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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings & Hiring Rates Strengthen in March
by Tom Moeller  May 11, 2021

• Job openings increase to another record.

• Hiring rate improves slightly.

• Layoffs decline while quits stabilize.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that on the last business day of March, the level of job openings rose to a record 8.12 million. The total job openings rate also reached a record 5.3%, which was increased from 5.0% in February, revised from 4.9%. The openings rate is calculated as job openings as a percent of total employment plus jobs that have not yet been filled. The hiring rate improved to 4.2% from 4.0%, up from a low 3.8% in both January & December. The overall layoff & discharge rate declined to a record low of 1.0%. The quits rate rose also was unchanged at the record high of 2.4%, which it has reached four times since October. The JOLTS figures date back to December 2000.

The private-sector job openings rate jumped to a record 5.6% from 5.3%. The leisure & hospitality rate surged to 8.1% while the professional & business services rate held steady at 6.2%. The factory sector rate surged to a record 5.4% but the education & health services rate fell to 5.7%. The government sector job openings rate also jumped to a record 3.7% from 3.0%. The private sector job openings level rose 6.1% (44.0% y/y) to 7.29 million.

In March, the private sector hiring rate edged higher to 4.6%, but remained well below the record 7.2% in May of last year. The leisure & hospitality rate eased to 8.6%. The professional & business service sector slipped to 5.4% but the factory sector hiring rate improved to 3.5%. The government sector hiring rate rose to 1.7%. It remained below the 2.6% high last August. The level of private sector hiring rose 2.6% (18.5% y/y) to 5.632 million.

Data on job separations reflect a combination of layoffs and quits. The separations rate of 3.7% in March compared to the record 10.8% in March of last year. The level of separations declined by two-thirds y/y. Private sector separations fell 68.3% y/y and the private separations rate eased to 4.1%. The government's rate slipped to 1.5%.

The layoff & discharge rate in the private sector fell to a record low of 1.1%. The professional & business services layoff & discharge rate fell to 1.7% and was down from an all-time high of 6.3% in April of last year. The 2.0% rate in construction compared to 0.8% in manufacturing. The 0.9% rate in the information sector remained below the record 6.8% in March of last year. It compared to 0.4% in government.

The slightly higher quits rate of 2.7% in the private sector remained up from 1.8% in May in May last year. It compared to 0.8% in government. In the leisure & hospitality sector, the quits rate rose m/m to 5.0%. The quits rate in professional & business services held steady at 2.9%. In manufacturing, the job quits rate also was steady m/m at 2.1% and remained up from 1.0% in April of last year. In finance, the quits rate eased to 1.4%. The level of job quits in the private sector rose by one-quarter y/y. In government, the level of quits fell 21.3% y/y.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Mar Feb Jan Mar'20 Mar'19 Mar'18
 Rate (%) 5.3 5.0 4.7 3.7 4.7 4.4
 Total (000s) 8,123 7,526 7,099 5,769 7,332 6,833
Hires, Total
 Rate (%)  4.2 4.0 3.8 3.4 3.8 3.8
 Total (000s) 6,009 5,794 5,465 5,132 5,684 5,636
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.0 1.2 1.2 8.6 1.1 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,480 1,723 1,724 13,046 1,721 1,783
Quits, Total
 Rate (%) 2.4 2.4 2.3 1.9 2.3 2.2
 Total (000s) 3,508 3,383 3,306 2,902 3,524 3,305
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