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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Stabilize; Hiring Strengthens
by Tom Moeller  June 10, 2019

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total job openings rate held at 4.7% during April, unchanged m/m but up from 4.6% twelve months earlier. It remained on the expansion's rising trend. 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 became easier. The hiring rate rose to a record 3.9%. Employers became somewhat more willing to let people go, as shown by the layoff & discharge rate which increased to 1.2% from the record low of 1.1% in March. Individuals remained ready to find new work. The quits rate held steady at a near-record 2.3% where it's been since June of last year.

The private-sector job openings rate held steady m/m at 5.0%, but remained below the 5.2% record reached in November. The rate was increased from 4.6% early last year and from the 2.0% average at the recession low in 2009. In professional & business services, the rate fell sharply to 5.5% from the near-record 6.2% in March. In leisure & hospitality, the rate eased to 5.7 and was below December's high of 6.2%. In education & health services, the rate edged higher to a near-record 5.4%, up from 2.6% in 2010. In trade, transportation & utilities, the rate increased to 5.0% after depressed readings during the prior two months. The rate surged to another record of 5.1% in the construction sector.  In manufacturing, it returned to a record of 3.8%, up from 3.4% twelve months earlier. The government sector job openings rate also surged to a record 3.1%, remaining up sharply from the 2009 low of 1.2%.

The level of job openings eased 0.3% (+4.8% y/y) to 7.449 million after a 4.6% w/w rise. Private-sector openings rose 3.5% y/y while government sector job openings surged 18.7% y/y.

The private-sector hiring rate rose slightly to 4.3% and was below the expansion high of 4.4% reached last May. The rate in leisure & hospitality improved to 6.7%. In professional & business services, the hiring rate increased sharply to 5.8% but remained below the June 2017 high of 6.1%. The construction sector's hiring rate improved to 5.4%. The hiring rate in trade, transportation & utilities rose slightly to 4.1%, but was down sharply from 4.4% in November. In education & health services, the rate held steady for a fourth month at 3.0%, the high end of the recovery's range. In manufacturing, the steady 2.8% hiring rate was reduced from July's high of 3.1%. The hiring rate in government rebounded to 1.7% from 1.6%.

Total hiring rose 4.2% (4.3% y/y) to 5.937 million. Hiring in the private sector also rose 4.3% y/y while government sector hiring gained 4.5% y/y.

The overall job separations rate held steady at 3.7% and was slightly below October's expansion high of 3.8%. The private sector separations rate rose slightly to 4.1%, but remained below the cycle high of 4.2% reached in July. It was increased, however, from the recession low of 3.4%. The separations rate in government held steady at 1.5%.

 The total level of separations increased 2.0% y/y. In the private sector, the 2.1% y/y rise reflected a 13.6% y/y surge in the construction sector. In the financial sector, separations jumped 12.5% y/y and roughly equaled the recovery's high. Separations in the information sector rose 3.2% y/y and in professional & business services they increased 3.4% y/y. In educational and health services, separations rose 1.2% y/y, but separations in trade, transportation & utilities were little changed y/y. Leisure & hospitality job separations increased 1.5% y/y and in manufacturing, they rose 1.7% y/y.  Separations in the government sector increased 1.5% y/y.

The level of quits rose 4.3% y/y to 3.482 million in April. 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 held at 2.6% and remained up from 1.4% in the fall of 2009. The government sector quits rate was stable at 0.8%.

The level of layoffs declined 2.0% y/y. In the private sector, layoffs fell 2.9% y/y, and the layoff rate remained near the record low at 1.3%, down from the 2009 high of 2.2%. Layoffs rose 14.3% y/y in the government sector and layoff rate rose slightly to 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) Apr Mar Feb Apr'18 Apr'17 Apr'16
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.7 4.7 4.5 4.6 4.0 3.9
 Total (000s) 7,449 7,474 7,142 7,106 6,157 5,872
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  3.9 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.6 3.7
 Total (000s) 5,937 5,697 5,695 5,694 5,292 5,304
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,752 1,693 1,784 1,788 1,719 1,783
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.2 2.1 2.1
 Total (000s) 3,482 3,461 3,447 3,339 3,030 2,952
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