US Job Openings Now at All-Time High

When you hear that employers cannot find workers, or that job seekers are not happy with the available jobs, some market and economic watchers scratch their heads. Now a new Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report has some added good news on top of May’s payroll additions from the prior week: U.S. job openings are at a record high of 5.4 million.

The BLS JOLTS report (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) comes with a one-month lag. It showed that the number of hires was 5.0 million in April, while the total number of separations was 4.9 million. Within separations, the quits rate was 1.9% and the layoffs and discharges rate was 1.3%.

Over the 12 months ending in April 2015, the BLS indicated that the hires totaled 60.0 million and separations totaled 57.2 million. The net employment gain was roughly 2.8 million. So, what about all of those job openings?

Job openings reached 5.4 million on the last business day of April, which is again the highest on record. The BLS started tracking this back in December of 2000.

The job openings rate for April 2015 was 3.7%, and the number of job openings increased for total private sector and was essentially unchanged for government. Job openings rose in health care and social assistance, but they fell in the arts, entertainment and recreation, as well as in the mining and logging industry (includes oil and gas drilling). By region, the job openings increased the most in the West but were up in all four regions.

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What matters the most in recovery periods from the total separations is the so-called quits rate. Quits are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee, and it indicates the degree of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs for other opportunities. There were 2.7 million quits in April, and the quits rate in April was 1.9%. All in all, the number of quits was little changed in private and government jobs. Also, the number of quits did not increase over the month for any industries, but fell in retail trade and in accommodation and food services.

One of the top issues that 24/7 Wall St. looks at during periods of contraction and during a recovery is the number of job openings. With some 5.4 million openings available, here is some data from the BLS payrolls report:

  • The number of unemployed new entrants (those who never previously worked) was up by 103,000 in May but is about unchanged over the year.
  • The number of persons unemployed for less than five weeks decreased by 311,000 to 2.4 million in May.
  • The number of long-term unemployed (jobless for 27 weeks or more) was 2.5 million in May, accounting for 28.6% of the unemployed. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed is down by 849,000.
  • The number of persons employed part-time for economic reasons (involuntary part-time workers) was 6.7 million in May and has shown little movement in recent months.
  • In May, 1.9 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down by 268,000 from a year earlier. Among the marginally attached, there were 563,000 discouraged workers in May, down by 134,000 from a year earlier.

Those 5.4 million openings do not pare off all the other side of the ledger here. Still, it takes care of a large portion of those workers.

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While this is never market-moving news, following the quits rate is very important during economic recoveries. For employees to go get new jobs that are better in pay, closer to home or more personally rewarding, the employees have to have confidence that they are safe in making that jump.

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