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Economy in Brief

U.S. JOLTS: Job Openings and Layoffs Edge Down; Hiring Unchanged
by Gerald D. Cohen  February 6, 2018

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total job openings rate in December notched down to 3.8% from 3.9% in November. At the end of 2016 the job openings rate was 3.7%. The hiring rate was unchanged at 3.7%, slightly higher than the 3.6% reading from a year ago. The layoff rate declined to 1.1% in December from 1.2% in November, but was unchanged from a year ago. These figures are from the Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), which dates back to December 2000.

The private sector job openings rate edged down to 4.1% in December; a year ago it was 4.0%. Monthly declines in construction, manufacturing, trade, transportation & utilities and professional services were offset by gains in education & health and leisure and hospitality. Job Openings in the government sector increased to 2.3% in December from 2.2% in November.

The total number of job openings fell 2.8% in December, driven by a 3.2% drop in private sector openings. Still, total economy job openings are up 4.9% from a year ago, while private sector openings have risen 4.4% year-on-year. Openings in leisure and hospitality led the gain, rising 22% from a year ago, followed by construction (13% y/y), trade and transportation (7% y/y) and manufacturing (6% y/y). Openings in the professional services and educational and health were down for the year. Meanwhile, openings in government were up 10% from a year ago.

The private sector hiring rate was unchanged at 4.1% in December with little movement in individual industries. Private sector hiring edged up 0.2% in December with a 2.9% gain for the year. The factory sector led the gain, up 20% from a year ago, while hiring in construction was down 16% year-on-year. Government hiring fell 3.8% in December but was up 12.5% year-on-year. As a result, the overall number of hires edged down 0.1% in December and was up 3.5% from a year ago.

The overall job separations rate increased to 3.6% in December from 3.5% in November. The separation rate has ranged between 3.4% and 3.6% during the last two years. The layoff & discharge rate was unchanged at 1.1% in December. The layoff rate has been hovering between 1.1% and 1.2% for the last 15 months. Total layoffs fell 4.6% in December, but were up 1.3% from a year ago. Private sector layoffs dropped 6.1% for the month, but were down only 0.3% from a year ago.

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

JOLTS (Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey, SA) Dec Nov Oct Dec '16 Dec '15 Dec '14
Job Openings, Total
 Rate (%) 3.8 3.9 3.9 3.7 3.6 3.3
 Total (000s) 5,811 5,978 5,925 5,539 5,374 4,795
Hires, Total
 Rate (%) 3.7 3.7 3.8 3.6 3.8 3.7
 Total (000s) 5,488 5,493 5,592 5,303 5,504 5,165
Layoffs & Discharges, Total
 Rate (%) 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.1 1.2 1.2
 Total (000s) 1,645 1,725 1,693 1,624 1,732 1,720
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