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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Opportunities Rate Improves But Hiring Rate Weakens
by Tom Moeller  December 9, 2020

• The number of job openings strengthened. 

• Hiring falters.

• Layoffs increase as quits hold steady.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that on the last business day of October, the total job openings rate improved to 4.5% from September's 4.4%, revised from 4.3%. The openings rate is calculated as job openings as a percent of total employment plus jobs that have not yet been filled. The October figure remained below the 4.8% record in January 2019. The hiring rate eased to 4.1% from 4.2% in September, revised from 4.1%. The overall layoff and discharge rate rose to 1.2% and reversed declines during the prior two months. The quits rate held steady at an upwardly revised 2.2%, but remained below the record 2.4% in July of last year. These figures date back to December 2000.

The job openings level rose 2.4% to 6.652 million, down 9.0% y/y. The job openings level in the construction sector fell 29.2% y/y but in manufacturing, it rose 30.3% y/y. It fell by 18.9% y/y in leisure & hospitality but rose 2.8% y/y in the professional & business service sector. In government, the number of job openings declined 8.0% y/y.

The private-sector job openings rate improved to 4.7% but remained below the record rate of 5.1% reached in January 2019. The construction sector's job openings rate held steady at 3.0% and remained well below its 5.4% peak in April 2019. The rate in manufacturing rose m/m to 4.1% from 3.9%, and remained up from 2.4% in March. The rate in leisure & hospitality held steady at 5.6%, remaining below the record 6.6% in June. The rate in professional & business services slipped to 5.8% but remained up from a recent low of 4.8% in May. The government sector job openings rate edged up to 3.2% from 3.1% in September.

In October, the level of hiring declined 1.3% (+1.0% y/y) to 5.812 million following a 1.1% September fall. The hiring rate of 4.1% was below the record 5.4% in May, but remained in the recovery's up-trend. The private sector hiring rate edged lower to 4.5%. The government sector hiring rate improved to 1.5% after falling from 2.5% in August. The factory sector hiring rate eased to 3.0%, a three-month low. The leisure & hospitality rate rose to 8.1% from 8.0%. The professional & business service sector hiring rate declined to 5.3%, down from 6.0% in June, 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 3.6% in October compared to the record 9.7% in March. The level of separations declined 8.5% y/y. Private sector separations fell 10.9% y/y and the separations rate held steady at 3.8%, above the record low of 3.5% in May. The separations rate rose to 5.8% in leisure & hospitality, significantly lower than 32.7% in March. The professional & business rate eased to 4.8% after surging to a record 8.0% in March. The rate in education & health services rose to 2.8% and remained above May's record low of 2.4%.

The layoff & discharge rate in the private sector rose to 1.2% from the record low of 1.1% in September, but jumped to a record 1.0% from 0.6% in government. The 2.6% rate in construction was above the record low of 1.9% in September and compared to 0.9% in manufacturing. The higher 0.8% rate in the information sector remained below the record 3.7% in April. It compared to 0.6% in finance. The professional & business services layoff & discharge rate rose slightly to 1.7% but was down from an all-time high of 5.1% in March.

The steady quits rate of 2.4% in the private sector remained up from 1.6% in April. It compared to an increased 0.8% in government and was 0.5% in June. In manufacturing, the job quits rate eased m/m to 1.8%, but remained up from 0.9% in April. In finance, the quits rate rose to 1.4% from 1.2%, remaining below the high of 1.8% in August of last year. The quits rate in professional & business services fell to 2.8% after surging to 3.1% which was the highest level since January. In leisure & hospitality, the quits rate rose modestly to 4.2%. The level of job quits in the private sector eased 0.1% and was down 10.5% y/y. In government, the level of quits declined 2.8% 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) Oct Sep Aug Oct'19 Oct'18 Oct'17
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.5 4.4 4.3 4.6 4.7 4.2
 Total (000s) 6,652 6,494 6,352 7,309 7,237 6,383
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  4.1 4.2 4.2 3.8 3.9 3.8
 Total (000s) 5,812 5,886 5,952 5,757 5,855 5,635
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,680 1,437 1,533 1,778 1,830 1,819
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.2 2.2 2.0 2.3 2.3 2.2
 Total (000s) 3,092 3.074 2,839 3,429 3,400 3,212
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