Labor Market Implodes: Job Openings Crater, Prior Data Revised Sharply Lower

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Dec 05, 2023 - 03:34 PM

For months we have been warning that at a time when the US economy is careening into a hard landing recession, the manipulated, seasonally-adjusted, and politically goalseeked job openings data released as part of the DOL's JOLTS report is sheer rubbish (see "US Job Openings Far Lower Than Reported By Department Of Labor"; "Handle The JOLTS Data With Care", "Just Make it Up: Job Openings Unexpectedly Soar As Labor Department Now Guessing What The Number Is"). Today, the BLS finally got the memo.

With consensus expecting only a modest drop from the reported September 9.553 million job openings, what the BLS reported moments ago instead was a stunning collapse of 617K job openings to just 8.733 million, the lowest since March 2021...

... and was a 6-sigma miss to the consensus estimate of 9.3 million.

It gets better: the actual drop would be far worse if instead of the sharply downward revised print, the BLS had actually reported a correct number for once. Indeed, if we used the original September print of 9.553 million, the monthly plunge would have been over 800K, which would have been the 4th biggest monthly drop on record.

And speaking of downward revisions to "strong" data, something the goalseekers in the Biden administration have become extremely adept at, the September downward revision to the openings print means that the in addition to revising almost all jobs reports lower, the BLS has also revised 4 of the past 5 job openings prints lower. If one incorporates all the adjustments, the latest revisions mean that the number of job openings was 848K lower in the past 5 months, suggesting that the Fed was still hiking this summer on fake, manipulated "strong" data.

According to the BLS, the largest decrease in job openings was in health care and social assistance (-236,000), finance and insurance (-168,000), and real estate and rental and leasing (-49,000). Job openings increased in information (+39,000).

The plunge in the number of job openings meant that in October, the number of job openings was just 2227. million more than the number of unemployed workers, the lowest since July 2021.

Said otherwise, in October the number of job openings to unemployed dropped to just 1.34, the lowest level since August 2021 and almost back to pre-covid levels of 1.3... and a far cry from the record 2.0 hit in early 2022.

As the number of job openings cratered to the lowest in more than two years, the number of people quitting their jobs - an indicator traditionally closely associated with labor market strength as it shows workers are confident they can find a better wage elsewhere - also dropped, if more modestly, by 18K to 3.628MM, the second lowest since March 2021.

And just in case some still believe the "Bidenomics" strong jobs lie, the number of hires also dropped in October, sliding by 20K to 5.886 million...

... as the hire rate dropped to 3.7% (below the 10 year average 3.9% and after peaking above 6%). So not only are job openings plunging, hiring is also slowing fast (and no, the jobs didn't disappear because people were getting hired to fill those jobs).

So what to make of this ugly data which as not only UBS, but also the NFIB...

... Opportunity Insights...

... and even Goldman ...

... have been warning is long overdue?

The answer is simple: while the drop was substantial, the real number of job openings remains still far lower since half of it - or some 70% to be specific - is guesswork. As the BLS itself admits, while the response rate to most of its various labor (and other) surveys has collapsed in recent years, nothing is as bad as the JOLTS report where the actual response rate has tumbled to a record low 32%

In other words, more than two thirds, or 70% of the final number of job openings, is estimated!

And at a time when it is critical for Biden to still maintain the illusion that at least the labor market remains strong when everything else in Biden's economy is crashing and burning, we'll let readers decide if the admin's Labor Department is plugging the estimate gap with numbers that are stronger or weaker.

As for the Fed, now that the labor market has officially cracked - because a sub 9mm print means that the rate hikes are really taking their toll on the economy - it is no surprise that stonks, which had traded near session lows before the report, are suddenly surging again as we are now officially back into "bad news is great news" for the market mode, since the end of Biden's fiscal stimmy means that only the Fed is available to kickstart the economy when it officially slides into a recession next.