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JOLTs: Openings Increased to Start 2021

March 11, 2021
Bottom Line:  Total hiring fell but so too did total separations in January as job openings rose to the highest level since last February. The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary is lagged relative to other labor market reports but offers more details into the labor market dynamics.   The January report showed continued hints of positive dynamics.   The quit rate fell slightly to 2.3%, while the layoff & discharge rate fell slightly to 1.2%. Most of the major recovering sectors saw declines.  But the health care and social services sectors saw declines, something that remains concerning as a decline in elective doctor visits and procedures continues to weigh on that sector. The number of job openings as a % of short-term unemployed (less than 27 weeks) is now 96.0% vs. 88.3% vs last month, suggesting both a high degree of frictional unemployment amid a volatile recovery and a continued skills mismatch in many industries.  Overall, the labor market's critical dynamics showed a modest acceleration in the pace of improvement as reopenings and vaccine distribution continued.
Job Openings ROSE by 165k in January to 6.917 million, compared with market expectations for an increase to 6.700 million.

Government job openings
ROSE by 22k. Consequently, private sector job openings ROSE by 142k. Over the past 12 months, there were 237k more job openings.
Job Hires
FELL by 110k in January to 5.301 million. Over the past 12 months, there were 673k more job hires. Job Separations FELL by 275k in January to 5.307 million. Over the past 12 months, there were 407k more job separations.

The Hires to Job openings ratio
FELL by 0.035 points from 0.801 to 0.766 and is moderately below its 12 month average of 0.952.

The Number of Unemployed to Job openings ratio
FELL by 0.13 points from 1.59 to 1.46 and is sharply below its 12 month average of 2.21.  This ratio has been declining since its July 2009 peak of 6.7 amid some volatility.