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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Increases to Record High
by Tom Moeller  February 9, 2016

The job market improved greatly last year. The job openings rate increased to 3.8% for the full-year, a record high for the series which dates back to 2000. It improved to 3.8% during December, also a record high, up from 3.4% in December 2014. The private sector job openings rate of 4.0% compared to 2.3% in the public sector. 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. Hiring was less ebullient. The hires rate of 43.4% for the full-year was well below the 47.2% high in 2001. The December reading held at 3.7% for the second month. The private sector rate of 4.1% compared to 1.7% in the public sector. 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 increased 15.0% for the full-year, less than the 2014 gain of 22.6%. Openings rose 4.9% in December to 5.607 million and were 15.0% higher versus 2014. An 15.7% y/y rise in private sector openings was led by a 47.9 surge in construction. That was followed by a 21.4% y/y increase in health care & social assistance. Factory sector openings improved 17.7% y/y. That was followed by 9.3% y/y growth in retail, 9.2% y/y growth in leisure & hospitality and a 7.4% y/y improvement in professional & business services. In the government sector, job openings increased 8.1% y/y.

The number of hires increased 4.6% during all of 2015, less than the 8.4% 2014 rise. In December, they rose 2.3% y/y to 5.361 million. Private sector hiring grew 1.5% y/y, reflecting a 13.2% increase in leisure & hospitality hiring, but a 28.3% y/y decline in the number of construction sector jobs. Professional & business services employment grew 7.1% y/y while health care & social assistance jobs improved 3.2%. The factory sector shed 1.4% of its workers while retail trade jobs declined 2.2% y/y. Government sector hiring advanced 15.0% y/y.

The total job separations rate remained at 3.5%. That was down from a 3.6% March high. The actual number of separations increased 3.5% y/y. Factory sector separations increased 6.7% y/y while education & health care separations gained 3.7% y/y. Professional & business services separations increased 8.8% y/y and leisure & hospitality separations rose 12.7% y/y. Retail trade separations declined 1.7% y/y. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements.

The layoff & discharge rate returned to a record low 1.1%. The private sector rate of 1.2% was an all-time low and that compared to 0.5% in the public sector. Layoffs overall declined 8.4% y/y in the private sector but jumped 18.6% y/y in the public sector.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Dec Nov Oct Dec '14 2015 2014 2013
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 3.8 3.6 3.6 3.4 3.8 3.4 2.8
 Total (000s) 5,607 5,346 5,349 15.0% 15.0 22.6% 9.3%
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.7 3.7 3.6 3.7 43.4 42.2 39.8
 Total (000s) 5,361 5,256 5,168 2.3% 4.6% 8.4% 3.4%
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.2 14.7 14.5 14.6
 Total (000s) 1,607 1,686 1,703 -6.8% 1.3% 2.4% -4.9%
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