Key Takeaways from the September JOLTS Report

On Tuesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report for September 2018. Here are some key takeaways.

Job openings softened slightly from a revised 7.3 million in August to 7.1 million in September, but they continue to exceed the number of unemployed Americans and have now done so for seven straight months.

Despite the slight dip in job openings, the number of unemployed Americans per job opening continued to fall. After peaking at 6.4 at the end of the recession in August 2009, it has since fallen to 0.85.

The number of Americans who voluntarily quit their jobs reached the highest level on record in August and remained near its all-time high in September. Since the start of 2009, quits have steadily risen as a share of total separations. The fact that so many workers are giving their employers notice suggests that they are finding substantially better opportunities elsewhere in the economy.

More than half of all Americans who left their jobs in early 2009 did so because they were laid off or discharged. In September 2018, fewer than three in ten Americans departing their jobs did so for those reasons.

Since September 2017, many key labor market indicators have moved in the right direction. Job openings have increased 13% year-over-year, quits have increased 11%, and hires by 7%. Meanwhile, layoffs and discharges have decreased by 4% and the number of unemployed Americans has fallen by 12%.

In most industries, the number of unemployed workers per job opening has fallen below one. Construction and manufacturing are the two notable exceptions. Unemployed workers with manufacturing or construction experience could improve their chances of finding a good job by exploring opportunities in industries with lower ratios of unemployed workers to vacancies, such as mining and transportation.

IndustryUnemployed workers per job opening
Wholesale and Retail Trade0.82
Financial Activities0.76
Leisure and Hospitality0.69
Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities0.63
Education and Health Services0.51
Professional and Business Services0.44
Mining and Logging0.41

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

While the JOLTS report contains much good news for workers, some of the data point to challenges for employers. Several recent surveys show that the time it takes for employers to fill positions is rising as the labor market tightens. As a result, the number of completed hires per job opening each month is falling.

Written by

Julia Pollak is Chief Economist at ZipRecruiter. She leads ZipRecruiter's economic research team, which provides insights and analysis on current labor market trends and the future of work.

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