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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Ease
by Tom Moeller  April 7, 2020

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that total the job openings rate slipped to 4.3% during February from 4.4% in January. The rate is openings as a percent of total employment plus openings. These figures remained below the 4.8% record reached in January 2019. The hiring rate held steady at 3.9% in February and remained near it expansion high of 4.0% reached last July. The layoff and discharge rate rose to 1.2% in February, up from 1.1% which equaled the lowest point on record. The quit rate was unchanged at 2.3% and remained slightly below the highest rate of the expansion.

On the last business day of February, the job openings level totaled 6.882 million, down 2.4% y/y. The number of job openings fell 2.1% m/m (-3.8% y/y) for total private but edged 0.1% higher (11.1% y/y) for government. Job openings fell 9.1% y/y in manufacturing but rose 3.7% y/y in health & human services. The number of job openings fell 7.4% y/y in leisure & hospitality and declined 9.0% y/y in professional & business services.

The private-sector job openings rate declined to 4.3% from a downwardly revised 4.4% in January. The record rate is 5.1% reached in January 2019. The construction sector's job openings rate of 3.5% compared to 5.4% at its peak in April of last year. The rate in manufacturing was 3.2%. On the high side, the rate in leisure & hospitality held at 5.2% and was steady at 5.6% in professional & business services. The government sector job openings rate was unchanged at a record 3.3%.

In February, the level of hiring rose 3.4% to 5.896 million with the hiring rate steady at 3.9%. Private sector hiring rose 3.2% y/y while government hiring jumped 6.4% y/y. Hiring in construction rose 14.6% y/y, but was unchanged y/y in the factory sector. Leisure & hospitality hiring rose 1.9% y/y but it fell 7.6% y/y in professional & business services.

The total separations rate declined to a two-year low of 3.6% as the level of separations declined 2.0% y/y. The separations rate in the private sector fell to 4.0% and was 1.5% in government. The rate was 6.1% in leisure & hospitality, the lowest since December 2017. Professional & business realized a 4.8% rate, the lowest since December 2014. In education & health services the rate was 2.8%.

The layoff & discharge rate in the private sector rose to 1.3% while it was stable at 0.4% in government. The rate of 2.7% in construction compared to 0.9% in manufacturing. The 1.0% rate in the information sector was near the 0.6% rate in finance. The professional & business services layoff & discharge rate fell to 1.6%, the lowest since April 2018.

The quits rate held steady at an elevated 2.3%. The private sector quits rate of 2.5% compared to 0.8% in government. The level of job quits in the private sector fell 1.5% y/y but rose 3.8% y/y in government. In manufacturing, the level of job quits declined 7.7% y/y but it rose by one-quarter y/y in finance. The number of quit in professional & business services declined 2.2% y/y and fell 9.7% y/y in leisure & hospitality.

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

News Sentiment in the Time of COVID-19 from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is available here.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Feb Jan Dec Feb'19 Feb'18 Feb'17
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.3 4.4 4.1 4.5 4.3 3.9
 Total (000s) 6,882 6,963 6,552 7,048 6,575 5,872
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  3.9 3.9 3.9 3.8 3.8 3.7
 Total (000s) 5,896 5,925 5,927 5,703 5,669 5,366
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,755 1,741 1,893 1,791 1,781 1,698
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.4 2.1 2.1
 Total (000s) 3,497 3,574 3,528 3,541 3,175 3,081
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