Friday, October 09, 2009

BLS: Job Openings at Series Low at End of August

by Bill McBride on 10/09/2009 12:30:00 PM

From the BLS: Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary

On the last business day of August, the number of job openings in the U.S. was little changed at a series low level of 2.4 million, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The hires rate was little changed and remained low at 3.1 percent in August. The total separations rate was little changed and remained low at 3.3 percent.
Note: The difference between JOLTS hires and separations is similar to the CES (payroll survey) net jobs headline numbers. Remember the CES (Current Employment Statistics, payroll survey) is for positions, the CPS (Current Population Survey, commonly called the household survey) is for people. See Jobs and the Unemployment Rate for a comparison of the two surveys.

The following graph shows job openings (yellow line), hires (blue Line), Quits (green bars) and Layoff, Discharges and other (red bars) from the JOLTS. Red and green added together equals total separations.

Unfortunately this is a new series and only started in December 2000.

Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey Click on graph for larger image in new window.

Notice that hires (blue line) and separations (red and green together) are pretty close each month. When the blue line is above total separations, the economy is adding net jobs, when the blue line is below total separations, the economy is losing net jobs.

According to the JOLTS report, there were 4.029 million hires in August, and 4.265 million separations, or 236 thousand net jobs lost.

I'm not sure if openings is predictive of future hires (the data set is limited), but openings at a series low can't be a positive. Separations have declined sharply, with fewer quits and layoffs, but hiring has not picked up.

As David Leonhardt noted in the NY Times last month: Wages Grow for Those With Jobs, New Figures Show
Try thinking of it this way: All of the unemployed people in the country are gathered in a huge gymnasium that’s been turned into a job search center. The fact that this recession is the worst in a generation means that there are many, many people in the gym. The fact that the economy is churning so slowly means that there is not much traffic into and out of the gym.

If you’re inside, you will have a hard time getting out.