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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Improves; Hires Stabilize
by Tom Moeller  May 8, 2018

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total job openings rate increased to 4.2% in March from an unrevised 3.9% in February. (The job openings rate is the job openings level as a percent of total employment plus the job openings level.) The hiring rate held steady at 3.7%, down slightly from its cycle peak of 3.8%.

The private sector job openings rate increased m/m to an expansion high of 4.5%. The rate rose to 5.1% in leisure & hospitality, professional & business services and education & health services. The job openings rate in trade, transportation and utilities improved to 4.1% and in construction rose to 3.4%. In the manufacturing sector, the job openings rate eased to 3.0%. The job openings rate in the government sector surged to 2.7%, its highest point since April 2016.

The level of job openings surged 7.8% (16.8% y/y) after falling in February. Private sector openings rebounded  8.0% (16.5% y/y) to 5.928 million. Openings in construction surged 38.5% y/y and increased 26.4% y/y in trade, transportation & utilities. Professional & business services job openings gained 20.6% y/y while leisure & hospitality openings rose 17.0% y/y. Openings in education & health services increased 13.8% y/y, but to the downside were factory sector openings where they eased 0.7% y/y. Openings in government surged 20.3% y/y.

The private sector hiring rate held steady at 4.1%, where it's been for four of the last five months. The rate in professional and business services (5.6%), manufacturing (2.9%) and trade, transportation & utilities (3.8%) remained firm. The hiring rate in leisure & hospitality fell to 6.3%, and in education & health services, it dropped to 2.8%. The government sector hiring rate held steady at 1.5%, about where it's been since late 2016.

Total hiring increased 2.4% y/y. Hiring in the private sector increased 2.7% y/y led by a 13.5% y/y gain in professional & business services jobs. Factory sector hiring rose 12.7% y/y but construction sector employment declined 11.7% y/y. Leisure & hospitality hiring improved 0.7% y/y while the number of education & health services workers eased 1.8% y/y. Hiring in the public sector declined 2.4% y/y.

The overall job separations rate rose m/m to 3.6%, about where it's been since 2015. It held at a low 3.9% in the private sector and was steady at 1.5% in government. The level of overall separations rose 2.3% y/y.

The level of layoffs declined 6.3% y/y and left the layoff rate at the record low of 1.1%. In the private sector, the layoff rate held at 1.2% and dipped to 0.4% in the public sector.

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) Mar Feb Jan Mar'17 Mar '16 Mar'15
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.2 3.9 4.0 3.7 4.0 3.5
 Total (000s) 6,550 6,078 6,228 5,607 5,944 5,183
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  3.7 3.7 3.8 3.6 3.7 3.6
 Total (000s) 5,425 5,507 5,574 5,297 5,297 5,078
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.1 1.1 1.2 1.1 1.2 1.4
 Total (000s) 1,564 1,620 1,784 1,669 1,745 1,906
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