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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Eases During November; Hiring Rate Steadies
by Tom Moeller  January 12, 2021

• Number of job openings drops as well.

• Level of hiring improves.

• Layoffs increase as quits hold steady.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that on the last business day of November, the total job openings rate slipped to 4.4% from October's unrevised 4.5%. The openings rate is calculated as job openings as a percent of total employment plus jobs that have not yet been filled. The November figure remained well below the 4.8% record in January 2019. The hiring rate was steady at October's 4.2%, revised from 4.1%. The overall layoff and discharge rate rose to 1.4%, the highest level since June. The quits rate held steady at 2.2% for the third straight month, up from 1.4% during April. These figures date back to December 2000.

The job openings level declined 1.6% to 6.527 million, down 3.9% y/y. The job openings level in the construction sector rose 9.8% y/y to 236,000 while in manufacturing, it rose 24.2% y/y to a greatly increased 498,000. It fell by 17.1% y/y in leisure & hospitality but rose 4.7% y/y in the professional & business service sector. In government, the number of job openings declined 7.5% y/y to the lowest level since June.

The private-sector job openings rate eased slightly to 4.6% and remained below the record rate of 5.1% reached in January 2019. The construction sector's job openings rate slipped to 3.1% and remained well below its 5.4% peak in April 2019. The rate in manufacturing rose m/m to 3.9% from 4.2%, but remained up from 2.4% in March. The rate in leisure & hospitality fell to 5.6%, remaining below the record 6.6% in June. The rate in professional & business services rose to 5.9%, up from the recent low of 4.8% in May. The government sector job openings rate fell to 3.0%, a five-month low.

In November, the level of hiring rose 1.1% (2.1% y/y) to 5.979 million following a 0.4% October improvement. The hiring rate was steady at 4.2% for the fifth straight month and was below the record 5.4% in May. The private sector hiring rate edged higher to 4.7%, the highest level since July. The government sector hiring rate held at 1.6%, down from 2.5% in August. The factory sector hiring rate edged up to 3.2%, a three-month high. The leisure & hospitality rate declined to 7.3%, half the rate in June. The professional & business service sector hiring rate surged to 6.3%, the highest level since January 2001. The education & health services hiring rate was stable m/m at 3.2%.

Data on job separations reflect a combination of layoffs and quits. The separations rate of 3.8% in November compared to the record 9.7% in March. The level of separations declined 4.3% y/y. Private sector separations fell 5.6% y/y but the separations rate rose to 4.1%, above the record low of 3.5% in May. The separations rate rose to 8.2% in leisure & hospitality but remained significantly lower than 32.7% in March. The professional & business rate rose to 5.1%, the highest level since April. The rate in education & health services remained at 2.8% and was above May's record low of 2.4%.

The layoff & discharge rate in the private sector rose to 1.5% and was above the record low of 1.1% in September. The rate eased m/m to 0.9% in government. The steady 2.7% rate in construction was above the record low of 1.9% in September and compared to a lessened 0.8% in manufacturing. The higher 1.0% rate in the information sector and remained below the record 3.7% in April. It compared to a lessened 0.6% in finance. The professional & business services layoff & discharge rate rose slightly to 1.9% but was down from an all-time high of 5.1% in March.

The steady quits rate of 2.5% in the private sector remained up from 1.6% in April. It compared to an increased 0.8% in government. In manufacturing, the job quits rate was steady m/m at 1.8% and remained up from 0.9% in April. In finance, the quits rate fell to 1.2% from 1.4%, remaining below the high of 1.8% in August of last year. The quits rate in professional & business services held steady at 2.9% after surging to 3.1% in September which was the highest level since January. In leisure & hospitality, the quits rate rose to 4.7%. The level of job quits in the private sector rose 0.6% but was down 10.5% y/y. In government, the level of quits declined 12.2% 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) Nov Oct Sep Nov'19 Nov'18 Nov'17
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.4 4.5 4.4 4.3 4.8 4.0
 Total (000s) 6,527 6,632 6,494 6,793 7,509 6,204
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  4.2 4.2 4.2 3.9 3.9 3.7
 Total (000s) 5,979 5,912 5,886 5,857 5,818 5,473
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.4 1.2 1.0 1.2 1.3 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,971 1,676 1,437 1,769 1,910 1,732
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.2 2.2 2.2 2.3 2.3 2.2
 Total (000s) 3,156 3,150 3.074 3,528 3,460 3,157
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