There Are Still Over 7 Million Job Openings in America

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In the days after the payroll and unemployment report each month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. The report comes with a one month lag, unlike the unemployment and payrolls report, but it is generally used to measure the strength of the overall jobs economy beyond payrolls and the unemployment rate. It turns out that the October jobs market was the second-highest on record, with 7.08 million jobs open.

The only month that was higher was the 7.3 million job openings in August. Needless to say, with the 3.7% unemployment remaining steady, it’s a strong job market at this time. With just 6.08 million adults listed as unemployed, this means there were 1 million more job openings than there are able bodies to fill them, without regard to what happens if a worker quits one job to go to another.

Within the jobs data, the openings available were roughly a million higher than a year earlier. That’s up almost 17%. The number of hires was almost 6 million, up 3.4% from the prior month and up 5.2% from the same month in 2017, just under the high set in August.

The so-called quits rate is perhaps the most important component of how strong the jobs market is. These are voluntary exits, where a worker is leaving a current job for more pay, for a new opportunity, to be closer to home, or for other reasons that are decided by the worker rather than by the employer. The quits rate actually dipped in October, by 50,000 to a level of 3.51 million.

As a reminder, the more recent nonfarm payrolls from last Friday’s BLS report for November came in at 155,000, compared with 237,000 in October.

While the ADP report did not nail the softer payrolls gains to a tee last week, it did set the tone properly for a more muted number. And what was said in that release needs to at least be given some strong consideration for November and beyond, as most economists are expecting the U.S. economic growth to temper a bit into 2019. Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said:

Job growth is strong, but has likely peaked. This month’s report is free of significant weather effects and suggests slowing underlying job creation. With very tight labor markets, and record unfilled positions, businesses will have an increasingly tough time adding to payrolls.

Until the next month …

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