Written by Steven Hansen
The BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) has been a good predictor of future jobs growth, and the predictive elements shows that the jobs situation may improve in the future.
- the number of unadjusted PRIVATE jobs openings – which is the most predictive of the JOLTS elements – growth accelerated 1.8% from last month, and up 9.5% (versus 7.6% from last month) from one year ago. Unadjusted job openings are now accelerating (3 month rolling average). The seasonally adjusted jobs opening rate (percent of job openings compared to size of workforce) improved. This indicates that future jobs growth likely will strengthen.
- Unadjusted PRIVATE hires year-over-year growth accelerated and PRIVATE separations also accelerated the same amount – 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.
Adjusted 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 rate (percent of separations compared to size of workforce) went from 4.0 last month to 3.9 – and the separations rate (percent of separations compared to size of workforce) went from 3.8 last month to 4.2. Separations are the workforce which quit or was laid off. Likewise, hires are the workforce hired.
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.