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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings, Hires and Layoffs Rise
by Gerald D. Cohen  March 16, 2018

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total job openings rate jumped to 4.1% in January, matching the record rate reached in the middle of last year. The hiring rate rose to 3.8%. Over the last three years the hiring rate has been hovering between 3.6% and 3.8%. The layoff rate picked up to 1.2% in January but has been range-bound between 1.1% and 1.2% during the previous two years.

The private sector job openings rate jumped to 4.4% in January; a year ago it was 3.9%. Construction, manufacturing, trade, transportation & utilities, professional services and education & health all showed gains in openings. Leisure & hospitality was the only sector to show declines. The job openings rate in the government sector increased to 2.5% in January from 2.3% in December.

The level of job openings jumped 11.4% to a record 6.3 million in January driven by an 11.8% gain in private sector openings to a peak 5.8 million. Total economy job openings are up 15.9% from a year ago, while private sector openings have risen 15.7% year-on-year. Openings in construction led the gain, up 57.2% from a year ago, followed by trade and transportation (33.4% y/y) and leisure & hospitality (20.8%). Openings in government have grown 18.4% from a year ago.

The private sector hiring rate increased to 4.2% in January driven by gains in construction, manufacturing, education & health services and leisure & hospitality. Private sector hiring rose 1.4% for the month, with 2.7% growth for the year. The factory sector led the pack, up 16.9% from a year ago, while hiring in construction was down 14.9% year-on-year. Government hiring fell 3.4% in January and is down 3.7% year-on-year.

The overall job separations rate increased 1.8% (3.5% y/y) in January to a cycle peak of 5.4 million. The separation rate matched the cycle high of 3.7% notched six months ago. Total layoffs rose 6.5% and are up 6.2% from a year ago. Private sector layoffs jumped 8.1% for the month and are up 6.8% from a year ago.

The Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) survey dates to December 2000 and the figures are available in Haver's USECON database.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Jan Dec Nov Jan '17 Jan '16 Jan '15
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.1 3.7 3.9 3.6 3.8 3.5
 Total (000s) 6,312 5,667 5,933 5,444 5,729 5,113
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.8 3.7 3.7 3.7 3.6 3.6
 Total (000s) 5,583 5,524 5,514 5,460 5,130 5,036
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.1 1.2 1.1 1.2 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,762 1,655 1,735 1,659 1,722 1,723
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