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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Decline as Hiring Steadies
by Tom Moeller  November 5, 2019

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total job openings rate fell to 4.4% during September from 4.6% in August, revised from 4.4%. It remained below the 4.8% record in January. 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 held steady as the hiring rate stayed at 3.9%. It has been moving sideways since early last year. Employers became less reluctant to let people go. The layoff & discharge rate rose m/m to 1.3%. It was the highest level since November of last year and up from June's 1.1% low. Individuals became slightly less ready to find new work. The quits rate eased m/m to 2.3% from 2.4%, but remained near the record high.

The private-sector job openings rate declined m/m to 4.7%. The rate has increased from 4.5% since early last year. In professional & business services, the rate eased m/m to 5.5% and remained below January's 6.5% high. In leisure & hospitality, the rate improved to 5.5% but remained below December's high of 6.2%. In education & health services, the rate fell sharply to 4.7%, the lowest level in nearly two years. In trade, transportation & utilities, the rate eased to 4.4%. The openings rate fell to 4.3% in the construction sector but remained below the record 5.5% reached in April. In manufacturing, the rate held steady at 3.5%. The government sector job openings rate slipped m/m to 3.1%, but remained well above the 2009 low of 1.2%.

The level of job openings declined 3.8% (-5.0% y/y) and has been declining steadily since January's high. It remained the lowest level since March of last year. Private-sector openings fell 7.0% y/y, but government sector job openings increased 16.6% y/y.

Hiring activity remained steady in September. The private-sector hiring rate was unchanged at 4.3%, but remained slightly below July's expansion high of 4.4%. The rate in leisure & hospitality was steady at 6.8%. In professional & business services, the hiring rate increased sharply to 5.7%, the highest level since April. It nevertheless remained below the June 2017 high of 6.1%. The construction sector's hiring rate strengthened m/m to 5.7%, but remained below the high of 6.6% in December 2016. The hiring rate in trade, transportation & utilities improved to 4.3% and in education & health services the rate rose slightly to 2.9% after a sharp August drop. In manufacturing, the hiring rate rose slightly to 2.7%, but remained below the July 2018 high of 3.1%. The hiring rate in government eased to 1.6%.

Total hiring edged 0.8% higher (4.7% y/y) after a 1.6% August decline. Hiring in the private sector rebounded 1.4% (4.5% y/y) while government sector hiring declined 6.8% (+7.6% y/y).

Individuals remained ready to find new work. The overall job separations rate held at 3.8%, equaling the expansion high. The private sector separations rate held at the cycle high of 4.2%. The separations rate in government rose slightly to 1.6%.

The total level of separations rose an increased 4.5% y/y. The private sector's rate rose 4.6% y/y. The increase reflected a 10.0% y/y gain in professional & business services separations. In educational and health services, separations climbed 4.3% y/y, and separations in trade, transportation & utilities rose 3.5% y/y. Separations in leisure & hospitality rose 1.6% y/y. The construction sector saw a 15.8% y/y rise in separations. Separations in manufacturing rose 11.6% y/y while separations in the government sector rose 3.8% y/y.

Confidence in finding work fell recently. The level of quits fell for the second straight month and rose a reduced 3.1% y/y. The quits rate slipped m/m to 2.3%, but was sharply higher versus 1.3% at the beginning of the expansion. The private-sector quits rate eased to 2.6%, but has increased from 1.4% since the fall of 2009. The government sector quits rate of 0.8% held steady m/m, but was double the rate at the beginning of the economic expansion.

The level of layoffs surged in the last three months, and rose 8.0% y/y. In the private sector, layoffs increased 9.3% y/y and the layoff rate surged to 1.4%, the highest level since November. It nevertheless remained below the 2009 high of 2.2%. Layoffs declined 11.1% y/y in the government sector and the layoff rate was steady 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) Sep Aug July Sep'18 Sep'17 Sep'16
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.4 4.6 4.5 4.7 4.1 3.9
 Total (000s) 7,024 7,301 7,174 7,392 6,256 5,828
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  3.9 3.9 3.9 3.8 3.7 3.6
 Total (000s) 5,934 5,884 5,978 5,670 5,395 5,273
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.3 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.1
 Total (000s) 1,964 1,812 1,788 1,818 1,817 1,593
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.3 2.4 2.4 2.3 2.2 2.1
 Total (000s) 3,498 3,601 3,668 3,393 3,210 3,038
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