One month after the number of US job openings reported by the JOLTS unexpectedly tumbled by 176,000 led by food service and construction workers, all it took was a month of revised data to set the seasonally-adjusted, statistically inferred US labor market back on track, and according to the latest JOLTS report, in March the number of job openings soared by 472,000, from 6.078 million to a record 6.550 million, the highest number of vacant jobs on record...
... and the biggest cumulative 3-month increase in job openings in history.
The number of job openings increased for total private jobs (+439,000), and edged up for government.
According to the BLS, job openings increased in a number of industries, with the largest increases in professional and business services (+112,000), construction (+68,000), and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+37,000). The number of job openings increased in the Northeast and Midwest regions.
Yet while job openings jumped, the number of total hires posted a modest decline from a revised 5.511 million in February to 5.425 million in March. The number of hires was little changed for total private and for government. Hires decreased in finance and insurance (-32,000).
The other closely watched category, the level of quits - which indicates workers' confidence they can leverage their existing skills and find a better paying job - continued last month's increase, and in March rose to 3.344MM from 3.208MM, just shy of the all time high hit at the start of the century, suggesting workers were feeling quite confident about demand for their job skills than the previous month. The number of quits edged up for total private and was unchanged for government. Quits increased in other services (+71,000). The number of quits increased in the Midwest region.
And with a total 5.3 million separations (a 3.6% rate), this means that there were 1.6 million layoffs and discharges in March, virtually unchanged from February. The layoffs and discharges rate was 1.1 percent in March. The number of layoffs and discharges was little changed for total private and for government. Layoffs and discharges decreased in health care and social assistance (-35,000). The number of layoffs and discharges was little changed in all four regions.
Putting all this in in context
- Job openings have increased since a low in July 2009. They returned to the prerecession level in March 2014 and surpassed the prerecession peak in August 2014. There were 6.6 million open jobs on the last business day of March 2018, a new series high.
- Hires have increased since a low in June 2009 and have surpassed prerecession levels. In March 2018, there were 5.4 million hires.
- Quits have increased since a low in September 2009 and have surpassed prerecession levels. In March 2018, there were 3.3 million quits.
- For most of the JOLTS history, the number of hires (measured throughout the month) has exceeded the number of job openings (measured only on the last business day of the month). Since January 2015, however, this relationship has reversed with job openings outnumbering hires in most months.
- At the end of the most recent recession in June 2009, there were 1.2 million more hires throughout the month than there were job openings on the last business day of the month. In March 2018, there were 1.1 million fewer hires than job openings.
Finally, and perhaps most notably, the Beveridge Curve (job openings rate vs unemployment rate), continues to gradually normalize after a nearly decade-long "drift" from its conventional pattern. From the start of the most recent recession in December 2007 through the end of 2009, the series trended lower and further to the right as the job openings rate declined and the unemployment rate rose. In January 2018, the unemployment rate was 4.1 percent and the job openings rate was 4.1 percent. In March 2018, the unemployment rate was 4.1 percent and the job openings rate was 4.2 percent.