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Economy in Brief

May JOLTS: Openings, Hiring Slipped, Separations Edged Up
by Sandy Batten  July 6, 2022

• The number of job openings fell for second consecutive month but remained very high historically.

• New hires also eased and their recent uptrend appears to be slowing slightly.

• Separations edged up with quits falling and layoffs increasing slightly.

Job openings fell 427,000 in May to 11.254 million (-3.7% m/m, +16.8% y/y), in line with expectations, from an upwardly revised 11.681 million in April (initially 11.400 million) according the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Job Openings and Labor Turnover report.. While this was the second consecutive monthly decline in openings, they remained just below the series-high reading of 11.855 million reached in March. The job openings rate (job openings as a percentage of the sum of establishment employment plus openings) slipped to 6.9% in May from 7.2% in April. Its series high was also in March at 7.3%. These series extend back to December 2000. While the labor market continues to be quite robust with openings well above levels that existed prior to the pandemic and also well above the number unemployed, this report, along with the one for April, provided some early indication that some slight cooling is beginning to evolve.

New hires slipped 38,000 to 6.489 million (-0.6% m/m, +6.5% y/y) in May, their third consecutive monthly decline. The uptrend evident since early 2021 appears to be slowing a bit. The hiring rate was unchanged at 4.3%. The May decline was concentrated in finance and insurance (-40,000).

The total number of job separations edged up 18,000 to 5.983 million in May (0.3% m/m, +8.5% y/y) from a downwardly revised 5.965 million in April (initially 6.033 million). Quits fell to a still elevated 4.270 million, their lowest level in seven months, from 4.327 million. Elevated quits, which are voluntary, indicate that jobs are sufficiently available for workers to quit their existing job to find another. The quit rate slipped to 2.8% from 2.9% in April. Layoffs and discharges, involuntary separations, increased 77,000 to 1.389 million (5.9% m/m, 3.4% y/y) in May. However, they remain just above the series low of 1.262 million reached in December 2021. The layoff rate was unchanged at 0.9%. Other separations were essentially unchanged at 324,000.

Private-sector job openings fell 415,000 to 10.212 million (-3.9% m/m, +17.4% y/y) in May million, with the private-sector job openings rate declining to 7.3% from an upwardly revised 7.6% in April (initially 7.0%). The largest decreases in job openings were in professional and business services (-325,000), durable goods manufacturing (-138,000), and nondurable goods manufacturing (-70,000).

Total hires in the private sector fell 0.8% m/m (+5.9% y/y) to 6.076 million in May while total private-sector separations edged up 0.6% m/m (+7.5% y/y) to 5.624 million.

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

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