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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings & Hiring Rates Improve Sharply in February
by Tom Moeller  April 6, 2021

• Number of openings and hiring strengthens.

• Layoffs & quits rise slightly.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that on the last business day of February, the total job openings rate strengthened to a record 4.9% from 4.7% in January, revised from 4.6%. The openings rate is calculated as job openings as a percent of total employment plus jobs that have not yet been filled. The hiring rate improved to 4.0% following two months at a depressed 3.8%. The overall layoff & discharge rate held steady at 1.2%. The quits rate rose also was unchanged at 2.3% and has been moving sideways since July. The JOLTS figures date back to December 2000.

The private-sector job openings rate jumped to a record 5.2% from 5.0%. The professional & business services rate eased to 6.3% but the leisure & hospitality rate rose sharply, also to 6.3%. The education & health services rate also jumped to a record 6.3%. The government sector job openings rate fell to 2.9%, the lowest reading in nine months. The private sector job openings level rose 5.5% (7.9% y/y) to 6.732 million.

In February, the private sector hiring rate rose to 4.5%, but remained well below the record 7.2% in May of last year. The leisure & hospitality rate jumped to 8.6%. The professional & business service sector edged higher to 5.3% while the factory sector hiring rate rose to 3.2%.The government sector hiring rate fell to 1.4%, down from a 2.6% high in August. The level of private sector hiring rose 6.7% (-2.6% y/y) to 5.446 million.

Data on job separations reflect a combination of layoffs and quits. The separations rate of 3.8% in February compared to the record 10.8% in March of last year. The level of separations declined 4.5% y/y. Private sector separations fell 4.8% y/y and the private separations rate edged higher to 4.2%, while government's rose to 1.6%.

The layoff & discharge rate in the private sector edged higher to 1.4% but remained near the record low. The professional & business services layoff & discharge rate rose to 2.1% and was down from an all-time high of 6.3% in April. The 3.4% rate in construction compared to 0.7% in manufacturing. The higher 1.0% rate in the information sector remained below the record 6.8% in March. It compared to a slightly higher 0.6% in finance. The rate held at 0.4% in government.

The steady quits rate of 2.6% in the private sector remained up from 1.8% in May. It compared to 0.9% in government. In the leisure & hospitality sector, the quits rate slipped to 4.6%. The quits rate in professional & business services held steady at 2.8% for the third straight month. In manufacturing, the job quits rate was steady m/m at 2.1% and remained up from 1.0% in April of last year. In finance, the quits rate eased to 1.6%. The level of job quits in the private sector fell 2.3% y/y. In government, the level of quits rose 2.1% y/y.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) are available in Haver's USECON database.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Feb Jan Dec Feb'20 Feb'19 Feb'18
 Rate (%) 4.9 4.7 4.5 4.4 4.5 4.3
 Total (000s) 7,367 7,099 6,752 7,012 7,058 6,586
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  4.0 3.8 3.8 3.9 3.8 3.8
 Total (000s) 5,738 5,465 5,411 5,979 5,668 5,633
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.2 1.3 1.3 1.2 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,775 1,724 1,823 1,953 1,769 1,758
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.3 2.3 2.4 2.2 2.4 2.2
 Total (000s) 3,357 3,306 3,407 3,430 3,543 3,200
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