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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Increases in January but Hiring Rate Declines
by Tom Moeller  March 11, 2021

• Both the job openings rate & the number of openings improve slightly.

• Hiring activity continues to weaken.

• Layoffs & quits ease.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that on the last business day of January, the total job openings rate rose to 4.6% from an unrevised 4.5%. It was the highest level in three months. The openings rate is calculated as job openings as a percent of total employment plus jobs that have not yet been filled. The January figure remained below the 4.7% record in January 2019. The hiring rate fell to 3.7%, its lowest level since April of last year. The overall layoff & discharge rate eased to 1.2% and reversed its November increase to 1.5%. The quits rate rose eased to 2.3% and has been moving sideways for six months. These figures date back to December 2000.

The private-sector job openings rate rose to 4.9%. It remained below the record rate of 5.1% reached in November 2018. The professional & business services rate eased to 6.2% and the leisure & hospitality rate slipped to 5.3%. The government sector job openings rate edged higher to 3.1%. The job openings level rose 2.4% (-3.3% y/y) to 6.917 million.

In January, the hiring rate fell to 3.7%, remaining well below the record 6.2% in May. The private sector hiring rate eased to 4.1%. The government sector hiring rate held steady at 1.6%, down from 2.6% in August. The factory sector hiring rate fell sharply to 2.9%. The leisure & hospitality rate jumped to 7.0%. The professional & business service sector hiring rate eased to 5.0%. The level of hiring declined 2.0% (-11.3% y/y) to 5.301 million.

Data on job separations reflect a combination of layoffs and quits. The separations rate of 3.7% in January compared to the record 10.8% in March of last year. The level of separations declined 7.1% y/y. Private sector separations fell 7.3% y/y and the private separations rate declined to 4.1% while government fell to 1.5%.

The layoff & discharge rate in the private sector eased to 1.3%, roughly a record low. The rate held at 0.4% in government. The 2.7% rate in construction still was above the record low of 2.0% in September and compared to 0.8% in manufacturing. The lessened 0.8% rate in the information sector remained below the record 6.8% in March. It compared to a steady 0.4% in finance. The professional & business services layoff & discharge rate fell to a record low of 1.5% and was down from an all-time high of 6.3% in April.

The quits rate of 2.6% in the private sector remained up from 1.8% in May. It compared to a lessened 0.8% in government. In manufacturing, the job quits rate was steady m/m at 2.0% and remained up from 1.0% in April. In finance, the quits rate surged to 1.7% from 1.2%. The quits rate in professional & business services held steady at 2.8% after surging to 3.3% in September. In leisure & hospitality, the quits rate held at a near-record 5.0%. The level of job quits in the private sector fell 7.3% y/y. In government, the level of quits declined 5.1% 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) Jan Dec Nov Jan'20 Jan'19 Jan'18
 Rate (%) 4.6 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.7 4.3
 Total (000s) 6,917 6,752 6,766 7,154 7,478 6,601
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  3.7 3.8 4.2 3.9 3.8 3.7
 Total (000s) 5,301 5,411 6,019 5,974 5,741 5,459
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.3 1.5 1.2 1.1 1.4
 Total (000s) 1,687 1,823 2,123 1,788 1,689 1,994
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.3 2.4 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.1
 Total (000s) 3,311 3,407 3,296 3,568 3,521 3,034
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