Job Openings Rise in December

The latest job openings and labor turnover summary (JOLTS) report showed that job openings rose to a 3-month high in December. Vacancies increased to 9.026 million from November's upwardly revised level of 8.925 million. The latest reading was higher than the expected 8.750 million vacancies.

From the press release:

The number of job openings changed little at 9.0 million on the last business day of December, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the month, the number of hires and total separations were little changed at 5.6 million and 5.4 million, respectively. Within separations, quits (3.4 million) and layoffs and discharges (1.6 million) changed little. This release includes estimates of the number and rate of job openings, hires, and separations for the total nonfarm sector, by industry, and by establishment size class.

Background on JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover)

The JOLTS report is a monthly survey of job openings, hiring, and job separations (quits, layoffs, discharges) released by the BLS. Unlike the unemployment rate that measures the supply side of the labor market, JOLTS data helps gauge labor demand.

The chart below shows the monthly data points of the four components of the JOLTS series. They are quite volatile, hence the inclusion of six-month moving averages to help identify the trends. The moving average for openings was above the hires levels for over five years starting in 2015, as seen in the chart below. The openings MA briefly dipped below the hires for two months (May and June 2020), only to climb above once more in July 2020. Over the last year, job openings, hires, and quits have all been trending down with job openings moving downwards the fastest. During that same time, layoffs and discharges have been very slowly trending up but have recently started to level off.

JOLTS Overview

For comparison, here is the monthly BLS Employment Situation Summary charted with JOLTS data:

BLS Nonfarm Jobs versus JOLTS data

In December, there were 6.268 million unemployed workers and 9.026 million job openings. This equates to 1.44 jobs available per unemployed worker in December, up slightly from 1.43 in November.

Job Openings Per Unemployed Worker