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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Slips; Hiring Rate Steadies
by Tom Moeller  August 6, 2019

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total job openings rate eased to 4.6% during June from 4.7% in May, revised from 4.6%. It remained below the 4.8% record logged early this year. The job openings rate is the job openings level as a percent of total employment plus the job openings level. The ability to find workers to fill openings remained difficult. The hiring rate held steady at 3.8%. It has been below the openings rate since mid-2014. Employers are still reluctant to let people go. The layoff & discharge rate has returned to the record low of 1.1%. Individuals remain ready to find new work. The quits rate in June held steady at a near-record 2.3% where it's been since last year.

The private-sector job openings rate also held steady m/m at 4.9%. It remained below the 5.2% record reached in November. The rate has 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 held m/m at 5.8% but was below January's 6.5%. In leisure & hospitality, the rate fell sharply to 5.3% and was below December's high of 6.2%. In education & health services, the rate held steady at 5.2%, up from 2.6% in 2010. In trade, transportation & utilities, the rate rose slightly to 4.8%. The rate declined sharply to 4.4% in the construction sector, down from the record 5.5% in April. In manufacturing, the rate held at the record of 3.8%, up from 3.6% twelve months earlier. The government sector job openings rate improved to a near-record 3.1%, up sharply from the 2009 low of 1.2%.

Job availability fell slightly m/m, but nevertheless remained plentiful. The level of job openings eased a modest 0.5% (-0.6% y/y) to 7.348 million after improving 0.2% to 7.384 million in May. These figures are just below the record high. Private-sector openings fell 1.8% y/y while government sector job openings jumped by one-third y/y.

Hiring activity remained stable. The private-sector hiring rate held at 4.2% and remained below January's expansion high of 4.4%. The rate in leisure & hospitality improved to 6.8%. In professional & business services, the hiring rate fell to 5.1% and remained below the June 2017 high of 6.1%. The construction sector's hiring rate improved m/m to 5.3%, but was well below the expansion high of 6.6% in December 2016. The hiring rate in trade, transportation & utilities held steady at 4.2%, and was down sharply from 4.4% in October. In education & health services, the rate was unchanged at 2.8%, below the earlier high of 3.0%. In manufacturing, the hiring rate fell sharply to 2.5%. This hiring rate was reduced from the July 2018 high of 3.1%. The hiring rate in government remained at 1.6%.

Total hiring declined 1.0% (-2.2% y/y) to 5.702 million. Hiring in the private sector fell 2.0% y/y while government sector hiring declined 5.9% y/y, down for the fourth month in the last five.

Individuals were somewhat less inclined to find new work. The overall job separations rate fell to 3.6% and remained below October's expansion high of 3.8%. The private sector separations rate eased to 4.0% and remained below the cycle high of 4.2% reached in July. It was up, however, from the recession low of 3.4%. The separations rate in government held steady at 1.5%.

The total level of separations fell 1.5% y/y. In the private sector, the 1.2% y/y decline reflected an 8.3% y/y fall in professional & business services. In educational and health services, separations fell 4.4% y/y, and separations in trade, transportation & utilities declined 2.7% y/y. In manufacturing, separations declined 7.0% y/y. Working the other way, separations in leisure & hospitality rose 9.5%. The construction sector realized a 10.8% y/y rise in separations. Leisure & hospitality job separations increased 9.5% y/y but separations in the government sector declined 5.6% y/y.

The level of quits rose 2.4% y/y to 3.433 million in June as confidence in finding work remained high. The near-record quits rate of 2.3% was increased sharply from 1.3% at the beginning of the expansion. The private-sector quits rate held at 2.5%, about where it's been for over a year, remaining up from 1.4% in the fall of 2009. The government sector quits rate fell sharply to 0.8%.

The level of layoffs declined 7.7% y/y. In the private sector, layoffs fell 8.1% y/y, and the layoff rate returned to a record low of 1.1%, down from the 2009 high of 2.2%. Layoffs rose 1.0% y/y in the government sector and the layoff rate was steady at 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) Jun May Apr Jun'18 Jun'17 Jun'16
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.6 4.7 4.7 4.7 4.2 3.9
 Total (000s) 7,348 7,384 7,372 7,393 6,371 5,778
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  3.8 3.8 4.0 3.9 3.9 3.7
 Total (000s) 5,702 5,760 5,991 5,833 5,652 5,288
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.3 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,702 1,773 1,830 1,843 1,958 1,738
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.2 2.1 2.1
 Total (000s) 3,433 3,478 3,516 3,354 3,151 2,982
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