Job openings remain high in February

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jobs data

The February Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLT) report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said that the number of job openings and separations were nearly unchanged for the month while hires were up slightly.

Overall jobs market shows gains

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 11.27 million job openings at the end of February. This was up by 3,000 from the preliminary level of openings reported last month but was down by 17,000 openings from January’s revised figure contained in this month’s report.

The February job openings figure represents 7.0 percent of total employment plus job openings. For comparison, the unemployment rate in February was 3.8 percent and 6.3 million people were unemployed. Another 5.4 million people said that they would like a job but were not counted as being in the labor force since they were not actively seeking employment.

The number of people hired for a new job in February was 6.69 million, while the number of people leaving their old jobs was 6.09 million. Of those leaving their jobs, 4.35 million quit voluntarily, while 1.39 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 rose slightly to 2.9 percent of the labor force. The involuntary separations rate was unchanged at 0.9 percent.

Construction employment rises

The first chart, below, shows the employment situation for the construction jobs market over the last 37 months. It shows that February saw a net increase of 54,000 jobs, the highest level since March of last year. In addition, January’s job losses were revised downward from 7,000 jobs lost to 2,000 jobs lost.

construction jobs report

Construction jobs openings in February were reported to be 381,000 jobs, 48 percent higher than the year-earlier level. On a month-over-month basis, openings for construction jobs were reported to fall by 2,000 openings. However, without January’s jobs opening figure being revised upward by 3,000, construction job openings would have eked out a minimal gain. Job openings in the construction category represent 4.8 percent of total employment plus job openings.

Hiring was reported to be up significantly in February, rising to 398,000 new hires. This was up by 75,000 jobs from January’s revised (+25,000 hires) figure. The number of construction jobs that were filled in February was up 23 percent month-over-month and up 4 percent year-over-year.

Construction jobs separations were reported to rise by 19,000 jobs in February to 344,000 jobs. Quits were reported to fall by 3,000 jobs to 169,000 jobs. However, January’s quits level was revised sharply upward from the preliminary report of 146,000 quits to a revised level of 176,000 quits. Layoffs were reported to rise by 11,000 to 155,000 jobs. “Other separations” which includes retirements and transfers, were reported rise by 11,000 jobs from January’s revised figure to 20,000 jobs. Quits represented 49 percent of construction job separations for the month.

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 17,000 jobs. Employment growth has been positive for this jobs category ever since May 2020 and, for the first time, the JOLT data indicate that the job losses that occurred during the pandemic-related shutdowns in the spring of 2020 have been recovered.

real estate jobs report

The number of job openings in the RERL category was 137,000 jobs at the end of February, up 11,000 jobs from the revised level (-1,000 openings) of the month before. Job openings in February were 88 percent higher than their year-earlier level. Job openings in the RERL category represent 5.5 percent of total employment plus job openings.

Hiring in February was down by 3,000 jobs from January’s revised (-2,000) level at 72,000 jobs. This hiring figure was 11 percent above the year-earlier level.

Separations in the RERL jobs category in February were down significantly from January’s figure at 55,000 jobs. Quits were down 11,000 from January’s revised (-9,000 jobs) figure to 40,000. Quits represented 73 percent of total separations in February.

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.