Economic Indicators JOLTS
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) tells us how many job openings there are each month, how many workers were hired, how many quit their job, how many were laid off, and how many experienced other separations (which includes worker deaths).
Next update: November 1, 2023
By Elise Gould • October 3, 2023
Below, EPI senior economist Elise Gould offers her initial insights on today’s release of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) for August. Read the full thread here .
The latest #JOLTS data out of the @BLS_gov this morning shows that job openings ticked up in August while hires and total separations held steady. Within separations, layoffs and quits were unchanged. pic.twitter.com/GIdBnG2E6M — Elise Gould (@eliselgould) October 3, 2023
The uptick in job openings in August is not likely a new trend, but rather a blip in a metric otherwise trending down over the last year and a half. In the immediate aftermath of the pandemic recession, high levels of openings were driven by increased churn not overheating. pic.twitter.com/CgaKJCjzYN — Elise Gould (@eliselgould) October 3, 2023
Hiring continues to remain above the quits rate in every sector. The great reshuffling isn’t what it was two years ago, but it continues as workers look and find better job opportunities. The most churn is consistently in the lowest wage sectors. pic.twitter.com/VpGYZNPiyl — Elise Gould (@eliselgould) October 3, 2023
Hires, quits, and layoff rates, 2000–2023
The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel.
The data underlying the figure.
Notes: Shaded areas denote recessions. The hires rate is the number of hires during the entire month as a percent of total employment. The layoff rate is the number of layoffs and discharges during the entire month as a percent of total employment. The quits rate is the number of quits during the entire month as a percent of total employment.
Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey
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Total hires, layoffs, and quits, 2000-2023
Note: Shaded areas denote recessions.
The job-seekers ratio, 2000–2023
Notes: Shaded areas denote recessions. Unemployment levels represent the average of the unemployment level for the current month.
Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey and Current Population Survey.
Hires are greater than quits in all sectors while lower wage sectors experience higher levels of quits and hires : Hires and quits rates by major sector, August 2023
Notes: Data provided for all sectors with complementary information on both hires and quits rates for Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (x- and y-axis data) and private sector hourly wage rates from the Current Establishment Survey for the corresponding month (data for size of bubbles); 45 degree line represent data where hires rates are equal to quits rates in each sector.
Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey and Current Employment Survey public data series.
Job openings levels and unemployment levels, 2000–2023
Notes: Shaded areas denote recessions. Unemployment levels represent the average of the unemployment level for the current month and the subsequent month in the Current Population Survey to better line up with the job openings data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.
Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey and Current Population Survey. Unemployment levels represent the average of the unemployment level for the current month and the subsequent month to better line up with the job openings data.
By Santul Nerkar
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The number of job openings rose in August, the Labor Department reported on Tuesday, after three consecutive months of falling numbers.
There were 9.6 million job openings in the month, up from a revised total of 8.9 million in July, according to seasonally adjusted figures in the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, known as JOLTS . The increase was larger than expected.
Investors balked at the fresh numbers, fearful that they would signal to the Federal Reserve that the economy was still running too quickly, requiring even higher interest rates to slow it.
Why It Matters: The economy nears prepandemic measures.
Job openings are closely monitored by the Fed, which has tried to fight inflation over the past 19 months by increasing interest rates, aiming to cool the economy and reduce labor demand, though it took a pause at its most recent meeting.
“The Fed won’t make policy decisions based on one JOLTS report, but it does keep the risks tilted toward another rate hike,” Nancy Vanden Houten, lead U.S. economist for Oxford Economics, said of the August increase in job openings.
The S&P 500 slumped 1.4 percent, while the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond, a crucial benchmark interest rate around the world, rose 0.1 percentage points to 4.8 percent, indicative of investors’ betting on stronger growth ahead.
Job openings have gradually come down from the 12 million recorded in April 2022, while the rate of workers leaving their jobs is down by nearly a percentage point, approaching what it was right before the pandemic. Openings rose in August, but because unemployment also ticked up, the number of openings per unemployed worker was flat, at around 1.5.
“The labor market is tight, but it’s easing, and gracefully so,” said Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. He added that slowdowns in monthly job growth, wage growth and hours worked, along with businesses using fewer temporary workers, all pointed to a cooling of the labor market.
And so far, the labor market and economy have managed to throttle back without a big jump in unemployment, indicators of a so-called soft landing.
The rate of people quitting their jobs, a measure of workers’ confidence in the labor market, was unchanged in August at 2.3 percent.
Layoffs have also been flat, suggesting that employers are reluctant to part ways with workers in a tight labor market. And though overall inflation sped up, driven largely by increases in fuel costs, the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation slowed .
Background: A resilient economy faces some headwinds.
Despite the moderate uptick in job openings, there are still some potential headwinds on the horizon.
Because there’s a lag in the JOLTS report, labor stoppages like the United Automobile Workers union strike, which now involves around 25,000 workers , are not captured in the data. And though a government shutdown was narrowly avoided over the weekend, one could happen next month, potentially taking thousands of government employees off payrolls and sapping consumer spending.
Other factors that indicate softening demand are the resumption of mandatory student loan repayments and higher oil prices, which have in turn spooked the stock market. The economy, which had a strong third quarter of growth, could see a slowdown to close the year.
What matters more than the JOLTS report is the Fed’s projection of the unemployment rate, said Preston Mui, a senior economist at Employ America, a research and advocacy group focused on the job market. The Fed last month revised its median estimate of unemployment by the end of 2023 to 3.8 percent, down from a June projection of 4.1 percent. That suggests the Fed does not view a tight labor market as a problem it needs to fix with further rate increases, Mr. Mui said.
Mr. Zandi cautioned against declaring a soft landing until the Fed starts to roll back interest rates. But given the gradual slowdown so far, and with financial conditions tightening overall, he said the Fed should be pleased with its progress.
What’s Next: The September jobs report on Friday.
September’s jobs report will be released on Friday by the Labor Department.
The consensus estimate is that the economy added 170,000 jobs in September, according to Bloomberg, and that the unemployment rate declined to 3.7 percent from 3.8 percent.
Joe Rennison contributed reporting.
Santul Nerkar is a reporter covering business and sports. More about Santul Nerkar
JOLTS Report Is Stoking Volatility Again for No Good Reason
A highly fallible government labor report just suggested that there are more job openings in the US than previously expected, and stock and bond markets are plummeting in response.
Haven’t we been through all of this before?
The government’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, showed Tuesday that the number of available positions rose to 9.61 million in August from a revised 8.92 million in July. In the current economy, the conventional wisdom is that this augurs tighter monetary policy because it will concern Federal Reserve policymakers who have been worried about imbalances in the labor market and their perceived impact on inflation. In reality, this shouldn’t change thinking much at all.
First, consider the source of the surprise. Most of the increase in jobs came from the uptick in professional and business services jobs — so it’s not a broad-based uptick in labor market demand. Moreover, as the Bloomberg Economics team has pointed out, the ratio of vacancies to unemployed workers actually fell to 1.51 from 1.53 because of the increase in unemployed workers.
Next, there’s the quits rate, which has been a more reliable indicator of wage pressure than job openings. The quits rate — a measure of resignations relative to employment — remained stable at about 2.3% in August, which is consistent with “normal” levels recorded in the two years before the pandemic. More than job openings, quits are a sign of worker leverage, and the sharp wage increases of recent years have coincided with a period when many employees were leaving their jobs, putting pressure on employers to pay up or watch their teams decamp to competitors. Quitting is a much more concrete action than posting a job, and it’s significance is clear.
Lastly, there’s the fact that other measures of job openings have registered no such spike. Nick Bunker, head of economic research at the Indeed Hiring Lab, noted Tuesday that Indeed’s Job Postings Index was “more muted.”
I’ve been harping on many of these points for months now, and I’d really hoped that the issue had been put to rest. Last month, I wrote that that the JOLTS measure had finally cooled enough that central bankers could move past “this fleeting and misguided infatuation.” To date, I still think that policymakers probably have; it’s just markets that are overacting.
JOLTS is a highly imperfect tool to rely upon for something as important as monetary policy. It has a much smaller sample than the Current Employment Statistics survey (used in the monthly nonfarm jobs report) and is subject to some secular data trends that may indicate much of anything about how “tight” the labor market is. Indeed, JOLTS job openings increased 161% from December 2009 to 2019, while US nonfarm payrolls grew only about 17%. Clearly, they seem to be telling us as at least as much about the shift in hiring practices as they are about labor demand.
I understand why markets and policymakers initially leaned on JOLTS data last year. In the late- and post-pandemic economy, the vanilla unemployment data hasn’t done justice to the complex supply and demand dynamics in the job market. Yet signs of caution have always abounded. Revisions to the number are routinely sharp enough to completely change one’s interpretation. In 2022, the published monthly numbers differed from the revised numbers by a median of about 170,000 (underestimated, in that case), with a range of differences of -82,000 to 306,000.
Markets have a bit of a hair-trigger temper at the moment, so I’m not totally surprised that they’re overreacting to economic data. I’m also not here to rule out the odds of another rate increase when the Fed announces its decision on Nov. 1. But at this point, I really wish we could all move on from the world’s obsession with job openings. I’d thought we were there already, but I guess we’ll have to wait another month or so.
More From Bloomberg Opinion:
• Good Riddance to Fed Obsession With Job Openings: Jonathan Levin
• We May Finally Be Witnessing a Normal Labor Market: Karl Smith
• More Labor Strife Is Coming to the US Economy: Betsey Stevenson
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Jonathan Levin is a columnist focused on US markets and economics. Previously, he worked as a Bloomberg journalist in the US, Brazil and Mexico. He is a CFA charterholder.
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com/opinion
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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July 2023 | JOLTS, jobs, and java: Our experts take on the latest labor reports
- Released July 11, 2023
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- July, 11 2023
Welcome to our monthly video series on the jobs reports featuring our Director of Customer Success Rebecca Warren (filling in for Chief Economist Sania Khan ) and Senior Director, Product Marketing, Jason Cerrato . Every Friday morning after the reports are released, grab a cup of coffee and join them for the latest on the jobs numbers.
In the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment report for June , jobs added came in a bit lower than expected, but other metrics tell a more positive, or at least steadier, story about the U.S. economy. Between the jobs report and the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), released on Thursday, current labor statistics are a mixed bag that don’t give a crystal-clear picture of where we’re headed or what upcoming moves the Fed will make on interest rates.
According to the jobs report, the U.S. economy added 209,000 jobs, marking the 30th consecutive month of job expansion. However, the number falls short of the 230,000 prediction, and it’s the lowest monthly gain since the decline in December 2020.
On the other hand, according to the household survey portion of the report, hourly earnings grew by 0.4% month-over-month, and 4.4% year-over year; the unemployment rate dropped from 3.7% to 3.6%, and labor force participation held at 62.6%. The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls ticked up by 0.1 hours to 34.4 hours in June. We should note, though, that 4.2 million people were employed part-time for economic reasons, meaning they would prefer full-time employment but couldn’t find it or had hours cut — that’s an increase of 452,000 from May.
“There’s always something positive followed by something negative followed by something positive followed by something a little negative, and we’re always trying to make sense of this,” Jason Cerrato said about the recent prevalence of mixed employment data. He also noted that this aligns with an ambivalent environment around remote versus in-office work on the part of both employers and workers.
“I think there’s this push and pull, positive and negative all at the same time of this return to the office strategy,” Cerrato said. “There are benefits for culture and benefits for alignment and benefits for engagement in person. But there are also things with remote work that we’ve benefited from around availability of talent, expanding opportunities, and being able to have work-life balance. So across the board it’s a very exciting and challenging time in HR.”
The JOLTS report for May showed a cooling in job listings, down to 9.8 million from 10.3 million from April. However, layoffs are unchanged from April, holding at 1%, indicating that while employers are hiring less, they are holding on to workers.
Rebecca Warren said this is consistent with what she’s hearing in her conversations with Eightfold customers. “Overall, it feels like there’s a slowdown in voluntary quitting. Before, we saw lots of folks who were moving all around the country and jumping around — we’re seeing less of that now, folks are staying put a little bit more. And so we’re seeing a lot of our customers invest less in talent acquisition and focus on talent management, looking at talent planning, succession planning, how do we keep the folks inside the organization and help them be successful?”
Here are some key takeaways from the reports:
- Employment in the government increased by 60,000 in June; overall, the government has added an average of 63,000 jobs per month so far in 2023, more than twice the average of 23,000 per month in 2022.
- Health care added 41,000 jobs in June, close to the 2023 monthly average of 42,000 so far, but dentist offices lost 7,000 jobs.
- Employment in construction continued to trend up in June (+23,000). Employment in the industry has increased by an average of 15,000 per month thus far this year, compared with an average of 22,000 per month in 2022.
- Job growth in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, retail trade, and transportation and warehousing changed very little.
- The May Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report revealed the number and rate of quits increased to 4 million (+250,000) and 2.6 percent, respectively. Despite this uptick, quits are lower than they were during last year’s “great resignation.”
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Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS): Meaning, Overview
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What Is the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS)?
The job openings and labor turnover survey (JOLTS) is a monthly report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor counting job vacancies and separations, including the number of workers voluntarily quitting employment.
The BLS surveys more than 20,000 businesses and government offices to estimate the numbers of U.S. job vacancies, hires, and separations included in the monthly jobs report. The job separations numbers are subdivided into three categories: total separations, quits, and layoffs and discharges; and other separations, which include deaths and retirements.
The number of vacancies is a widely followed indicator of labor demand, while the quits rate is partly a function of employment demand. Job hires and separations can be used to gauge labor turnover.
JOLTS supplements the BLS monthly jobs report , which estimates the number of U.S. payrolls and the unemployment rate . JOLTS data is released nearly a month after the monthly jobs report for the same reference period.
- JOLTS is a monthly survey of U.S. job vacancies, hiring, and job separations released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.
- The vacancies data gauges labor demand, while the number of quits, or voluntary separations, and their rate help to measure labor force turnover.
- A job vacancy is considered to be a position that is available, could start within 30 days, and which the employer is actively trying to fill from outside the organization. Vacancies include part-time and temporary openings
- JOLTS numbers for job openings and voluntary separations from employment reached all-time highs in March 2022 amid an elevated quits rate tabbed "The Great Resignation."
JOLTS data is published monthly in seasonally adjusted as well as unadjusted form, subdivided by region, industry, and size of the workforce.
To produce JOLTS, the BLS surveys a representative sample of 21,000 nonfarm business and government employers. Respondents answer questions about their businesses' total employment, job openings, hires, and separations.
Job openings include all vacancies, including those for part-time or temporary employment, at the end of the reference month meeting the following criteria:
- The position exists, and there is work available in that role.
- The job could start within 30 days.
- The employer is actively recruiting outside candidates for the job opening.
JOLTS employment estimates are benchmarked, or ratio adjusted, monthly to the current employment estimates of the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey used to produce the monthly jobs report, and the JOLTS-to-CES employment ratio is then used to adjust other JOLTS data. JOLTS data are also revised in line with CES on an annual basis. It takes about a year for a new business to show up in the government database used to select the survey sample for JOLTS.
The BLS began collecting JOLTS data in 1999 and publishing survey results in 2002.
JOLTS and the Great Resignation
The Great Resignation describes the rise in the quits rate tracking voluntary separations from employment other than for retirement starting in 2021, as the U.S. economy and job market rebounded from the downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
After plummeting to a low of 1.6% in April 2020, the quits rate rebounded to 2.4% by December, in line with where it stood 11 months earlier before than pandemic struck. The quits rate kept rising, reaching a series record 3% in November 2021, and matching that level the next month as well as in March 2022.
In absolute terms, the number of workers quitting jobs for reasons other than retirement reached a series high of 4.5 million in March 2022, representing an increase of 152,000 from February. Job openings of 11.55 million at the end of March were also the highest on record, representing 7.1% of the sum of filled and unfilled jobs.
As of April 2023, the number and rate of quits were at 3.8 million and 2.4%, a similar rate to the one at the beginning of the pandemic.
The number of job openings as of April 2023 edged up to 10.1 million, representing a 6.1% rate.
Some economists have argued the entirety of the Great Resignation could be explained by the strong job market amid the recovery from the COVID-19 downturn. Strong labor markets enable more workers to quit their job for a better one, or perhaps to start a business without worrying too much about how hard it might be to find another job if things don't go as hoped.
While nonfarm employment as of March 2022 amounted to 99% of its level in February 2020, the labor force participation rate has recovered more slowly, advancing from 61.4% as of January 2021 to 62.4% by March 2022. still well short of 63.4% in February 2020. The tight supply of available labor has increased competition for labor among employers, fueling the quits rate.
Other explanations for the Great Resignation have ranged from the deterioration in working conditions during the pandemic to a mass reassessment of personal priorities in its wake. Whatever the underlying causes, so long as the job market remains tight JOLTS data will remain closely scrutinized as a gauge of labor demand and turnover.
What Is the U.S. Employment Situation Report?
The U.S. Employment Situation Report, or simply the employment, or jobs report, is a report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on the first Friday of every month. The report is based on surveys of households and employers. It estimates the number of people on payroll in U.S. companies, the average number of hours worked every week, the average hourly earnings, and the unemployment rate.
How Does the BLS Collect Employment Data?
The BLS collects employment data through its professionally trained field economists, who survey individuals by house visits, phone calls, and video calls,
When Did the Great Resignation End?
By March 2023, the Great Resignation showed signs of slowing down as fewer workers quit their jobs and the job market became more competitive.
The job openings and labor turnover survey (JOLTS) is a monthly report done by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that collects data from employers in order to measure job openings, new hires, the number of employees who quit or were laid off, and other forms of labor turnover.
By providing a detailed picture of the labor market, JOLTS is also a key indicator that gives insights into the labor market and the overall U.S. economy.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. " Job Openings and Labor Turnover – April 2023 ," Page 2.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. " Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey: Overview ."
National Center for Education Statistics. " Evaluating Estimates of Labor Demand and Turnover ."
Bureau of Labor Statistics. " Schedule of Releases for the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey ."
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. " Schedule of Releases for the Employment Situation ."
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. " Job Openings and Labor Turnover – April 2023 ," Page 6.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. " Job Openings and Labor Turnover Report Form ."
Bureau of Labor Statistics. " Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey FAQs - Data Definitions ."
National Center for Education Statistics. " Evaluating Estimates of Labor Demand and Turnover ," Page 1.
FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. " Nonfarm Quits Rate ."
Bureau of Labor Statistics. " Job Openings and Labor Turnover – March 2022 ," Page 11.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. " Job Openings and Labor Turnover – March 2022 ," Page 8.
Peterson Institute for International Economics. " US Workers Are Quitting Jobs at Historic Rates, and Many Unemployed Are Not Coming Back Despite Record Job Openings ."
FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. " Total Nonfarm Payrolls ."
FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. " Labor Force Participation Rate ."
CNBC. " The ‘great resignation’ has become the ‘big stay,’ says economist: How Gen Z, millennials can benefit ."
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Job openings hold strong despite rate hikes; manufacturing in contraction
Demand for employment remained high in November as companies looked for workers to fill positions despite worries of a looming recession, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey for the month showed available positions at 10.46 million, down just fractionally from October's total and above the 10 million forecast by FactSet. The JOLTS survey is closely watched by Federal Reserve officials for signs of labor market slack.
As a share of the labor force, job openings remained at 6.4%, indicating demand for workers is still high despite the Fed's efforts to cool the economy and bring down inflation, which has been driven partially by rising wages.
A separate data point Wednesday showed that the U.S. manufacturing sector contracted for the second consecutive month. The ISM Manufacturing Index for December came in at 48.4%, representing the percentage of companies showing expansion. That was about in line with the 48.5% estimate from Dow Jones. A reading below 50% indicates contraction.
On the jobs front, the JOLTS report showed a slight decrease in hiring and a bit of an increase in layoffs. However, the report had little indication of substantial labor market softening.
The quits level increased by 126,000, which took the rate up one-tenth of a percentage point to 2.7%, for a reading that is indicative of worker confidence that they can leave their jobs and find other employment.
Open positions outnumbered available workers by about 1.7 to 1.
The ISM report also showed that the labor market for the manufacturing sector is solid. The jobs index component of the reading rose 3 points to 51.4. At the same time, the prices index, a gauge of inflation, declined to 39.4, a drop of 3.6 points.
Markets will be watching later in the week for the Labor Department's nonfarm payrolls report, which is expected to show a gain of 200,000 jobs.