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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Returns to 2001 High
by Tom Moeller  January 13, 2015

The job openings rate during November increased to 3.4% and matched the highest level since April 2001. 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 surged 20.5% y/y to 4.972 million. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports these figures in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).

The private-sector job openings rate gained to 3.7%, its highest level since February 2001 and up from the recession low of 1.7%. The rate in professional & business services jumped to 5.1% and in retail trade it increased to 3.2%. The rate in trade, transportation & utilities rose to 3.2%, up from the recession low of 1.2%. To the downside m/m but still firm, the rate in leisure & hospitality fell slightly to 4.1% and in health care & social services it ticked lower to 3.9%. The rate in the factory sector recovered to 2.5%, the highest level since 2012. The construction rate was steady at 2.3%. The job openings rate in the government sector improved to 2.1%, up from the 2009 low of 1.1%.

The hires rate slipped to 3.6% from the expansion high of 3.7%. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The private sector hires rate slipped to 4.0% but was still near the recovery high. Amongst leisure & hospitality firms the rate held at 6.1%. The rate in professional & business services declined to 5.1% and in construction it fell to 5.0%. The hiring rate in education remained at a still high 2.7% but in the factory sector it fell to 2.1%, near the middle of the last year's range. In the government sector the hiring rate held at a low 1.4%.

The number of hires fell 2.2% m/m but increased 9.1% y/y. Private sector hires increased 9.4% y/y, nearly the strongest gain since early 2004. Leisure hospitality hiring jumped 14.4% y/y while health care & social services employment advanced 13.2% y/y. Retail trade jobs grew 12.1% y/y and professional & business services hiring increased 5.1% y/y. Construction sector employment increased 3.0% y/y but factory sector jobs declined 3.7% y/y. Government hiring rose 5.2% y/y.

The job separations rate fell back to 3.3% but the actual number of separations increased 7.1% y/y. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The private sector separations rate slipped to 3.7% while the government sector's rate notched lower to 1.3%. The layoff & discharge rate fell to 1.2%, near the record low. The private sector layoff rate declined m/m to 1.3% and the government's rate edged up to 0.5%.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Nov Oct Sep Nov '13 2013 2012 2011
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 3.4 3.3 3.2 2.9 (y/y) 2.8 2.6 2.5
 Total (000s) 4,972 4,830 4,685 20.5% 7.4% 3.1% 22.4%
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.6 3.7 3.6 3.3 (y/y) 39.6 38.8 38.1
 Total (000s) 4,990 5,101 5,075 9.1% 3.3% 4.2% 3.0%
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.3 1.2 1.1 (y/y) 14.6 15.5 15.7
 Total (000s) 1,612 1,757 1,653 6.7% -4.6% 1.2% -4.8%
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