Job openings remain high in October

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job openings

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released the Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLT) report for October. It reported that the number of job openings edged up to the second-highest level ever seen in this data series.

Evaluating the overall jobs market

For a discussion of the JOLT report and how it relates to the Employment Situation Report, please see the paragraph at the end of this article.

The BLS reported that there were 11.0 million job openings at the end of October. This is up by 595,000 from the preliminary level reported last month. In addition, last month’s job openings level was revised upward by 164,000 openings in the current report. The October figure represents 6.9 percent of total employment plus job openings. For comparison, the unemployment rate in October was 4.6 percent and 7.4 million people were unemployed. Another 5.9 million people said that they wanted jobs but had not sought employment recently and so were not counted as part of the labor force.

The number of people hired for a new job was 6.46 million while the number of people leaving their old jobs was 5.89 million. Of those leaving their jobs, 4.16 million (71 percent of separations) left voluntarily, while 1.36 million people were involuntarily separated from their jobs. The remainder of people leaving their jobs left for other reasons, such as retirements or transfers. The portion of people quitting their jobs was 2.8 percent of the labor force, down from the record 3.0 percent who quit their jobs last month.

Strong report on construction

The first chart, below, shows the employment situation for the construction jobs market over the last 25 months. It shows that October saw a net rise of 36,000 jobs. This was reported to be down slightly from last month’s jobs gain figure but only because that figure was revised upward by 12,000 jobs, mostly due to an upward revision in hiring.

construction jobs

Construction jobs openings in October were reported to be 410,000 jobs, 62 percent higher than the year-earlier level. Openings for construction jobs were reported to be 56,000 higher than in the previous month despite September’s figure being revised upward by 21,000 openings.

Hiring was reported to be up by 17,000 jobs in October despite September’s figure being revised upward by 11,000 jobs. The BLS reported that 378,000 construction jobs were filled in October.

Construction jobs separations were reported to rise by 21,000 jobs in October to 342,000. Quits were down 3,000 jobs at 188,000 while layoffs were reported to rise by 26,000 to 139,000 jobs. “Other separations” which includes retirements and transfers, were reported fall by 1,000 jobs from September’s revised figure to 15,000 jobs. Quits represented 55 percent of separations for the month.

Taking the long view

The next chart plots the same data as the first, but over a longer time period. The interesting thing about this chart is how the relationship between construction job openings and hiring has changed over the 20+ years depicted. In the early 2000’s, the number of hires during the month was 4 to 5 times the number of job openings at the end of the month. This implies that the typical construction job opening was being filled in about one week.

construction jobs

Since 2010, the ratio of hires to job openings has been falling. In recent months, the number of construction job openings at the end of the month has sometimes exceeded the number of hires during the month. This implies that the typical construction job opening is now taking around one month to fill.

RERL jobs growth continues positive

The last chart, below, shows the employment situation for the real estate and rental and leasing (RERL) jobs category. Employment growth in this jobs category was positive again in October, as it has been in 17 of the last 18 months.

real estate jobs

The number of job openings in the RERL category came in at 125,000 in October, up 10,000 jobs from the month before. However, September’s figure was revised downward by 6,000 jobs, making the month-over-month comparison look better than it otherwise would have done. Job openings in October were 58 percent higher than their year-earlier level.

Hiring in October was up 4 percent from September’s revised (+6,000) figure to 78,000 jobs.

Separations in October were up 20 percent from September’s revised figure (+1,000 jobs) to 71,000 jobs. Quits were up 30 percent to 48,000. Quits represented 68 percent of total separations in October.

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 JOLT report can be found here.

Comparing the reports

The US labor market is very dynamic with many people changing jobs in any given month. The JOLT report documents this dynamism by providing details about job openings, hiring and separations. However, it does not break down the jobs market into as fine categories as does the Employment Situation Report, which provides data on total employment and unemployment. For example, while the Employment Situation Report separates residential construction from other construction employment, the JOLT report does not. The Employment Situation Report separates residential property managers from other types of real estate and rental and leasing professionals, but the JOLT report does not. However, the JOLT report provides a look at what is driving the employment gains (or losses) in broad employment categories.