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Economy in Brief

JOLTS: U.S. Job Openings Start To Improve And Separations Remain Stable
by Tom Moeller September 8, 2010

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the latest reading of labor market conditions improved modestly. The Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) indicated that the job openings rate during July ticked up to 2.3% following a downwardly revised June rate of 2.1%. Both figures remained lower versus the April high of 2.5%. Nevertheless, the rate remained improved from the recession low of 1.8% The job openings rate is the number of job openings on the last business day of the month as a percent of total employment plus job openings. Job availability also rose 6.2% and more-than recovered the June decline. It was up 30.1% versus July '09. Last year job availability fell 17.8% following a 29.7% decline during 2008.

The private-sector job openings rate rose to 2.5%, its highest since November 2008. The level of job openings rose 33.1% y/y and reflected, roughly, a more-than doubling of factory openings as well as a 42.4% increase in retail trade. The higher job openings rate was accompanied by a stable hires rate of 3.3% and a 4.2% increase in overall hiring. Private sector hires grew 4.1% led by an 11.8% rise in factory sector jobs and a 14.6% increase in retail trade employment. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The government sector's hiring rate was a modest 1.4%.

The job separations rate was stable m/m at 3.4% but was up from the series' low of 3.1% in April. It was its highest since last July. The actual number of separations fell 0.8% (-0.5% y/y) following two strong monthly increases. However, job separations in the private sector fell a sharp 3.9% y/y as separations in the government sector jumped 43.2 y/y. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff & discharge rate alone held steady at 1.6%, as the actual number of layoffs fell 9.8% y/y after a 12.6% increase during 2009. The private sector layoff rate held steady at 1.7%% but it fell to1.2% in the government sector which still was double that twelve months ago.

The JOLTS survey dates only to December 2000 but has followed the movement in nonfarm payrolls, though the actual correlation between the two series is low. A description of the Jolts survey and the latest release from the U.S. Department of Labor is available here and the figures are available in Haver's USECON database.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor  Turnover Survey) July June May July '09 2009 2008 2007
Job Openings, Total
  Rate (%) 2.3 2.1 2.2 1.8 1.9 2.2 3.1
  Total (000s) 3,042 2,864 2,939 2,338 2,531 3,078 4,378
Hires, Total
  Rate (%) 3.3 3.3 3.5 3.1 37.3 41.1 45.9
  Total (000s) 4,234 4,250 4,581 4,065 48,649 56,082 63,234
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
  Rate (%) 1.6 1.6 1.5 1.8 20.7 17.7 16.5
  Total (000s) 2,118 2,139 1,904 2,349 27,683 24,589 22,606
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