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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: August Job Openings Fall from Record
by Tom Moeller  October 12, 2021

• Both job openings & hiring rates decline.

• Layoff rate also eases.

• Quits increase again.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that on the last business day of August, the level of job openings fell 5.9% (+61.8% y/y) in August to 10.439 million from the record 11.098 million in July, revised from 10.934 million. The total job openings rate fell to 6.6% from the record 7.0% in July, revised from 6.9%. 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 6.5% (-1.7% y/y) as the hiring rate declined to 4.3% in August from 4.6% in July. The rate remained higher than the 3.8% low this past January. The overall layoff & discharge rate returned to the record low of 0.9% from an upwardly revised 1.0% in July. The quits rate rose to a record 2.9% in August, remaining above a low of 1.6% in April 2020. The JOLTS figures date back to December 2000.

The private-sector job openings rate eased to 7.1% from the record 7.4% in July. It has increased from 3.6% April 2020. The leisure & hospitality rate eased to 10.1% from the record 11.2% in July while the professional & business services rate slipped to 7.9% from July's record 8.1%. The factory sector job openings rate fell to 6.5% from the record 6.8% in July while the education & health services rate declined to 6.8% from July's record 7.7%. The construction sector rate in August eased m/m to 4.4% from July's 4.5% and has moved sideways since March. The government sector job openings rate plunged in August to 3.7% from 4.6% and stood at the lowest level in six months. The private sector job openings level declined 4.4% to 9.60 million, but remained up by two-thirds y/y.

The private sector hiring rate declined to 4.8% in August, 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 4.1% in August (+2.8% y/y) to 6.01 million.

Data on job separations reflect a combination of layoffs and quits. The total separations rate of 4.1% in August compared to the record 10.8% in March of last year. The level of total separations rose 22.5% y/y. Private sector separations increased 26.8% y/y and the private separations rate rose to 4.6% in August. That compared to a low of 3.7% in May of last year. The government sector separation rate edged up to 1.3% in August from the record low 1.2% in both June and July.

The layoff & discharge rate in the private sector returned to the record low of 1.0%. It compared to a near-record low of 0.2% in government, where it has been for three straight months.

Workers continue to look for new job opportunities. The private sector quits rate of 3.3% set a new record high, remaining well above 2.3% one year earlier. The rate has been trending higher since the low of 1.8% in the spring of 2020 and compared to a 0.8% rate in government. The August level of job quits in the private sector increased 48.2% y/y. In government, the level of quits rose 21.5% y/y.

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

U.S. Economic Outlook and Monetary Policy from Fed Vice Chair Richard H. Clarida can be found here.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Aug Jul Jun Aug'20 Aug'19 Aug'18
 Rate (%) 6.6 7.0 6.5 4.4 4.5 4.6
 Total (000s) 10,439 11,098 10,185 6,451 7,150 7,204
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  4.3 4.6 4.7 4.6 3.9 3.9
 Total (000s) 6,322 6,761 6,827 6,431 5,907 5,863
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 0.9 1.0 0.9 1.1 1.2 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,343 1.423 1,354 1.573 1,825 1,838
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.9 2.7 2.7 2.1 2.4 2.3
 Total (000s) 4,270 4,028 3,870 2,987 3,591 3,476
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