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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Remains Steady; Hiring Dips
by Tom Moeller  July 7, 2015

The job openings rate during May held steady at 3.6% as April's rate was revised lower from 3.7%. Both remained improved from the recession low of 1.6%. The latest was just below the series' high of 3.8% in January 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. Failing to keep pace was the hires rate, which fell to 3.5% from an upwardly revised 3.6%. Both readings were down from the December high of 3.7% The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports these figures in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).

The actual number of job openings surged 16.4% y/y to 5.363 million versus 5.334 million in April. Hiring growth eased to 4.1% y/y. May's level of 5.000 million was down from December's high of 5.239 million.

The private-sector job openings rate held steady at 3.9%, improved from the recession low of 1.7%. The rate in professional & business services rose to a recovery high of 5.3% while the rate in leisure & hospitality gained to 4.6%, just below the cycle high. In health care & social services, the rate eased from its eight-year high to 4.5% and in trade, transportation & utilities, it improved to a record high of 3.5%. The rate in the factory sector rose to 2.7%, the highest level since January 2001 and the construction sector's rate rose to 2.3%. The job openings rate in the government sector improved to 2.3%, higher than the 2009 low of 1.1%.

The private sector hires rate held at 3.9%, down from the December high of 4.1%. Amongst leisure & hospitality firms, the rate improved to 6.1% but the rate in professional & business services slipped to 5.1%. The construction sector rate eased to 5.0%, remaining down from the December high of 7.0%. In retail trade, it recovered m/m to 4.8%. The hiring rate in education & health services rose to 2.8% and in the factory sector, it declined to 1.9%, the lowest level since February of last year. In the government sector, the hiring rate held at 1.5% for the third month.

The number of hires declined 0.7% m/m (+4.1% y/y). Private sector hires fell 0.6% (+3.3% y/y). Trade, transportation & utilities jobs eased 0.6% y/y. That was accompanied by a 0.3% dip in construction employment and a 6.5% increase in leisure & hospitality hiring. Health care & social services employment improved 7.7% y/y while professional & business services jobs increased 5.8% y/y. Factory sector jobs eased 0.4% y/y but government sector hiring jumped 14.9% y/y.

The job separations rate plummeted to 3.3% but the actual number of separations increased 4.4% y/y. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The private sector separations rate fell sharply to 3.7% while the government sector's rate eased to 1.4% after four months at 1.5%. The layoff & discharge rate declined to 1.2%. The private sector layoff rate returned to its lowest level since November 2013 and the government's rate eased to 1.3%, equaling the lowest since October 2013.

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

Finding Normal: Natural Rates and Policy Prescriptions from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is available here.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) May Apr Mar May '14 2014 2013 2012
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 3.6 3.6 3.5 3.2 3.4 2.8 2.6
 Total (000s) 5,363 5,334 5,109 16.4% 22.6% 9.3% 3.2%
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.5 3.6 3.6 3.5 42.2 39.8 38.8
 Total (000s) 5,000 5,034 5,088 4.1% 8.4% 3.4% 4.2%
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.3 1.3 1.2 14.5 14.6 15.5
 Total (000s) 1,653 1,784 1,894 -0.4 2.4% -4.9% 1.1%
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