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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings Rate Eases, But Hires Rate Jumps
by Tom Moeller  April 5, 2016

The job openings rate fell to 3.7% during February from 3.8% in the prior month, revised from 3.7%. The decline left the reading stuck in the sideways trend of the last ten months. The private sector job openings rate of 3.9% compared to 2.2% in the public sector. 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. Hiring was stronger as past vacancies were filled. The hires rate in February totaled 3.8%, equaling the highest level of the economic expansion. The private sector rate jumped m/m to 4.2%, and compared to 1.6% in the public sector. 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 fell 2.8% in February to 5.445 million, but remained up 6.1% y/y. A 7.9% y/y rise in private sector openings was led by a 27.0% y/y increase in construction. That was followed by a 14.1% y/y increase in professional & business services. Retail trade openings gained 14.5% y/y, but openings in leisure & hospitality remained unchanged y/y. Trade, transportation & utilities job openings increased 9.6% y/y while openings in the factory sector improved 4.3% y/y. Job openings in the education & health services area increased 9.6% y/y. Job openings in health care & social assistance gained 6.0% y/y while leisure & hospitality openings remained unchanged y/y. In the government sector, the number of openings declined 9.3% y/y.

The number of hires recovered 5.8% m/m to 5.422 million in February, and they were up 6.5% y/y. Private sector hiring also increased 6.5% y/y, reflecting an 18.6% y/y increase in retail trade. Leisure & hospitality hiring rose 11.1% y/y while factory sector jobs rose 6.5% y/y. Professional & business services jobs increased 1.3% y/y, but construction jobs fell 2.7% y/y. Government sector hiring increased 6.9% y/y.

The total job separations rate held steady m/m at 3.5%, down from its cycle high of 3.6% in December. The actual number of separations increased 6.5% y/y. In the retail trade area, separations rebounded 15.9% y/y. Leisure & hospitality sector separations jumped 11.7% y/y. Factory sector separations increased 16.6% y/y, but professional & business services separations increased a lesser 2.3% y/y. Education & health care separations eased 0.4% y/y. Separations include quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations as well as retirements.

The layoff & discharge rate held near the record low at 1.2%. The private sector rate of 1.3% also was near the all-time low and compared to 0.5% in the public sector. Layoffs overall increased 1.2% y/y in the private sector, and 11.1% y/y in the public sector.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Feb Jan Dec Feb '15 2015 2014 2013
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 3.7 3.8 3.6 3.5 3.6 3.3 2.7
 Total (000s) 5,445 5,604 5,281 6.1% 9.7 28.7% 4.6%
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.8 3.6 3.8 3.6 43.6 42.2 39.6
 Total (000s) 5,422 5,125 5,401 6.5% 5.2% 8.2% 3.5%
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 14.9 14.7 14.7
 Total (000s) 1,715 1,704 1,672 1.9% 2.7% 2.4% -5.3%
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