Job Openings Little Changed in January at 7.6 Million; Annual Hires, Quits Rise in 2018

The number of job openings was little changed at 7.6 million on the last business day of January, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the month, hires and separations were little changed at 5.8 million and 5.6 million, respectively. Within separations, the quits rate was unchanged at 2.3% and the layoffs and discharges rate was little changed at 1.1%.

This includes estimates of the number and rate of job openings, hires, and separations for the nonfarm sector by industry and by four geographic regions. The release also includes 2018 annual estimates for hires and separations. The annual number of hires at 68.9 million and the annual number of quits at 40.1 million increased in 2018.

The annual number of layoffs and discharges at 21.9 million edged up in 2018. Job Openings On the last business day of January, the job openings level was little changed at 7.6 million. The job openings rate was 4.8 percent. The number of job openings was little changed for total private and increased for government (+59,000). Job openings increased in a number of industries, with the largest increases in wholesale trade (+91,000), real estate and rental and leasing (+60,000), and information (+42,000). The job openings level decreased in other services (-98,000), retail trade (-97,000), and arts, entertainment, and recreation (-40,000). The number of job openings was little changed in all four regions.

Hires

The number of hires was little changed at 5.8 million in January. The hires rate was 3.9%. The hires level was little changed for total private and for government. The number of hires was little changed in all industries and all four regions.

Separations

Total separations includes quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. Total separations is referred to as turnover. Quits are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee. Therefore, the quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs. Layoffs and discharges are involuntary separations initiated by the employer. Other separations includes separations due to retirement, death, disability, and transfers to other locations of the same firm.

The number of total separations was little changed at 5.6 million in January. The total separations rate was 3.7%. The number of total separations was little changed for total private and for government.

Total separations increased in real estate and rental and leasing (+20,000) but decreased in federal government (-11,000). The number of total separations was little changed in all four regions. The number of quits was little changed in January at 3.5 million. The quits rate was 2.3 percent. The quits level was little changed for total private but increased for government (+20,000). Quits decreased in federal government (-6,000). The number of quits was little changed in all four regions.

The number of layoffs and discharges was little changed in January at 1.7 million. The layoffs and discharges rate was 1.1%. The layoffs and discharges level was little changed for total private and for government. The number of layoffs and discharges was little changed in all industries and in all four regions.

The number of other separations was little changed in January. The other separations level was little changed for total private and decreased for government (-10,000). Other separations increased in transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+8,000) but decreased in federal government (-6,000). The number of other separations was little changed in all four regions.

Net Change in Employment

Large numbers of hires and separations occur every month throughout the business cycle. Net employment change results from the relationship between hires and separations. When the number of hires exceeds the number of separations, employment rises, even if the hires level is steady or declining.

Conversely, when the number of hires is less than the number of separations, employment declines, even if the hires level is steady or rising. Over the 12 months ending in January, hires totaled 69.2 million and separations totaled 66.3 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.8 million. These totals include workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year.

Annual Levels and Rates

Calculating annual levels and rates allows additional comparisons across years. Annual levels for hires, quits, layoffs and discharges, other separations, and total separations are the sum of the 12 published monthly levels. Annual rates are computed by dividing the annual level by the Current Employment Statistics (CES) annual average employment level, and multiplying that quotient by 100. Consistent with BLS practice, annual estimates are published only for not seasonally adjusted data and are released with the January news release each year. Note that annual estimates are not calculated for job openings because job openings are a stock, or point-in-time, measurement for the last business day of each month.

In 2018, there were 68.9 million hires, an increase of 3.3 million from 2017. Total separations (the sum of quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations) rose by 2.6 million in 2018 to 66.1 million. Quits rose for the ninth consecutive year reaching 40.1 million in 2018, up by 2.4 million. Quits comprised 61% of total separations. Layoffs and discharges edged up by 307,000 in 2018 to 21.9 million and comprised 33% of total separations. Other separations edged down by 44,000 in 2018 to 4.1 million and comprised 6% of total separations.

The annual hires for 2018 was 46.3% of the annual average CES employment level. This rate has been trending upwards since 2009. The annual total separations rate for 2018 was 44.3%. The annual rates for the components of total separations were 26.9% for quits, 14.7% for layoffs and discharges, and 2.8% for other separations.