July 2013 JOLTS Is Conflicted

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The BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) has been a good predictor of future jobs growth but gives a conflicting picture for July.

  • the number of unadjusted PRIVATE jobs openings – which is the most predictive of the JOLTS elements – growth accelerated 1.4% from last month, and up 3.9% (versus 2.5% from last month) from one year ago. Unadjusted job openings remain in a downward trend channel. The seasonally adjusted jobs opening rate (percent of job openings compared to size of workforce) slowed. These are conflicting indicators – one saying job openings are growing, the other saying job openings are falling.

  • Unadjusted PRIVATE hires year-over-year growth accelerated and PRIVATE separations also accelerated – in theory meaning the employment situation is static.

The relevance of JOLTS to future employment is obvious from the graphic below which shows JOLTS Job Openings leading or coincident to private non-farm employment.

Private Jobs Openings from JOLTS (blue line, left axis) compared to BLS Non-farm Private (red line, right axis)

Although the JOLTS data is one month older than the current jobs data, JOLTS job opening trends are a valid forward employment indicator.

The graph below uses year-over year growth comparisons of non-seasonally adjusted non-farm private BLS data versus JOLT’s Job Openings – and then compare trend lines. JOLTs is continuing to predict less good jobs growth.

Year-over-Year Change – Jobs Openings from JOLTS (blue line, left axis) compared to Unadjusted BLS Non-farm Private (red line, right axis)

The JOLTS Unadjusted Private hires year-over-year growth accelerated from -0.7% to 5.6% and the separations rate (percent of separations compared to size of workforce) year-over-year growth accelerated from -1.5% to 4.1%. Separations are the workforce which quit or was laid off. Likewise, hires are the workforce hired. The seasonally adjusted rates (percent of hires compared to size of workforce) shows hires were unchanged, but separations declined.

Hires (blue line) and Separation Rates (red line) – Non-Farm Private

However, please note that Econintersect has not been able use the hire rate or the separation rate (or a combination thereof) to help in understanding future jobs growth. A Philly Fed study agrees with Econintersect’s assessment. JOLTS is issued a month later than the jobs data – and correlates against one month old data. The data in the below chart shows that the JOLTS data is turning at the same points – but the JOLTS data is released one month later making this a lagging indicator.

Hires less Separation Rate (blue line, left axis) compared to Non-Farm Private BLS Non-farm Private (red line, right axis)

Caveats on the Use of JOLTS

This data series historically is very noisy which likely is a result of data gathering issues and/or seasonal adjustments. Therefore this series must be trended to provide any understanding of the dynamics. One of two months of good or bad data are not predictive.

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