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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Remains at the Highest Level Since 2001
by Tom Moeller  March 10, 2015

The job openings rate during January held at 3.4%, up from 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 surged 28.0% y/y to 4.998 million from a downwardly revised 4.887 million. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports these figures in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).

The private-sector job openings rate rose to 3.7%, its highest level since July and up from the recession low of 1.7%. The rate in leisure & hospitality improved to 4.8%, nearly the cycle high, but the rate in professional & business services backed off to 4.5%. In health care & social services, it slipped to 4.2% while in trade, transportation & utilities it improved to 3.2%, up from the recession low of 1.2%. The rate in the factory sector returned to the cycle high of 2.6%. The construction rate slipped to 1.9%. The job openings rate in the government sector edged down to 2.1% but was up from the 2009 low of 1.1%.

The hires rate declined sharply to 3.5%, the lowest level since August. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The private sector hires rate fell from its recovery high to 3.9%, the lowest level since August. Amongst leisure & hospitality firms, the rate dipped to 5.9% from its 6-year high of 6.2%. In the construction sector, the rate backpedaled to 5.8%. The rate in professional & business services slipped to 5.2%. The hiring rate in education & health services backpedaled to 2.6% and in the factory sector it slipped to 2.1%. In the government sector, the hiring rate backed away from its earlier high and fell to 1.4%.

The number of hires declined 4.6% m/m (+8.6% y/y) and reversed its December rise. Private sector hires fell 4.8% (+8.5% y/y) and was below the expansion high. Construction sector jobs rose by roughly one-quarter y/y. Leisure hospitality hiring increased 7.6% y/y. Professional & business services employment increased 6.3% y/y as factory sector jobs improved 5.6% y/y. Government hiring rose 13.2% y/y while health care & social services employment advanced a lessened 3.1% y/y.

The job separations rate pulled back from its expansion high to 3.4% but the actual number of separations increased 7.8% y/y. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The private sector separations rate edged down to 3.8% while the government sector's rate returned to the recent high of 1.5%. The layoff & discharge rate held at 1.2%, near the record low. The private sector layoff rate fell to 1.3% and the government's rate held at 0.5% for the third month.

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

Interest Rates and Asset Prices: A Primer from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago can be found here.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Jan Dec Nov Jan '14 2014 2013 2012
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 3.4 3.4 3.4 2.8 (y/y) 3.4 2.8 2.6
 Total (000s) 4,998 4,887 4,886 28.0% 22.6% 9.3% 3.2%
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.5 3.7 3.6 3.3 (y/y) 42.2 39.8 38.8
 Total (000s) 4,996 5,239 5,026 8.6% 8.4% 3.4% 4.2%
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.2 1.1 1.3 (y/y) 14.5 14.6 15.5
 Total (000s) 1,669 1,725 1,595 -4.7% 2.4% -4.9% 1.1%
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