Jobs coming back, but slowly


The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released its Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLT) report for June. It shows that the jobs market is continuing to recover from the COVID-19 induced shutdowns, but more slowly than in May.

Total employment still down

Adjustments made in the June report to the preliminary numbers released for May increased the reported number of hires and decreased the reported number of separations. The result is that the reported employment gain for May was up by 1 million jobs.However, the preliminary numbers for June indicate a slowdown in employment growth from May’s pace. This is illustrated in the first chart, below.

total non-farm employment

The chart shows an increase in total separations in June. This increase is largely due to the number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs increasing from 1.9 million in May to 2.5 million in June. While voluntary separations are still running at levels below those seen before the COVID-19 induced shutdowns, the fact that they are on the upswing indicates that the labor market is on a path back to normalcy since more people are willing to take a chance on a new job. However, the fact that 10 million jobs were lost and not yet recovered indicates that the recovery still has a long way to go.

Construction jobs rebound

The second chart shows the situation for the construction jobs market. Even in normal times, this market is characterized by a lot of job churning, with high numbers of hires and separations. In the last two months, hiring has been running well ahead of 2019 levels while both voluntary and involuntary separations have been down. As a result, 60 percent of the number of jobs lost in March and April were recovered in May and June. For the total private jobs market, the equivalent figure is 31 percent.

construction employment

Looked at another way, the net loss in employment over the last 4 months in construction is equivalent to about the average monthly hiring level in 2019. By contrast, for total private employment, the net loss in jobs over the last 4 months is about equal to two months of the average hiring level in 2019.

RERL recovering slowly

The real estate and rental and leasing (RERL) jobs category, which includes people who manage multifamily properties, was hard hit by the shutdown with large job losses in March and April. This segment of the jobs market has been slow to recover with anemic job gains in May and with a small decline in employment in June. For this segment of the jobs market, only 11 percent of the jobs lost in March and April were recovered in May and June.

The performance of the RERL jobs market segment is illustrated in the final chart, below.

RERL employment

The numbers given in the JOLT report are seasonally adjusted and are subject to revision. It is common for small adjustments to be made in subsequent reports, particularly to the data for the most recent month. The full current report from the BLS can be found here.