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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Hits Another Record
by Gerald D. Cohen  October 16, 2018

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total job openings rate rose to a record 4.6% in August; July was revised higher to 4.5%. The job openings rate is the job openings level as a percent of total employment plus the job openings level. The hiring rate increased to 3.9%, matching the eleven-year high reached in May. Meanwhile, the quits rate, a measure of confidence in job prospects, was unchanged at a 17-year high of 2.4%. The JOLTS data begin in 2000.

The private-sector job openings rate remained at July’s record 4.8% (though July’s data was revised higher). Leisure & hospitality held steady at July’s downwardly revised 5.7%, while professional & business services jumped to 5.9%, the highest rate in three years. In education & health services, the share increased to 5.1%, while in construction it rose to 3.9% a 17-year high. The rate in manufacturing slipped to 3.7% and in trade, transportation & utilities it declined to 4.4%. The job openings rate in government eased to 2.9% from July’s upwardly revised record level of 3.0%.

The level of job openings increased 0.8% month-to-month (18.1% year-on-year) to 7.136 million in August following an upwardly revised 3.7% July gain. Private-sector openings jumped 17.0% y/y with the factory sector revving 17.3% y/y and construction 38.6% y/y. Openings in professional & business services advanced 27.0% y/y; leisure & hospitality gained 17.4% y/y; trade, transportation & utilities increased 15.5% y/y; and education & health services were up 6.7% y/y. Government sector job openings gained 29.4% y/y.

The private-sector hiring rate in August rose to 4.3% matching May’s eleven-year high. The rate in leisure & hospitality was unchanged at 6.5% as was professional & business services at 5.6%. In education & health services, the share eased to 2.9%. In manufacturing and construction the hiring rate declined to 2.9% and 4.9% respectively. Meanwhile, hiring in trade, transportation & utilities jumped to 4.4% a 12-year high. The hiring rate in government slipped to 1.5%.

Total hiring rose 1.2% (5.0% y/y) in August to 5.784 million. Hiring in the private sector increased 5.2% y/y with trade, transportation & utilities jumping 17.2% and leisure & hospitality gaining 5.9% y/y. Professional & business employment increased 1.8% y/y and educational & health services were up 1.3% y/y. Factory sector hiring slowed to 2.2% y/y and construction sector fell 10.3% y/y.

The overall job separations rate remained at July’s 12-year high of 3.8%. Private sector separations rose to a cycle of 4.2%. The level of overall separations increased 2.0% (6.8% y/y) to 5.706 million. In the private sector they were up 6.7% y/y led by trade, transportation & utilities (20.4%) and manufacturing (15.4% y/y). Leisure & hospitality gained 7.2% y/y and professional & business services edged up 0.4% y/y. Meanwhile construction fell 9.4% y/y and education & health services inched down 0.3% y/y. Separations in the government sector gained 8.0% y/y.

The level of quits edged down 0.9% (+12.7% y/y) to 3.577 million in August. Still, the quits rate held steady at July’s record of 2.4%. The private sector quit rate was also unchanged at 2.7%. The rate rose in the financial sector to 1.8%, a ten-year high. Meanwhile, professional & business services declined to 3.4%.

The level of layoffs jumped 10.9% (-0.4% y/y) to 1.798 million, raising the layoff rate to 1.2%. In the private sector, the layoff rate increased to 1.3%. Of note, the layoff rate continued it ascent in trade, transportation & utilities to a three-year high of 1.4%. Professional & business services advanced to 2.1% while the government sector was unchanged at 0.5%.

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) Aug Jul Jun Aug'17 Aug'16 Aug'15
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.6 4.5 4.4 4.0 3.7 3.6
 Total (000s) 7,136 7,077 6,822 6,044 5,515 5,365
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  3.9 3.8 3.8 3.7 3.7 3.6
 Total (000s) 5,784 5,713 5,677 5,507 5,294 5,083
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.1 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,798 1,622 1,652 1,805 1,675 1,674
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.4 2.4 2.3 2.2 2.2 2.1
 Total (000s) 3,577 3,608 3,477 3,173 3,161 2,926
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