Over 6 Million US Job Openings Waiting to Be Filled

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While each monthly Labor Department reading on private sector payrolls gives a live snapshot of the U.S. jobs market, a more obscure report from the Labor Department actually shows just how much hiring and opportunities are out there for workers at any given time. This is seen in the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report, and it shows the data with a one-month lag on job openings and actual hires. The JOLTS report also shows separations via quits and layoffs.

The number of total U.S. job openings rose sharply and was again over the 6 million hurdle in June. It was 6.163 million job openings, versus 5.702 million job openings in May.

While job openings can be hard to fill, the actual Hires rate came down significantly. Hires fell to 5.356 million in June from 5.459 million in May.

The so-called JOLTS report is a report that rarely moves the markets. Still, it shows a semi-live internal metrics on the real state of the jobs market. This report can also be somewhat volatile from month to month.

It also matters within the separations about how many so-called “quits” there are at any time. These are voluntary job departures rather than being fired or being laid off. Workers quitting one job are leaving for a better opportunity elsewhere, either in how they feel about their job, how they are being paid, or perhaps even by how long their commute or average work week is. Or maybe they are just more comfortable than before staying home and raising the family. Whatever the reason for an individual quit is, after a job opening is available it often takes people leaving one job to fill another. And then that person just created another theoretical job opening too.

The number of quits was listed as ‘little changed’ at 3.1 million in June, and the quits rate was 2.1%. There were 1.7 million layoffs and discharges in June, which was little changed from May and the layoffs and discharges rate was 1.2%.

Over the 12 months ending in June, the number of hires totaled 63.4 million — while the total number of separations was 61.1 million. That yields a net employment gain of 2.3 million workers but it is important to realize that the totals do include workers who may have been hired and/or separated from a job more than once during the year.

Of the 5.356 million sector hires in June of 2017, 1.07 million came from trade transport and utilities. Another 1.154 million came from professional and business services, and another 634,000 came from education and health services. Some 331,000 came from government hires.

As far as the net change in employment, it is obvious that there are large numbers of hires and separations each month and throughout the business cycle. When the number of hires is greater than the number of separations, employment rises. Conversely, when the number of hires is lower than the total number of separations then employment declines.