.9 2.8 2.6 2.5
 Total (000s) 4,173 3,874 3,914 4,015 3,914 3,646 3,538
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.3 3.3 3.3 3.4 39.6 38.8 38.1
 Total (000s) 4,587 4,516 4,578 4,551 54,139 52,391 50,264
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 14.6 15.5 15.7
 Total (000s) 1,619 1,703 1,702 1,618 20,006 20,979 20,735
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