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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Decline as Hiring Turns Tepid
by Tom Moeller  January 17, 2020

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total job openings rate declined to 4.3% during November from an unrevised 4.6% in October. It remained below the 4.8% record high in January. The job openings rate is the job openings level as a percent of total employment plus the job openings level. The hiring rate held steady at 3.8% and has been moving sideways since early last year. Employers became less inclined to let workers go. The layoff & discharge rate fell m/m to 1.1% and matched the record low. Individuals remained ready to seek new positions. The quits rate held m/m at 2.3% but has been trending higher for ten years.

The private-sector job openings rate fell sharply m/m to 4.5% and remained below the high of 5.2% twelve months earlier. The government sector job openings rate declined to 3.1%, but remained above the 2009 low of 1.2%.

The level of job openings fell 7.6% (-10.8% y/y) to 6.800 million. It was the lowest level since February 2018. Private-sector job openings fell 12.7% y/y, but government sector job openings increased 8.1% y/y.

Hiring activity remained weak in November. The private-sector hiring rate held steady at 4.2% and remained below July's expansion high of 4.4%. The hiring rate in government was unchanged at 1.6%, but below the January 2019 high of 1.8%.

Total hiring improved 0.7% but was unchanged y/y. Hiring in the private sector rose 0.4% (0.1% y/y). Government sector hiring rose 4.2%, but declined 1.1% y/y.

Individuals are ready to find new work. The overall job separations rate held at 3.7%, just below the expansion high. The private sector separations rate held steady at a firm 4.1%. The separations rate in government fell slightly to 1.5%.

The total level of separations rose 0.9% y/y but the level has fallen recently. Private sector separations rose 1.3% y/y but separations in the government sector declined 4.4% y/y.

Confidence in finding work improved last month. The level of quits rose modestly m/m and remained up 4.6% y/y. The quits rate held steady m/m at 2.3% and was sharply higher versus 1.3% at the beginning of the expansion. The private-sector quits rate remained high at 2.6%, increased from 1.4% in the fall of 2009. The government sector quits rate of 0.8% held steady m/m, but was double the rate at the beginning of the economic expansion.

The level of layoffs continued to reverse its earlier monthly increases and fell 7.4% y/y. In the private sector, layoffs declined 7.3% y/y as the layoff rate held at a lessened 1.3%. It remained below the 2009 high of 2.2%. Layoffs declined 10.0% y/y in the government sector, and the layoff rate was 0.4%.

The Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) dates to December 2000 and the figures are available in Haver's USECON database.

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Nov Oct Sep Nov'18 Nov'17 Nov'16
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 4.3 4.6 4.4 4.8 4.0 3.9
 Total (000s) 6.800 7.361 7,032 7,626 6,163 5,862
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  3.8 3.8 3.9 3.9 3.7 3.7
 Total (000s) 5,821 5,782 5,951 5,877 5,587 5,177
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.3 1.2 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,749 1,795 1,971 1,889 1,738 1,772
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.1 2.1
 Total (000s) 3,536 3,497 3,471 3,379 3,156 3,006
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