The BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Report (JOLTS) for February shows a dramatic weakening in the number of openings.

Key Stats

  • The number of job openings fell to 7.1 million in February.
  • Hires and separations were little changed at 5.7 million and 5.6 million, respectively.
  • Within separations, the quits rate was unchanged at 2.3 percent and the layoffs and discharges rate was little changed at 1.2 percent.

Job Openings

On the last business day of February, the job openings level fell to 7.1 million (-538,000). The job openings rate was 4.5 percent. The number of job openings fell for total private (-523,000) and was little changed for government. Job openings decreased in a number of industries, with the largest decreases in accommodation and food services (-103,000), real estate and rental and leasing (-72,000), and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-66,000). The number of job openings fell in the Northeast, South, and Midwest regions.

Hires

The number of hires was little changed at 5.7 million in February. The hires rate was 3.8 percent. The hires level was little changed for total private and fell for government (-40,000). The number of hires decreased in construction (-73,000), nondurable goods manufacturing (-33,000), and state and local - 2 - government education (-22,000). The number of hires was little changed in all four regions.

Separations

Total separations includes quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. Total separations is referred to as turnover. Quits are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee. Therefore, the quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs. Layoffs and discharges are involuntary separations initiated by the employer. Other separations includes separations due to retirement, death, disability, and transfers to other locations of the same firm.

The number of total separations was little changed at 5.6 million in February. The total separations rate was 3.7 percent. The number of total separations was little changed for total private and for government.

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Total separations increased in educational services (+30,000), but decreased in nondurable goods manufacturing (-32,000) and real estate and rental and leasing (-26,000). The number of total separations was little changed in all four regions.

The number of quits was little changed in February at 3.5 million. The quits rate was 2.3 percent. The quits level was little changed for total private and for government. Quits increased in educational services (+23,000) but decreased in real estate and rental and leasing (-15,000). The number of quits was little changed in all four regions.

The number of layoffs and discharges was little changed in February at 1.7 million. The layoffs and discharges rate was 1.2 percent. The layoffs and discharges level was little changed for total private and for government. The number of layoffs and discharges decreased in federal government (-4,000). The number of layoffs and discharges was little changed in all four regions.

The number of other separations was little changed in February. The other separations level was little changed for total private and edged up for government (+9,000). Other separations increased in federal government (+5,000), but decreased in construction (-13,000) and real estate and rental and leasing (-6,000).

Job Openings Rate

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Comments

Even with the steep decline, the number of openings is elevated.

I do not place much faith in these statistics. I suspect companies list openings they don't really intend to fill, but if the exact right person comes along, they will fill it. There are other nefarious reasons for listing openings that don't exist, with qualifications not really required. H1B Visa manipulation comes to mind.

Yet, this is a sudden change. If it continues for a few months it could be significant.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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