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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings and Hires Rates Slip
by Tom Moeller  January 8, 2019

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total job openings rate eased to 4.4% during November, retracing its October gain 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 slipped to 3.8% and retraced its October rise. The layoff & discharge rate held steady at 1.2%, still above the record low of 1.0% reached in March, and the quits rate held steady at 2.3%, just below the record high. The JOLTS data begin in 2000.

The private-sector job openings rate eased to 4.7% and remained below the record high of 4.9%. In leisure & hospitality, the rate eased to 5.7%. In professional & business services, it declined to 5.3%, though that remained up versus a low of 4.1% in December. In education & health services, the rate increased to a strong 5.1%, and in trade, transportation & utilities, it eased to 4.4%. The rate declined to 3.7% in construction, and in manufacturing, it slipped to a near-record 3.7%. The job openings rate in government held steady at 2.7%, but remained up sharply versus the 2009 low of 1.2%.

The level of job openings declined 3.4% in November (+16.1% y/y) to 6.888 million. Private-sector openings fell 3.6% m/m but were up 15.5% y/y. Construction sector job availability surged by another one-quarter y/y. Openings in leisure & hospitality strengthened by 16.0% y/y and they rose to the same degree y/y in education & health services. Openings also rose by one-quarter y/y in manufacturing. Trade, transportation & utilities job openings increased by 7.4% y/y. Job openings in professional business services gained an improved 20.5% y/y and they rose 16.0% y/y in leisure & hospitality. Government sector job openings rose roughly one-quarter y/y.

The private-sector hiring rate eased to 4.2% from October's 4.4%, but remained just below August's eleven-year high of 4.4%. The rate in leisure & hospitality fell to 6.4%, and in professional & business services, it declined to 4.9%. The construction sector's hiring rate improved to 5.2%, but remained down from the January 2017 high of 5.8%. The hiring rate in trade, transportation & utilities fell to 4.1%, still up sharply from last year's low of 3.6%. In education & health services, the rate held steady at 3.2%. In manufacturing, the rate was little-changed at 2.9%. The hiring rate in government held steady at 1.6%.

Total hiring declined 3.7% (+3.7% y/y) to 5.710 million, reversing the October increase to a record high. Hiring in the private sector rose 3.7% y/y with trade, transportation & utilities hiring strengthening 8.9% y/y. Factory-sector hiring rose 9.9% y/y. Educational & health services hiring jumped 11.1% y/y and leisure & hospitality improved 2.1% y/y. Construction sector hiring rose 6.2% y/y, but professional & business employment declined 9.4% y/y. Government sector hiring rose 4.0% y/y.

The overall job separations rate eased to 3.7%, but remained near the expansion high. The private sector separations rate slipped to 4.0%, down versus its cycle high of 4.3% reached in August. The separations rate in government held steady at 1.6%.

The level of overall separations strengthened 4.8% y/y to 5.507 million, though the level has fallen recently. In the private sector, they were up 5.0% y/y led by a 10.8% y/y surge in trade, transportation & utilities. Leisure & hospitality job separations increased 4.5% y/y and in manufacturing, they rose 12.0% y/y. In the financial sector, they increased 13.3%. Separations in construction fell 8.4% y/y and education & health services separations rose 13.7% y/y. Separations in the information sector gained 12.3% y/y. Professional & business services job separations decreased 12.3% y/y. Separations in the government sector gained 2.8% y/y.

The level of quits declined 3.2% m/m (+6.6% y/y) to 3.407 million in November. The quits rate held steady m/m at 2.3%, but it remained up sharply from 1.3% at the beginning of the expansion. The private-sector quits rate declined to 2.5%. The rate eased in leisure & hospitality to 4.2% and in education & health services, it increased to 2.2%. In the financial sector, it was 1.1% and in professional & business services, the rate declined to 2.7%. In the factory sector, it rose to 1.8% which was up from 0.6% 2009 low. The government sector quit rate was little changed m/m at 0.9%, which was double the expansion low.

The level of layoffs increased 2.0% y/y to 1.769 million, leaving the layoff rate unchanged at 1.2%, nearly the record low. In the private sector, the layoff rate held steady at 1.3%, down from the 2009 high of 2.2%. The professional & business services rate slipped to 1.8%, while in the information sector, it was steady at 0.7%. In leisure & hospitality, the layoff rate remained high at 1.7% and in the factory sector, it slipped to 0.9%. The government sector layoff rate held steady 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) Nov Oct Sep Nov'17 Nov'16 Nov'15
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.4 4.5 4.4 3.9 3.7 3.5
 Total (000s) 6,888 7,131 6,960 5,931 5,931 5,335
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  3.8 4.0 3.8 3.7 3.6 3.7
 Total (000s) 5,710 5,928 5,696 5,505 5,279 5,324
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.2 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,769 1,761 1,707 1,734 1,693 1,699
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.3 2.3 2.4 2.2 2.1 2.0
 Total (000s) 3,407 3,519 3,564 3,195 3,022 2,892
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