Feb 12, 2020 - Economy & Business

Job openings in 2019 saw steepest drop since the financial crisis

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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 total number of openings fell to 6.4 million, the lowest in nearly two years, and the decline over the past year is the largest since the financial crisis.

Why it matters: “Net, net, job openings around the country are plummeting in a way that we hate to say looks like a recession,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank, told CNBC.

  • Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, told Barron's “It’s clear here that with a 2%-type GDP economy rather than something near 3% has resulted in a lesser demand for labor.”

Yes, but: The numbers in the rest of the JOLTS report tell a different story.

  • The total hire rate increased for the month, from 3.8% to 3.9%, and separations increased just 0.1 percentage point, to 3.8%.
  • The all-important quits rate, seen as a top measure of worker confidence, held steady at 2.3%, still near the highest level on record.

Go deeper: U.S. economy adds 145,000 jobs in final report of 2019

Go deeper

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.

U.S. economy surprises with 273,000 jobs added in February

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy added 273,000 jobs in February — way more than the 175,000 economists expected — while the unemployment rate dipped to 3.5%, the government said Friday.

Why it matters: The labor market is adding jobs at a breakneck pace, but the numbers don’t take into account the worsening coronavirus outbreak that threatens the record-long stretch of job gains.

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.