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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings and Hires Rates Improve
by Tom Moeller  December 10, 2018

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total job openings rate improved to 4.5% during October from 4.4% in September, revised from 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 remained strong and rose to 3.9% from an unrevised 3.8%. The layoff & discharge rate held steady at 1.1%, just above the record low, and the quits rate declined to 2.3%. It was just below the record high. The JOLTS data begin in 2000.

The private-sector job openings rate held steady at 4.8%, just below the record high of 4.9%. Leisure & hospitality eased from a series high to 6.0%, while professional & business services eased to 5.5%, still up from a low of 4.1% in December. In education & health services, the rate increased to a near record 5.2%, while in construction, it rose slightly to a strong 3.7%. The rate in manufacturing strengthened to a record 3.9% and in trade, transportation & utilities, it held steady for the third month at 4.4%. The job openings rate in government declined to 2.6%, but remained up sharply versus the 2009 low of 1.2%.

The level of job openings increased 1.7% in October (16.8% y/y) to 7.079 million following a 4.6% decline from the August record. Private-sector openings rose m/m and were up 17.7% y/y. Construction sector job availability surged by one-quarter y/y. Openings in leisure & hospitality strengthened by one-quarter y/y and they rose 15.1% y/y in education & health services. Trade, transportation & utilities job openings increased by one-quarter y/y as did factory sector openings. Job openings in professional business services gained an improved 13.2% y/y. Government sector job openings rose a lessened 8.5% y/y.

The private-sector hiring rate increased to 4.3% from September's 4.2%, but remained just below August's eleven-year high of 4.4%. The rate in leisure & hospitality improved to 6.7%, and it has been trending higher during the last few months, but in professional & business services it held steady at a strong 5.6%. The construction sector's hiring rate declined to 4.8%, down from the January 2017 high of  5.8%. The hiring rate in trade, transportation & utilities reached a near-record  4.6%, up sharply from last year's low of 3.6%. In education & health services, the rate gained to 3.0%. In manufacturing, the rate recovered to 3.0% and made up most of the prior month's decline to a twelve-year low. The hiring rate in government edged higher to 1.6%.

Total hiring increased 3.4% (5.2% y/y) to a near-record 5.892 million, reversing the September decline. Hiring in the private sector increased 5.1% y/y with trade, transportation & utilities hiring strengthening 20.2% y/y. Factory-sector hiring rose a lessened 12.0% y/y. Educational & health services hiring increased 6.2% y/y and leisure & hospitality improved 2.7% y/y. Professional & business employment rose 3.8% y/y, down from the double-digit gains earlier in the year. Construction sector hiring fell 6.2% y/y.

The overall job separations rate eased to 3.7%, but remained near the expansion high. The private sector separations rate slipped to 4.1%, down versus its cycle high of 4.3% reached in August. The separations rate in government held steady at 1.5%.

The level of overall separations strengthened 5.4% y/y to 5.556 million. In the private sector, they were up 5.7% y/y led by a 16.7% y/y surge in trade, transportation & utilities. Leisure & hospitality job separations increased 12.6% y/y and in manufacturing, they rose 9.9% y/y. Professional & business services job separations increased 5.0% y/y. Elsewhere, job separations weakened. In the financial sector, they declined 16.4%. Separations in construction fell 8.4% y/y and education & health services separations eased 1.5% y/y. Separations in the information sector declined 16.0% y/y. Separations in the government sector gained 1.5% y/y.

The level of quits edged down 1.4% m/m (+19.0% y/y) to 3.514 million in October. The quits rate eased m/m to 2.3%, but it remained up sharply from 1.3% at the beginning of the expansion. The private-sector quit rate rose to 2.6%, double the expansion low. The rate rose sharply in leisure & hospitality to 4.8% and in education & health services, it increased to 2.0%. Elsewhere, the quits rate eased. In the financial sector, it fell to 1.3% and in professional & business services, the rate slipped to 3.2%. In the factory sector, it held steady at 1.6% which was up from 0.6% 2009 low. The government sector quit rate remained unchanged m/m at 0.8% which was double the expansion low.

The level of layoffs declined 1.2% y/y to 1.691 million, leaving the layoff rate at 1.1%, nearly the record low. In the private sector, the layoff rate declined to 1.2%, down from the 2009 high of 2.2%. The professional & business services rate held steady at 1.8%, while in the information sector, it fell sharply to 0.6%. In leisure & hospitality the layoff rate remained high at 1.7% and in the factory sector, it rose to 1.0%. The government sector layoff rate rose slightly to 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) Oct Sep Aug Oct'17 Oct'16 Oct'15
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.5 4.4 4.7 4.0 3.6 3.7
 Total (000s) 7,079 6,960 7,293 6,059 5,485 5,536
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  3.9 3.8 4.0 3.8 3.6 3.7
 Total (000s) 5,892 5,696 5,906 5,600 5,208 5,310
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.1 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.1 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,691 1,707 1,790 1,711 1,610 1,758
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.3 2.4 2.4 2.2 2.1 2.0
 Total (000s) 3,514 3,564 3,648 3,224 3,093 2,836
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