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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Improves in October
by Tom Moeller  December 8, 2021

• Job openings return to near-record level.

• Hiring is little changed.

• Quits decline after four consecutive increases.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that on the last business day of October, the total job openings rate rose to 6.9% from 6.7% in September, revised from 6.6%. The rate hit a record 7.0% in July of this year. 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 surged 4.1% (60.5% y/y) to 11.033 million from 10.602 million in September. The level of hiring fell 1.3% (+7.1% y/y) as the hiring rate held steady at 4.4%. The rate remained well above the 3.8% low this past January. The overall layoff & discharge rate remained at the record low of 0.9% for the third straight month. The quits rate eased to 2.8% from the record 3.0% in September and compared to the most recent low of 1.6% in April 2020. The level of quits rose 24.0% y/y to 4.157 million. The JOLTS figures date back to December 2000.

The private-sector job openings rate returned to the record 7.4% after falling to 7.1% in September. It has improved from a 3.6% low in April 2020. The highest rates were in leisure & hospitality (10.3%) and professional & business services (7.9%). The government sector job openings rate fell to an elevated 4.0% from 4.3%. The level of private sector job openings rose 5.2% to 10.118 million, up nearly two-thirds y/y. The number of government job openings fell 7.5% (+30.6% y/y).

The private sector hiring rate fell to 4.8% in October, the lowest rate since May. A hiring rate of 8.0% in leisure & hospitality accompanied a 5.0% rate in construction. In the government sector, the hiring rate was 1.7%. The level of private sector hiring declined 1.7% in October (+7.1% y/y) to 6.10 million. The government sector jobs level rose 7.1% (7.4% y/y) in October.

Data on job separations reflect a combination of layoffs and quits. The total separations rate eased to 4.0% in October and compared to the record 10.8% in March of last year. The private separations rate fell to 4.4% in October and compared to a low of 3.7% in May of last year. The government sector separation rate edged higher to 1.6% in October, remaining up from the record low 1.2% in both June and July. The level of all separations rose 8.6% y/y. Private sector separations increased 13.7% y/y led by a 34.2% y/y rise in leisure & hospitality and a 25.6% y/y gain in information sector separations.

The layoff & discharge rate in the private sector returned to the record low of 1.0%. The 0.6% layoff & discharge rate in education & health services compared to 1.6% in professional & business services. These compared to 0.3% in government.

Workers continue to look for new job opportunities. The private sector quits rate of 3.1% remained well above its 2.6% rate one year ago. The rate has been trending higher since the low of 1.8% in the spring of 2020. It compared to a 0.9% quits rate in government. The October level of job quits in the private sector increased 26.5% y/y. In government, the level of quits declined 10.1% y/y.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Oct Sep Aug Oct'20 Oct'19 Oct'18
 Rate (%) 6.9 6.7 6.7 4.6 4.6 4.7
 Total (000s) 11,033 10,602 10,629 6,873 7,340 7,295
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 4.4 4.4 4.4 4.2 3.8 3.9
 Total (000s) 6,464 6,546 6,497 6,035 5,799 5,876
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 0.9 0.9 0.9 1.2 1.2 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,361 1,396 1,385 1,728 1,793 1,824
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.8 3.0 2.9 2.4 2.3 2.3
 Total (000s) 4,157 4,362 4,270 3,352 3,414 3,460
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