The latest JOLTS numbers are out, and while most economists look at the simple headline Job Openings number, which printed at a disappointing 3.974MM, below the expected 4.015MM, and a drop from the unrevised 3.990MM last month (conveniently revised lower to 3.914MM to make the sequential change appear as an increase), as well as down from the 4.126MM in November, far more interesting data can be found in the Hires and Separations data series. As we have shown before, when it comes to the "recovery" in the job market, there is no greater myth than "employers are finally looking to hire at past economic peak levels." Because while the monthly job increase may have stabilized in the mid-100k range, the actual hiring is nowhere near close to where it should be based on historic patterns.
The chart below shows that while there has traditionally been near 100% correlation between the 1 year cumulative change in payrolls, and the monthly amount of job hires, in the New Normal this is anything but true.
The simple explanation: the only reason why it "seems" things have gotten back to normal, is not because there is hiring, but because companies have put a freeze on terminations, and with quality jobs few and far between, workers still refuse to leave existing jobs voluntarily, further confirmed by the Quits print which just dropped to 2.375MM, the lowest since October as confidence in finding a better paying job has rapidly evaporated. Perhaps the snow is to blame for that too?
Finally, confirming just how bad the job situation has gotten recently, here is the JOLTS chart of net turnover, i.e., hires less separations which is the functional equivalent of the NFP's monthly job gains print, which according to JOLTS in January printed at the lowest level since August 2012.
Wait for it... wait for it... "Snow."