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Job Openings and Labor Turnover in January 2011
added: 2011-03-15

There were 2.8 million job openings on the last business day of January 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. The job openings rate (2.1 percent), hires rate (2.8 percent), and total separations rate (2.7 percent) were little changed over the month. This release includes estimates of the number and rate of job openings, hires, and separations for the total nonfarm sector by industry and by geographic region. This release also includes annual estimates for hires and separations. The annual totals for hires and quits increased in 2010 while the annual total for layoffs and discharges decreased.

Job Openings

The number of job openings in January was 2.8 million, little changed from 2.9 million in December. The job openings level has risen since the end of the recession in June 2009 (as designated by the National Bureau of Economic Research) but remains well below the 4.4 million openings when the recession began in December 2007.

The number of job openings in January 2011 (not seasonally adjusted) increased from 12 months earlier for total nonfarm, total private, several industries, and the South region. The level fell over the year for federal government.

Hires

In January, the hires rate was essentially unchanged at 2.8 percent. The number of hires decreased in construction but was little changed in every other industry and region. At 3.7 million, the number of monthly hires in January was well below the 5.0 million monthly hires in December 2007 when the recession began.

Over the 12 months ending in January, the hires rate (not seasonally adjusted) was little changed for total nonfarm, total private, and government. The hires rate fell over the year in construction and federal government but rose in wholesale trade. The rate also fell in the Northeast region.

Separations

Total separations includes quits (voluntary separations), layoffs and discharges (involuntary separations), and other separations (including retirements). The total separations, or turnover, rate was little changed at 2.7 percent in January. Over the 12 months ending in January, the total separations rate (not seasonally adjusted) was essentially unchanged for total nonfarm, total private, and government.

The quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to change jobs. In January, the quits rate declined for total private (to 1.4 percent) but was little changed for total nonfarm (1.3 percent) and government (0.5 percent). The number of monthly quits in January (1.7 million) remains well below the 2.8 million monthly quits in December 2007 when the recession began.

Although still low, the number of quits (not seasonally adjusted) in January 2011 was higher than in January 2010 for total nonfarm and total private. Professional and business services and federal government were the only industries with a rise in quits over the 12 months.

The layoffs and discharges component of total separations is seasonally adjusted at the total nonfarm, total private, and government levels. The layoffs and discharges rate was essentially unchanged in January for total nonfarm and total private but fell for government. After peaking at 2.5 million in February 2009, the number of layoffs and discharges for total nonfarm fell to a series low of 1.5 million in January 2011.

The layoffs and discharges level (not seasonally adjusted) declined over the 12 months ending in January for total nonfarm, total private, and government. Construction, durable goods manufacturing, and state and local government experienced a decline in the number of layoffs and discharges over the year.

The other separations series is not seasonally adjusted. In January, there were 440,000 other separations for total nonfarm, 370,000 for total private, and 70,000 for government. Compared to January 2010, the number of other separations was little changed for total nonfarm and total private but higher for government.

Relative Contributions to Separations

The total separations level is influenced by the relative contribution of its three components—quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. The percentage of total separations at the total nonfarm level attributable to the individual components has varied over time, but for the majority of the months since the series began in December 2000, the proportion of quits has exceeded the proportion of layoffs and discharges. Other separations is historically a very small portion of total separations; it has rarely been above 10 percent of the total.

Since February 2010, the proportions of quits and of layoffs and discharges at the total nonfarm level have been close. In January 2011, the proportion of quits for total nonfarm was 47 percent and the proportion of layoffs and discharges was 43 percent. The proportions for total private were the same as for total nonfarm. For government, the proportions were 39 percent quits and 34 percent layoffs and discharges.

Net Change in Employment

Over the 12 months ending in January, hires (not seasonally adjusted)totaled 47.3 million and separations (not seasonally adjusted) totaled 46.3 million, yielding a net employment gain of 1.0 million at the total nonfarm level. These figures include workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year. Nearly half of the hires and nearly half of the separations during these 12 months occurred in three industries: retail trade; professional and business services; and accommodation and food services. The large share of total hires and separations accounted for by these three industries reflects the size of the industries as well as their relatively high hires and separations rates.

Annual Levels and Rates

This release contains the 2010 annual levels and rates for hires, total separations, quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. Note that annual figures for job openings are not calculated because job openings are measured on a stock, or point-in-time, basis rather than on a flow basis over a specified time period. The annual figures and additional tables are published with the release of January data each year.

Calculating annual levels and rates allows additional comparisons across years. After 3 years of declines, annual levels for hires, quits, and other separations increased slightly in 2010. Layoffs and discharges annual levels were down in 2010 after three consecutive years of increases. Total separations annual levels declined for a fourth year in a row. These figures reflect the effects of the economic recovery since the end of the recession as well as the hiring and laying off of temporary workers for the Census 2010.

In 2010, annual hires increased to 47.2 million (36.4 percent of employment) and annual total separations fell to 46.3 million (35.7 percent of employment). Annual quits increased slightly to 21.3 million (16.4 percent of employment) in 2010 after falling to 20.6 million (15.7 percent of employment) in 2009. Annual other separations also increased slightly in 2010 to 3.8 million (2.9 percent of employment). Annual layoffs and discharges decreased in 2010 to 21.2 million (16.4 percent of employment) after reaching 26.3 million (20.1 percent of employment) in 2009.


Source: U.S. Department of Labor

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