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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS Rate Slips But The Number of Openings Falls Hard
by Tom Moeller  October 12, 2011

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that the August job openings rate slipped m/m to 2.3%. The latest reading remained improved versus the recession low of 1.6%. 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. Falling hard, however, was the actual number of job openings. They posted a 4.9% m/m drop (+6.8% y/y) to the lowest level since May. The number of private sector openings fell 5.1% (+7.9% y/y) while public sector openings fell 3.2% (-2.3% y/y).

The private-sector job openings rate slipped m/m to 2.5% from a revised 2.6% but has been moving higher since the recovery began. Professional & business services job openings slipped m/m to 3.5%. That equaled last year's average and was up from the low of 2.1%. Openings in education & health services recently have been stable at 2.9%, as they have been in leisure hospitality at 2.5%. In manufacturing, openings held steady m/m at 2.0% and remained more-than-double the mid-2009 low. The job openings rate in government was more depressed at 1.3%.

The hires rate improved slightly to 3.1%, still near the lowest level since January. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The hires rate in the private sector held m/m at 3.4% versus 3.5% during Q2. The government's depressed 1.2% rate was near where it's been since November. Overall, hires in the private sector rose 3.5% y/y. Hires in professional & business services were strongest with an 8.0% y/y rise. Education & health rose 1.9% y/y but hires in the factory sector fell 2.7% y/y.

The job separations rate has been stable recently at 3.0% but the actual number of separations fell 0.7% y/y. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The layoff & discharge rate alone held at 1.3%, just above the all-time low. The private sector layoff rate held at an elevated 1.4% but in the public sector it was 0.5%.

The JOLTS survey dates only to December 2000 and the figures are available in Haver's USECON database.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey) Aug Jul Jun Aug-10 2010 2009 2008
Job Openings, Total
 Rate(%) 2.3 2.4 2.4 2.2 2.2 1.8 2.1
 Total(000s) 3,056 3,213 3,169 2,862 2,921 2,376 2,938
Hires, Total
 Rate(%) 3.1 3.0 3.1 3.0 36.3 34.7 39.3
 Total(000s) 4,014 3,976 4,068 3,886 47,190 45,364 53,903
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.3 1.3 1.4 1.4 16.4 20.0 17.6
 Total (000s) 1,659 1,696 1,773 1,809 21,225 26,328 23,706
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