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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Surge to Record Level in July
by Tom Moeller  September 8, 2021

• Total job openings rise but hiring declines.

• Layoff rate edges higher.

• Quits increase.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that on the last business day of July, the level of job openings rose 7.4% m/m (62.8% y/y) to a record 10.93 million from 10.19 million in June, revised from 10.07 million. The total job openings rate surged to a record 6.9% from an unrevised 6.5% in June. The job openings rate is calculated as job openings as a percent of total employment plus jobs that have not yet been filled. The level of hiring fell 2.3% (+6.9% y/y) as the hiring rate declined to 4.5% in July from 4.7% in June, revised from 4.6%. Despite the decline, the rate was higher than the 3.8% low this past January. The overall layoff & discharge rate rose slightly to 1.0% in July from the record low of 0.9% in both May and June. The quits rate held at 2.7%, remaining above a low of 1.6% in April 2020. The JOLTS figures date back to December 2000.

The private-sector job openings rate also strengthened to a record 7.3% in July from 6.9% in June. It was increased from 3.6% April 2020. The leisure & hospitality rate surged to a record 10.7% in July while the professional & business services rate reached a record 8.1%. The factory sector job openings rate held at the record 6.7% in July while the education & health services rate jumped to a series high of 7.7%. The construction sector rate in July eased m/m to 4.2% and has moved sideways since March. The government sector job openings rate rose sharply in July to a record 4.6. The private sector job openings level rose 7.1% to 9.88 million, up roughly two-thirds y/y.

Finding workers to fill job openings remained difficult in July. The private sector hiring rate fell to 4.9% from 5.2% in June, though it remained up from January's 4.2% low. It remained well below the record 7.2% in May of last year. The level of private sector hiring declined 3.6% in July (+4.6% y/y) to 6.17 million.

Data on job separations reflect a combination of layoffs and quits. The separations rate of 3.9% in July compared to the record 10.8% in March of last year. The level of separations rose 7.3% y/y. Private sector separations increased 11.4% y/y and the private separations rate rose to 4.4% in July, a three-month high. The government sector separation rate held at 1.2% in July, matching the record low.

The layoff & discharge rate in the private sector edged higher in July to 1.1%, up from the record low of 1.0% in May and June. It compared to a near-record low of 0.3% in government.

Workers continue to look for new job opportunities. The private sector 3.1% quits rate in July equaled the record high. It modestly increased m/m and remained well above 2.6% in January. The rate has been trending higher since the low of 1.8% in the spring of 2020 and compared to 0.7% in government. The July level of job quits in the private sector increased roughly one-third y/y. In government, the level of quits fell 34.1% y/y.

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

The Fed's latest Beige Book covering regional economic conditions can be found here.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Jul Jun May Jul'20 Jul'19 Jun'18
 Rate (%) 6.9 6.5 6.1 4.6 4.5 4.6
 Total (000s) 10,934 10,185 9,483 6,717 7,137 7,209
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  4.5 4.7 4.2 4.5 4.0 3.8
 Total (000s) 6,667 6,827 6,022 6,237 5,987 5,707
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.0 0.9 0.9 1.3 1.2 1.2
 Total (000s) 1.459 1,354 1,353 1.845 1,826 1,791
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.7 2.7 2.5 2.3 2.4 2.3
 Total (000s) 3,977 3,870 3,630 3,182 3,627 3,444
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