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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Opportunities Rate Holds Steady but Hiring Slips
by Tom Moeller  November 10, 2020

• The number of job openings improves slightly. 

• Layoffs decline but quits rise.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that on the last business day of September, the total job openings rate held steady at 4.3%. August's figure was revised down 0.1% from 4.4%. The openings rate is calculated as job openings as a percent of total employment plus jobs that have not yet been filled. The September figure remained below the 4.8% record in January 2019. The hiring rate eased to 4.1% from an unrevised 4.2% in August. The overall layoff and discharge rate fell to 0.9%, down from 7.6% in March. The quits rate rose slightly to 2.1%, but remained below the record 2.4% in July of last year. These figures date back to December 2000.

The job openings level rose 1.3% to 6.436 million, down 8.7% y/y. The job openings level in the construction sector fell 31.2% y/y but in manufacturing, it rose 3.4% y/y. It fell by 21.5% y/y in leisure & hospitality but rose 1.3% y/y in the professional & business service sector. In government, the number of job openings declined 3.6% y/y.

The private-sector job openings rate improved to 4.6% but remained below the record rate of 5.1% reached in January 2019. The construction sector's job openings rate fell sharply to 3.1% and remained well below its 5.4% peak in April 2019. The rate in manufacturing eased m/m to 3.6%, but remained up y/y. The rate in leisure & hospitality held steady at 5.7% but was below the record 6.6% in June. The rate in professional & business services strengthened to 6.0%, up from a recent low of 4.8% in May. The government sector job openings rate eased to 3.1% from 3.2% in August, revised from 3.8%.

In September, the level of hiring declined 1.4% to 5.871 million (-1.5% y/y) following a 0.8% August gain. The hiring rate eased to 4.1%, down from the record 5.4% in May but still in the expansion's up-trend. The private sector hiring rate edged up to 4.6% but the government sector hiring rate collapsed to 1.4% from 2.5%. The factory sector hiring rate fell to 2.9% from 3.2%, but the leisure & hospitality rate rose to 8.1% from 7.4%. The professional & business service sector hiring rate slipped to a still-elevated 5.7%, and the education & health services hiring rate improved to 3.2% from 3.0% one year earlier.

Data on job separations reflect a combination of layoffs and quits. The separations rate of 3.3% compared to the record 9.7% in March. The level of separations declined 18.7% y/y. Private sector separations fell 19.6% y/y and the separations rate fell to 3.6%, just above the record low of 3.5% in May. The separations rate fell to 5.5% in leisure & hospitality, significantly lower than 32.7% in March. Professional & business realized a separations rate of 4.7% after surging to a record 8.0% in March. The steady 2.6% separations rate in education & health services remained above May's record low of 2.4%.

The layoff & discharge rate in the private sector declined to a record low of 1.0% in September, but rose to 0.6% in government. The record low of 1.4% in construction occurred at the same time as another record low of 0.7% in manufacturing. The lower 0.9% rate in the information sector stood below the record 3.7% in April. It compared to 0.7% in finance. The professional & business services layoff & discharge rate declined to a record low of 1.4%, down from an all-time high of 5.1% in March.

The higher quits rate of 2.4% in the private sector remained up from 1.6% in April. It compared to an increased 0.7% in government. In manufacturing, the job quits rate held steady at a near-record 1.7%, up from 0.9% in April. In finance, it declined to 1.2% from 1.5%, both down from the high of 1.8% in August of last year. The quits rate in professional & business services surged to 3.0%, the highest level since January. In leisure & hospitality, the quits rate rose modestly to 4.0%. The level of job quits in the private sector rose 6.4% but was down a lessened 11.5% y/y. In government, the level of quits declined 19.8% y/y.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Sep Aug Jul Sep'19 Sep'18 Sep'17
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.3 4.3 4.6 4.4 4.6 4.1
 Total (000s) 6,436 6,352 6,697 7,046 7,282 6,239
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  4.1 4.2 4.2 3.9 3.8 3.7
 Total (000s) 5,871 5,952 5,903 5,959 5,610 5,401
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 0.9 1.1 1.3 1.3 1.2 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,333 1,533 1,745 1,962 1,780 1,807
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.1 2.0 2.1 2.3 2.3 2.2
 Total (000s) 3.018 2,839 2,932 3,429 3,400 3,212
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