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Job Openings Stabilize At High Levels But Job Hires Drift Lower

The JOLTs report for December was little changed from November but hires have been drifting lower.
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Job Openings Hires and Quits data from BLS, Chart by Mish

Job Openings Hires and Quits data from BLS, Chart by Mish

The BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTs) report for December was little changed from a month ago.

Job Openings 

  • On the last business day of December, the number of job openings was little changed at 10.9 million. 
  • The job openings rate was unchanged at 6.8 percent. Job openings increased in several industries with the largest increases in accommodation and food services (+133,000), information (+40,000), and nondurable goods manufacturing and state and local government education (+31,000 each). 
  • Job openings decreased in finance and insurance (-89,000) and in wholesale trade (-48,000). 


  • In December, the number of hires decreased to 6.3 million (-333,000). 
  • The hires rate was little changed at 4.2 percent. 
  • Hires decreased in professional and business services (-159,000). 


  • Total separations includes quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. 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. 
  • In December, the number of total separations decreased to 5.9 million (-305,000). The total separations rate was little changed at 4.0 percent. 
  • Among the industries, only federal government had an increase in total separations (+15,000). Total separations decreased in the Northeast and South regions. 
  • The number of quits edged down in December to 4.3 million (-161,000) following a series high in November. The quits rate was little changed at 2.9 percent. Quits decreased in health care and social assistance (-89,000), accommodation and food services (-64,000), and construction (-44,000). Quits increased in nondurable goods manufacturing (+19,000). 

Net Change in Employment 

  • Large numbers of hires and separations occur every month throughout the business cycle. Net employment change results from the relationship between hires and separations. When the number of hires exceeds the number of separations, employment rises, even if the hires level is steady or declining. Conversely, when the number of hires is less than the number of separations, employment declines, even if the hires level is steady or rising. 
  • Over the 12 months ending in December 2021, hires totaled 75.3 million and separations totaled 68.9 million, yielding a net employment gain of 6.4 million. These totals include workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year.  

Job Openings by Profession 

Job Openings data from BLS, Chart by Mish

Job Openings data from BLS, Chart by Mish

Job Openings by Profession Pre-Pandemic vs Now 

Job Openings data from BLS, Chart by Mish

Job Openings data from BLS, Chart by Mish

To better assess the number of openings now, I compared December  2022 JOLTs numbers to the pre-pandemic February 2020 numbers as well as 2019.

The groupings as how the BLS arranges things. 

Lumping education with healthcare makes little apparent sense and because of BLS reporting quirks it's difficult to disaggregate the numbers. 

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For discussion of the aggregation issue, please see Teachers Are Quitting at Record Rates and Companies Are Hot to Hire Them.

BLS Openings Defined 

Job Openings. Job openings include all positions that are open on the last business day of the reference month. A job is open only if it meets all three of these conditions: 

1: A specific position exists and there is work available for that position. The position can be full-time or part-time, and it can be permanent, short-term, or seasonal. 

2: The job could start within 30 days, whether or not the employer can find a suitable candidate during that time. 

3: The employer is actively recruiting workers from outside the establishment to fill the position. 

Active recruiting means that the establishment is taking steps to fill a position. It may include advertising in newspapers, on television, or on the radio; posting Internet notices, posting “help wanted” signs,  networking or making “word-of-mouth” announcements; accepting applications; interviewing candidates; contacting employment agencies; or soliciting employees at job fairs, state or local employment offices, or similar sources.

Excluded are positions open only to internal transfers, promotions or demotions, or recall from layoffs. Also excluded are openings for positions with start dates more than 30 days in the future, positions for which employees have been hired but the employees have not yet reported for work, and positions to be filled by employees of temporary help agencies, employee leasing companies, outside contractors, or consultants. 

Are the Openings Really There?

I suggest the number of openings is at least somewhat high.

Q: Why
A: It costs nothing to list openings

Years back, companies had to pay to advertise jobs. Now they list them on Monster or Jooble or other places.

If they fill a position, there is no cost associated with keeping the listing. Due to high numbers of quits, companies choose to keep listings open whether on search sites or in numbers given to the BLS. 

Also, there might be openings but only for the exact right person, and no sense of urgency to fill.

Some of it is gamesmanship. Companies post an opening then complain they cannot fill the position so they can ask for more H1-B visas.

That said, If there is a sign in the window, there is for sure an immediate opening. 

In Leisure and Hospitality (restaurants) I see help wanted signs nearly everywhere. Talks with business owners and workers shows real demand.

This post originated at MishTalk.Com.

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