JOLTS stands for Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. The March 2012 statistics show there were 3.39 official unemployed people hunting for a job to every position available*. There were 3,737,000 job openings for March 2012, an increase of 4.83%, from the previous month of 3,565,000. The press shouts this is the largest number of jobs openings in four years, that's actually wrong. This is the highest number of job openings since July 2008. We were 8 months into the great recession and there were way less people needing a job in July 2008. Openings are still way below pre-recession levels of 4.7 million. Job openings have increased 71% from their July 2009 trough, yet opportunities are still way below the 1.8 persons per job opening at the start of the recession, December 2007. Below is the graph of March official unemployed, 12.673 million, per job opening.
If one takes the official broader definition of unemployment, or U-6, the ratio becomes 6.07** unemployed people per each job opening for February. The February U-6 unemployment rate was 14.5%. Below is the graph of number of unemployed, using the broader U-6 unemployment definition, per job opening.
If you do not like the use of U-6 to look at the real number of people looking for a job to actual opportunities, consider this number. In March 2012, of those not in the labor force, 6,299,000 were actually wanting a job. U-6 only includes 2,352,000 of these people.
The rates below mean the number of openings, hires, fires percentage of the total employment. Openings are added to the total employment for it's ratio. Opens increased a 10th of a percentage point while both hires and separations had no change. Here again is more evidence of a pretty bad jobs market. Discharges and quit rates also did not change from February.
- openings rate - 2.7%
- hires rate - 3.3%
- separations rate - 3.1%
- fires & layoffs rate - 1.3%
- quits rate - 1.6%
Below are raw job openings, still below the 4.7 to 4.3 million levels of 2007.
March hires were 4,356,000, a -1.98% change from February's 4,444,000 hires.
Below are total job separations, 4,153,000, a 0.7% increase from last month's 4,124,000. The term separation means you're out of a job through a firing, layoff, quitting or retirement. The report has a breakdown of separations, hires and openings across occupational categories. Layoffs and firings were 1,683,000 of the total 4,153,000 and to pre-recession levels.
For March, of total separations, the quits were 51.7% whereas layoffs and fires were 40.5%. Below are quits minus discharges and layoffs. When quits comes close to firings that means people have little choice in employment. You want to see choice, or quits, rise and be much higher than firings. The below graph shows people still do not have that many options when it comes to a job, for the ability to quit your job, shown in the number of quits, 2,147,000 for March, is still way below pre-recession levels of 2.8 million. The ratio of quits to firings, is nowhere near the 2009 mass firings and layoffs, yet it's clear people are still afraid to quit their jobs and for good reason.
The JOLTS takes a random sampling of 16,000 businesses and derives their numbers from that. The survey also uses the CES, or current employment statistics, not the household survey as their base benchmark, although ratios are coming from the household survey, which gives the tally of unemployed.
The BLS was kind enough to make a credible Beveridge Curve graph, reprinted below. The Beveridge curve shows the official unemployment rate vs. the job openings rate, over time. If you see a bunch of data points to the far right, that's bad, it means there is long term unemployment and not enough jobs. Look at how we're stuck to the right. December 2011 moved left and up. That means job openings increased, the unemployment rate decreased. The March 2012 unemployment rate was 8.2%. A right and up move in the Beveridge curve can indicate a skills mismatch, so this graph also refutes the corporate lobbyists claim there is a skills shortage per their cheap labor arbitrage agenda. The green, representing the 2009 time period, shows how fast we went to the right and the purple, which is 2010-2012, means we are stuck in job market malaise.
The March 2012 up and left move on the Beveridge curve is better news, but from the graph we can see a long, long way back to pre-recession ratios. Check out how awesome 2000 was for landing a job in the graph below.
JOLTS includes part-time jobs and does not make a distinction between part-time, full-time openings. A job opening reported to the survey could literally be take out the trash twice a week and be counted. This is a shame, it would be nice to know a little more about the quality of these new opportunities.
For the JOLTS report, the BLS creates some fairly useful graphs, one of which were reprinted here, and they have oodles of additional information in their databases, broken down by occupational area. Manufacturing job openings increased by 55,000 in March. Government, on the other hand, job openings decreased by -26,000 with -20,000 of those losses in state and local government. The Saint Louis Federal Reserve also had loads of graphing tools for JOLTS.
*The BLS rounds up to 1 decimal place.
** is defined as the official unemployed plus people who are in part-time jobs for economic reasons plus the marginally attached. The marginally attached,, are officially not part of the civilian labor force, , and also not seasonally adjusted. The above graph was created by the seasonally adjusted levels of the unemployed, part-time for economic reasons and the marginally attached. The raw U-6 totals can also be calculated by this formula, which gives a slightly higher ratio of 6.09.