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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Increase While Hiring Stabilizes
by Tom Moeller  May 7, 2019

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total job openings rate rebounded to 4.7% during March after declining sharply to 4.5% in February. 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 remained difficult. The hiring rate held at 3.8% and has been moving sideways for about a year. Employers became a little less hesitant to let people go, as exemplified by the layoff & discharge rate, which returned to the record low of 1.1%. And with jobs plentiful, workers remained ready to find new work. The quits rate held steady at a near-record 2.3%.

The private-sector job openings rate rebounded slightly m/m to 5.0%, but remained below the 5.2% record reached in November. That rate was increased from a low of 2.0% averaged in 2009. In leisure & hospitality, the rate improved to 5.8%, still off from December's high of 6.2%. In professional & business services the rate held steady at a near-record 6.3%. In education & health services the rate rose slightly to 5.1%, up from 2.6% in 2010. In trade, transportation & utilities the rate rebounded slightly to 4.5% after falling in February to the lowest point since November 2017. The rate surged to a record 4.6% in construction, and in manufacturing, it held steady at 3.6%, up from 3.3% twelve months earlier. The government sector job openings rate was unchanged at 3.0%, and remained up sharply from the 2009 low of 1.2%.

The level of job openings increased 4.8% (8.6% y/y) to 7.488 million after a 6.3% decline. Private-sector openings rose 5.6% (9.0% y/y) while government sector job openings fell 2.4% (+4.4% y/y).

The private-sector hiring rate eased to 4.1% and was below May's eleven-year high of 4.4%. The rate in leisure & hospitality gained to 6.6%. In professional & business services, the hiring rate held steady at 5.5% and remained below the June 2017 high of 6.1%. The construction sector's hiring rate held at 4.8%, down from January's high of 5.8%. The hiring rate in trade, transportation & utilities eased to 4.0% and was down sharply from 4.4% in November. In education & health services, the rate held steady for a third month at 3.0%, the high end of the recent range. In manufacturing, the 2.8% hiring rate was reduced from July's high of 3.1%. The hiring rate in government fell sharply to 1.5% from 1.8% in January and matched the lowest level in four years.

Total hiring rose y/y by a greatly lessened 0.6% to 5.660 million. Hiring in the private sector rose 0.6% y/y while government sector hiring gained 0.3% y/y.

As improvement in the labor market eased, the overall job separations rate fell to 3.6% from the expansion high of 3.8% in October. The private sector separations rate eased to 4.0%, below the cycle high of 4.2% reached in July. The separations rate in government declined to the two-year low of 1.5%.

The total level of separations was little changed y/y. In the private sector, they also were constant y/y reflecting a 1.4% y/y decline in the construction sector. In educational and health services, separations fell 3.4% y/y, but in trade, transportation & utilities separations rose 2.9% y/y. Leisure & hospitality job separations increased 1.8% y/y and in manufacturing, they rose 4.3% y/y. In the financial sector, separations fell a sharp 8.0% y/y to the lowest level since mid-2016. Separations in the information sector also declined 1.4% y/y and in professional & business services they also fell 1.4% y/y. Separations in the government sector decreased 1.5% y/y.

The level of quits rose 3.3% y/y to 3.409 million in March. The quits rate has been stable for nearly a year at 2.3%, up sharply from 1.3% at the beginning of the expansion. The private-sector quits rate eased to 2.5%, but remained up from 1.4% in the fall of 2009. The government sector quits rate was stable at 0.8%.

The level of layoffs in the private sector declined 3.2% 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 matched the record low of 0.4%.

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) Mar Feb Jan Mar'18 Mar'17 Mar'16
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.7 4.5 4.8 4.4 3.9 4.1
 Total (000s) 7,488 7,142 7,625 6,894 5,848 6,151
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  3.8 3.8 3.9 3.8 3.7 3.7
 Total (000s) 5,660 5,695 5,829 5,625 5,389 5,369
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.1 1.2 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.3
 Total (000s) 1,700 1,784 1,695 1,771 1,745 1,863
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.2 2.2 2.0
 Total (000s) 3,409 3,447 3,483 3,300 3,148 2,908
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