Jan 21, 2020

Two big takeaways from the JOLTS report

Data: BLS via Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

There were two themes that persisted in November's U.S. job openings and labor turnover survey (JOLTS) released on Friday — the stubborn quits rate and the consistent decline in the number of job openings.

The big picture: Job openings fell by 561,000 to 6.8 million, the Labor Department said, the biggest drop since August 2015. That pushed the number of job openings to the lowest level since February 2018.

  • The number of job openings in the U.S. peaked in November 2018 and has fallen almost every month since, with the pace of the decline picking up steam toward the end of the year.

On the other side: After rising near a record high in July and August, touching 2.4%, the quits rate has fallen back and again looks stuck at 2.3%. The percentage of people who willingly leave a job is a positive sign of economic momentum and confidence.

  • The quits rate stayed at 2.3% from June 2018 to June 2019, the longest streak on record.
  • It hit 2.5% in January 2001 and has not been able to reach that number since.

Go deeper: Unemployment fell to 50-year low in 2019 but wages stagnated

Go deeper

Job openings in 2019 saw steepest drop since the financial crisis

Data: BLS via Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of job openings in the U.S. declined consistently throughout 2019 and took a nosedive in the last two months of the year, the government's December Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) showed.

The state of play: Job openings declined by 364,000 in December after a decline of 561,000 in November.

The latest job openings report was even worse than advertised

Data: BLS via Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Labor Department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report showed the lowest number of openings in two years, but the rest of the report revealed some other negative facts about the labor market.

Details: November and December saw the largest two-month drop in job openings on record, dating back to 2001, notes Lou Brien, rates strategist at DRW Trading.

Work stoppages from labor disputes rose to a two-decade high in 2019

United Auto Workers union members striking in October 2019. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

3.24 million work days were lost to labor strikes and lockouts in 2019, the most since 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why it matters: Labor disputes can cost workers and businesses in missed wages, decreased productivity and stunted revenues.