JOLT data reflect weakening jobs market

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construction employment

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLT) report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said that the number of job openings in March was 9.59 million, down 384,000 openings from last month’s revised figure and down 2,440,000 openings from the year-ago level. Hiring was essentially unchanged from last month’s revised figure for the economy as a whole, while total separations rose. Within total separations, quits fell while layoffs rose.

Employment rises despite fall in openings

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 job openings were down 4 percent at the end of March from the revised (+43,000) level of the month before. The March job openings figure represents 5.8 percent of total employment plus job openings. For comparison, the unemployment rate in March was reported to be 3.5 percent and 5.8 million people were unemployed. Another 4.9 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 March was 6.15 million, while the number of people leaving their old jobs was 5.93 million. Of those leaving their jobs, 3.85 million quit voluntarily, representing 65 percent of total separations, while 1.81 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 down from last month’s figure at 2.5 percent of the labor force. The involuntary separations rate was up from last month’s revised figure at 1.2 percent.

Construction layoffs jump higher

The first chart, below, shows the employment situation for the construction jobs market over the last 37 months. It shows that March saw a net loss of 56,000 construction jobs.

construction jobs market data

Construction jobs openings in March were reported to be 341,000 jobs, 17 percent lower than the year-earlier level. On a month-over-month basis, openings for construction jobs were reported to fall by 63,000 openings from February’s revised (-8,000) job openings figure. Job openings in the construction category represent 4.1 percent of total employment plus job openings, down from the 4.9 percent level reported last month.

Hiring was reported to be up by 33,000 jobs in March from the prior month’s revised (-2,000) jobs figure at 400,000 new hires. The number of construction jobs that were filled in March was reported to be down 2 percent year-over-year.

Construction jobs total separations were reported to rise by 104,000 jobs from the prior month’s revised (+3,000) figure to 456,000 jobs. Quits were reported to fall by 1,000 jobs from February’s revised (-3,000) figure to a level of 152,000 jobs. Layoffs were reported to jump by 112,000 from February’s revised (+7,000) figure to 294,000 jobs. “Other separations” which includes retirements and transfers, were reported to be down 9,000 at 9,000 jobs. Quits represented 33 percent of separations for the month, down from the revised level of 44 percent reported for February.

RERL hiring plunges

The last chart, below, shows the employment situation for the real estate and rental and leasing (RERL) jobs category. Employment in this jobs category was reported to fall by 5,000 jobs in March. Data revisions resulted in last month’s reported employment gain being revised higher to a gain of 17,000 jobs.

multifamily employment data

The number of job openings in the RERL category was reported to be 141,000 jobs at the end of March. This was up 11,000 job openings from the revised (+3,000) level of the month before. Job openings in March were 4 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 March was down by 29,000 jobs from February’s revised (+2,000) level at 64,000 jobs. This hiring figure was 14 percent below the year-earlier level.

Total separations in the RERL jobs category in March were down 7,000 jobs from February’s revised (-2,000) figure at 69,000 jobs. Quits were down by 2,000 jobs from February’s figure at 49,000 jobs. Quits represented 71 percent of total separations in March, up from the revised levels of 67 percent in February and 55 percent in January.

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.