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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings and Hiring Diminish
by Tom Moeller  April 9, 2019

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total job openings rate declined to 4.5% during February, its lowest level since March 2018. The job openings rate is the job openings level as a percent of total employment plus the job openings level. Finding workers to fill openings just became more difficult. The hiring rate eased to 3.8% and has been moving sideways for about a year. Employers became a little less hesitant to let people go. The layoff & discharge rate rose from the record low to 1.2%. And with jobs plentiful, workers remained ready to seek out new positions. The quits rate held steady at a near-record 2.3%. The JOLTS data begin in 2000.

The private-sector job openings rate declined sharply to 4.8%, the lowest level since March of last year. In leisure & hospitality, the rate dropped to a roughly one-year low of 5.5%. In professional & business services it eased to 6.3%, but remained up from 5.2% twelve months earlier. In education & health services, the rate fell to 5.0% from the record 5.4%, and in trade, transportation & utilities, it fell sharply to 4.4%, the lowest point since November 2017. The rate eased to 3.7% in construction but in manufacturing it improved to 3.7%, up from 3.3% twelve months earlier. The government sector job openings rate eased to 2.9%, and remained up sharply from the 2009 low of 1.2%.

The level of job openings declined 7.1% to 7.087 million (+8.5% y/y). Private-sector openings fell 7.5% (+8.1% y/y) while government sector job openings were off 2.2% (+12.6% y/y).

The private-sector hiring rate held steady at 4.2% but remained below May's eleven-year high of 4.4%. The rate in leisure & hospitality eased to 6.5%, but in professional & business services, it rose to 5.5%. The rate remained below the 2017 high of 6.1%. The construction sector's hiring rate declined sharply to 4.8%, the lowest level since September 2016. The hiring rate in trade, transportation & utilities improved to 4.2% after falling sharply in January. In education & health services, the rate held steady for a second month at 3.0%. In manufacturing, the rate fell to 2.7%. The hiring rate in government fell to 1.6%.

Total hiring rose a lessened 1.8% y/y to 5.696 million. Hiring in the private sector rose 1.9% y/y while government sector hiring gained 1.1% y/y.

With the strong labor market, the overall job separations rate has risen to 3.7% and remained near the expansion high. The private sector separations rate increased to 4.1%, but was below the cycle high of 4.2% reached in July. The separations rate in government rose slightly to 1.6%.

The level of separations strengthened 5.4% y/y. In the private sector, they were up 5.2% y/y led by a 15.1% surge in the construction sector. In educational and health services, separations rose 10.3% y/y and in trade, transportation & utilities, separations rose 9.5% y/y. Leisure & hospitality job separations increased 2.1% y/y but in manufacturing, they fell 2.0% y/y. In the financial sector, separations decreased 4.7% y/y. Separations in the information sector also declined 3.3% y/y but professional & business services job separations rose 3.0% y/y. Separations in the government sector increased 8.2% y/y.

In another sign of a strong labor market, the level of quits rose 9.6% y/y to 3.480 million in February. The quits rate of 2.3% remained steady m/m, though it remained up sharply from 1.3% at the beginning of the expansion. The private-sector quits rate held at 2.6%, the highest level in 13 years. The government sector quits rate held steady at the record 0.9%.

The level of layoffs in the private sector declined 1.2% y/y, and the layoff rate remained near the record low at 1.3%, down from the 2009 high of 2.2%. The government sector layoff rate held at the record low at 0.5%.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Feb Jan Dec Feb'18 Fed'17 Feb'16
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.5 4.8 4.7 4.2 3.9 3.9
 Total (000s) 7,087 7,625 7,479 6,530 5,875 5,747
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  3.8 3.9 3.8 3.8 3.6 3.8
 Total (000s) 5,696 5,829 5,717 5,594 5,313 5,493
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.3
 Total (000s) 1,742 1,695 1,751 1,763 1,687 1,913
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.1 2.1 2.1
 Total (000s) 3,480 3,483 3,391 3,176 3,076 2,982
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