The number of job openings in April was 3.0 million, little changed from 3.1 million in March. After increasing in February, job openings have been flat. Job openings have been around 3.0 million for three consecutive months; the last three-month period with levels this high was September—November 2008. The number of job openings was 549,000 higher than at 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 April (not seasonally adjusted) increased from 12 months earlier for total private, four industries, and in the Midwest region. The level decreased over the year for other services, government, and federal government.) Over-the-year comparisons for federal government in April are impacted, in part, by the large number of job openings for temporary workers to conduct the 2010 Census.
In April, the hires rate was essentially unchanged at 3.0 percent for total nonfarm. The hires rate also was essentially unchanged for all industries and regions. At 4.0 million in April, the number of hires has increased from 3.6 million in October 2009 (the series trough) but remains below the 5.0 million hires in December 2007 when the recession began.
Over the 12 months ending in April, the hires rate (not seasonally adjusted) was little changed for total nonfarm and total private. Over the year, the hires rate fell for government and federal government due, in part, to hiring last year for the 2010 Census. The hires rate increased for information but was about unchanged for all other industries and all regions.
Total separations includes quits (voluntary separations), layoffs and discharges (involuntary separations), and other separations (including retirements). The total separations, or turnover, rate was unchanged at 2.9 percent for total nonfarm in April on a seasonally adjusted basis. Over the year, 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 April, the quits rate was essentially unchanged for total nonfarm (1.4 percent), total private (1.6 percent), and government (0.5 percent) and was little changed in every industry and region. The 1.9 million quits in April remained well below the 2.8 million quits in December 2007 when the recession began.
The number of quits (not seasonally adjusted) in April was about unchanged over the year for total nonfarm, total private, and government. The number of quits held steady in all industries but increased in the Midwest region.
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 April for total nonfarm, total private, and government. The number of layoffs and discharges for total nonfarm was 1.5 million in April, the same as the previous low point of 1.5 million in January 2011. The number of layoffs and discharges for total nonfarm had peaked at 2.5 million in February 2009.
The layoffs and discharges level (not seasonally adjusted) was essentially unchanged over the 12 months ending in April for total nonfarm, total private, and government. The layoffs and discharges level decreased over the year for finance and insurance and in federal government. The number of layoffs and discharges increased in the Northeast region.
The other separations series is not seasonally adjusted. In April, there were 313,000 other separations for total nonfarm, 266,000 for total private, and 47,000 for government. Compared to April 2010, the number of other separations was little changed for total nonfarm, total private, and 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 total separations.
Since the end of the recession, the proportion of layoffs and discharges has declined; however, the proportion of quits has not returned to pre-recession levels. In April, the proportion of quits for total nonfarm was 50 percent and the proportion of layoffs and discharges was 41 percent. The proportion of quits for total private was 51 percent and the proportion of layoffs and discharges was 41 percent. For government, the proportions were 39 percent quits and 40 percent layoffs and discharges.
Net Change in Employment
Over the 12 months ending in April, hires (not seasonally adjusted) totaled nearly 47.7 million and separations (not seasonally adjusted) totaled 46.4 million, yielding a net employment gain of 1.2 million. 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.