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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Remains Elevated in September
by Tom Moeller  November 12, 2021

• Both job openings & hiring dip from record levels.

• Layoff rate holds steady as job market remains tight.

• Quits increase by more than one-third y/y.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that on the last business day of September, the total job openings rate eased to 6.6% from 6.7% in August, revised from 6.6%. The rate hit a record 7.0% in July. 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 job openings fell 1.8% (+57.9% y/y) to 10.438 million from 10.629 million in August, revised from 10.439 million. The level of hiring fell 0.6% (+8.9% y/y) as the hiring rate held steady at 4.4%. August was revised from 4.3%. The rate remained higher than the 3.8% low this past January. The overall layoff & discharge rate remained at the record low of 0.9%. The quits rate rose to a record 3.0% in September, well above its low of 1.6% in April 2020. The level of quits rose 34.1% y/y to a record 4.434 million. The JOLTS figures date back to December 2000.

The private-sector job openings rate eased to 7.1% from 7.2% and was below the record 7.4% in July. It has improved from 3.6% April 2020. The leisure & hospitality openings rate fell to 9.4%, remaining below the record 11.2% in July while the professional & business services rate declined to 7.8% in September from the August record of 8.2%. The education & health services openings rate rebounded to 7.4% after falling in August to 7.0%. The retail trade job openings rate fell to 6.8% from the record 7.2%. The factory sector job openings rate increased to 6.7% from 6.5% but remained below the July record of 6.8%. The construction sector rate in September declined to 4.3%, a four-month low. The government sector job openings rate held at 3.7% after plunging from 4.6% in July. The private sector job openings level declined 2.0% to 9.581 million, but remained up by nearly two-thirds y/y.

The private sector hiring rate held steady at 4.9% in September, but remained up from January's 4.2% low. It was well below the record 7.2% in May of last year. The hiring rate of 8.3% in leisure & hospitality compared to 3.5% in education & health services. In the government sector, the hiring rate was 1.2%. The level of private sector hiring improved 0.8% in September (10.4% y/y) to 6.19 million.

Data on job separations reflect a combination of layoffs and quits. The total separations rate rose slightly to 4.2% in September and compared to the record 10.8% in March of last year. The level of all separations rose 18.8% y/y. Private sector separations increased 22.6% y/y led by a 43.3% y/y rise in leisure & hospitality. The private separations rate rose to 4.7% in September and compared to a low of 3.7% in May of last year. The government sector separation rate rose to 1.5% in September, up from the record low 1.2% in both June and July.

The layoff & discharge rate in the private sector remained at 1.1% for the third straight month and stood near the May/June record low of 1.0%. It compared to a record low of 0.2% in government, where it has been for four straight months.

Workers continue to look for new job opportunities. The private sector quits rate rose to a record 3.4% and remained well above 2.6% one year ago. The rate has been trending higher since the low of 1.8% in the spring of 2020 and compared to a 1.0% rate in government. The September level of job quits in the private sector increased 36.0% y/y. In government, the level of quits rose 5.9% y/y and has been trending higher since 2009.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Sep Aug Jul Sep'20 Sep'19 Sep'18
 Rate (%) 6.6 6.7 7.0 4.5 4.5 4.7
 Total (000s) 10,438 10,629 11,098 6,611 7,100 7,352
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  4.4 4.4 4.6 4.2 3.9 3.8
 Total (000s) 6,459 6,497 6,761 5,932 5,970 5,616
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 0.9 0.9 1.0 1.1 1.3 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,375 1,385 1,423 1,555 1,982 1,778
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 3.0 2.9 2.7 2.3 2.3 2.3
 Total (000s) 4,434 4,270 4,028 3,307 3,449 3,424
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