Job Openings Increase to 3.4 Million in December 2011

Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—February 7, 2012.  There were 3.4 million job openings on the last business day of December, up from 3.1 million in November, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The hires rate (3.1 percent) and separations rate (3.0 percent) were unchanged over the month. The job openings rate has trended upward since the end of the recession in June 2009. (Recession dates are determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research.) This release includes estimates of the number and rate of job openings, hires, and separations for the nonfarm sector by industry and by geographic region.

Job Openings

The number of job openings in December was 3.4 million, up from 3.1 million in November. (See table 1.) Although the number of job openings remained below the 4.4 million openings when the recession began in December 2007, the number of job openings has increased 39 percent since the end of the recession in June 2009.

The number of job openings in December (not seasonally adjusted) increased over the year for total nonfarm and total private; the level was little changed for government. Several industries saw increases in the number of job openings over the year, while the number of job openings decreased for federal government. The South region experienced an increase in the number of job openings over the year. (See table 5.)

Hires

In December, the hires rate was unchanged at 3.1 percent for total nonfarm. The hires rate was little changed over the month in all industries and regions. (See table 2.) The number of hires in December was 4.0 million, an increase of 12 percent since the end of the recession in June 2009.

Over the past 12 months, the hires rate (not seasonally adjusted) was little changed for total nonfarm, total private, and government. The hires rate was essentially unchanged over the year in all industries and regions. (See table 6.)

Separations

The total separations figure includes voluntary quits, involuntary layoffs and discharges, and other separations, including retirements. Total separations is also referred to as turnover.

The seasonally adjusted total separations rate was unchanged in December for total nonfarm and government and little changed for total private. (See table 3.) Over the year, the total separations rate (not seasonally adjusted) was little changed for total nonfarm, total private, and government. (See table 7.)

The quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to change jobs. In December, the quits rate was little changed for total nonfarm, total private, and government. (See table 4.) The number of quits rose from 1.5 million in January 2010 (the most recent trough) to 1.9 million in December, although it remained below the 2.8 million recorded when the recession began in December 2007.

The number of quits (not seasonally adjusted) in December 2011 was little changed from December 2010 for total nonfarm and total private but increased for government. The number of quits increased for state and local government. No region experienced a significant change in the number of quits over the year. (See table 8.)

The layoffs and discharges component of total separations is seasonally adjusted only at the total nonfarm, total private, and government levels. The layoffs and discharges rate was essentially unchanged in December 2011 for total nonfarm, total private, and government. The number of layoffs and discharges for total nonfarm was 1.6 million in December, down from a peak of 2.5 million in February 2009. For the 17 months ending in December 2011, the number of layoffs and discharges has been at or below 1.8 million—the level at the start of the recession in December 2007. (See table B.)

The layoffs and discharges level (not seasonally adjusted) for total nonfarm, total private, and government was little changed over the year. Over the year, the number of layoffs and discharges declined for construction. The number of layoffs and discharges increased for other services over the year. All four regions experienced little change in the number of layoffs and discharges. (See table 9.)

The other separations series is not seasonally adjusted. In December 2011, there were 330,000 other separations for total nonfarm, 259,000 for total private, and 72,000 for government. Compared to December 2010, the number of other separations was little changed for total nonfarm, total private, and government. (See table 10.)

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. Other separations is historically a very small portion of total separations; it has rarely been above 10 percent of total separations. The percentage of total  separations attributable to the individual components has varied over time at the total nonfarm level, 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. For most of the months between November 2008 and November 2010, however, the proportion of layoffs and discharges was equal to or greater than the proportion of quits. Since November 2010, the series have returned to their historical pattern. In December 2011, the proportion of quits at the total nonfarm level was 49 percent, and the proportion of layoffs and discharges was 42 percent. (See table C.)

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 December 2011, hires totaled 48.4 million and separations totaled 47.0 million, yielding a net employment gain of 1.4 million. These figures include workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year.

To view the tables referenced above, see: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.nr0.htm

Source: bls.gov