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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Gains, While Hiring Slows
by Carol Stone  September 9, 2015

The job openings rate rose to 3.9% during July, a new high, from 3.6% in June and 3.3% a year ago. 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. The hires rate, however, dropped back to 3.5% from June's 3.7% and 3.6% in July 2014. The hires rate is the number of hires during the month divided by employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports these figures in its Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).

The actual number of job openings rose 21.7% y/y to 5.753 million. As seen in the rates, the apparent strength in job openings was not matched by firms' ability to fill positions, as hiring fell 3.8% from June to July, when it numbered 4.983 million, the lowest since August 2014 and 0.4% below a year ago. Thus, the larger number of openings partly reflects the reduced amount of hiring.

The private-sector job openings rate also rose, reaching 4.2% in July from 3.9% in June. Several industry sectors had larger openings rates. That in manufacturing was up from 2.5% in June to 2.7%, that in trade, transportation and utilities increased from 3.4% to 3.6%, and the education and health sector edged up from 4.4% to 4.5%. Larger increases came in leisure and hospitality, up to 4.8% from 4.4%, and professional and business services to 6.3% from 5.8%. Only the construction sector did not see a rise, as that openings rate held at June's 2.1%. The job openings rate in the government sector returned to 2.2% in July after June's rate was revised down to 2.1%.

The private sector hires rate fell to 3.9% in July from June's 4.0%, and most sectors had declines. Construction was down to 4.7% from 5.1%, trade, transportation and utilities to 4.2% from 4.3%, and education and health to 2.6% from 2.7%. The largest decline was in professional and business services, which dropped to 4.8% from 5.3%; this decline may explain the sizable rise in that sector's openings rate. Only the leisure and hospitality group had an increase, as its hiring rate moved to 6.2% in July from 6.1% in June. The hiring rate in government was steady at 1.5% for a fifth consecutive month.

The number of private sector hires fell back by 4.1% in July from June and was 1.4% below July 2014. Year-to-year comparisons show the largest drops in construction, where hiring fell 22.1%, and in professional and business services, down 5.2%. Leisure and hospitality, by contrast, saw a 7.2% y/y gain, and trade, transportation and utilities had a 2.5% y/y increase. Hiring in manufacturing was nearly steady with a 0.4% rise and that in education and health a 0.2% uptick. Government hiring was up 15.1%.

The total job separations rate fell back to 3.3% in July from 3.5% and the actual number of separations was up a mere 0.1% y/y. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements. The private sector separations rate also edged down, to 3.7% from 3.8% and the government sector's rate was steady at 1.4%. The layoff & discharge rate fell to 1.1% from June's 1.3%. The rate in the private sector was 1.3%, down from 1.4%; its peak during the recession was 2.3%. The rate in government was 0.4% for a third consecutive month.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Jul Jun May Jul '14 2014 2013 2012
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 3.9 3.6 3.6 3.3 3.4 2.8 2.6
 Total (000s) 5,753 5,323 5,357 21.7% 22.6% 9.3% 3.2%
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.5 3.7 3.6 3.6 42.2 39.8 38.8
 Total (000s) 4,983 5,182 5,060 -0.4% 8.4% 3.4% 4.2%
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.1 1.3 1.2 1.3 14.5 14.6 15.5
 Total (000s) 1,609 1,779 1,660 -11.9 2.4% -4.9% 1.1%
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