After nearly a full year of massive, consecutive monthly increases in job openings as employers scrambled to find qualified workers, today the BLS reported that in the past few months, the number of job openings in the US finally reached a peak, and reversed materially in November, when the latest JOLTS Job Openings and Labor Turnover data showed the biggest drop since the peak of the covid Pandemic, as a whopping 529K job openings were lost in November, the most since the 1.139 million jobs lost in April 2020. Still, even with the big drop, the total number of job openings remains a massive 10.562 million (which was below the 11.1 million expected) and not too far off the 11.1 million all time high.
Looking at the details, job openings decreased in several industries with the largest decreases in accommodation and food services (-261,000); construction (-110,000); and non-durable goods manufacturing (-66,000). Job openings increased in finance and insurance (+83,000) and in federal government (+25,000). The number of job openings decreased in the South and Midwest regions
What we find remarkable is that even despite the plunge in job openings, as a result of the parallel collapse in unemployed people, there was a new record, or 3.7 million, more vacant jobs than unemployed workers in November, confirming that the US labor market remains painfully cracked.
And with far more job openings than unemployed workers, this meant that in November there were again less than 1 unemployed workers - a record low 0.6511 to be exact - for every job opening, down from 7841 in July, and down from 0.6689 in October and down from a record high 4.6 at the peak crisis moment last April.
Offsetting the modest drop in job openings in November, we saw a modest rebound in hiring: according to the BLS, hiring rose by 191K to 6.697 million, the highest since July's 6.761 million.
But perhaps the most interesting highlight of today's JOLTS report was neither the openings nor the hiring activity, but rather the number of quits, which unexpectedly soared to an all time high, jumping in November by 370K to a record 4.527 million.
Quits increased in several industries with the largest increases in accommodation and food services (+159,000); health care and social assistance (+52,000); and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+33,000). The number of quits increased in the Northeast, South, and Midwest regions.
The quits rate of 3.0%, matched a series high last seen in September, as quits increased in several industries with the largest increases in accommodation and food services (+159,000); health care and social assistance (+52,000); and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+33,000). The number of quits increased in the Northeast, South, and Midwest regions.
As a reminder, this "take this job and shove it" indicator is generally seen as a real-time proxy of how marketable employees think they are, as they tend to quit jobs and look for higher paying occupations when the job market is red hot. And since it tends to lag peaks in job openings modestly, the surge in quits was probably not all that surprising.