August 01, 2023
It's JOLTS day! The U.S. labor market continues to transition to a more balanced state, with few repercussions for workers. More below, plus more signs of resilient global labor markets in Europe. 🇪🇺
Situational awareness: The Institute for Supply Management said its index of manufacturing activity rebounded to 46.4 in July, up from 46 in June but still below expectations — and the 50 level that separates expansion from contraction. 🏭
Today's newsletter, edited by Javier E. David and copy edited by Katie Lewis, is 568 words, a 2-minute read.
1 big thing: The slow, painless labor market correction
The latest data on job openings and turnover out this morning shows how the steam is coming out of the U.S. labor market. It's happening so exceptionally slowly and painlessly that it's easy not to notice.
Why it matters: This gradual shift away from the ultra-tight labor market of 2021 is reducing inflationary pressure and mitigating frustrations caused by labor shortages. Yet it's leaving workers in a broadly favorable position and happening without large-scale job losses.
- In effect, the labor market is rebalancing itself without the pain of a recession — a rarity in modern economic history.
By the numbers: June's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), showed the number of people hired in June was down 326,000 from May. The hires rate declined to 3.8%, from 4%.
- That number was 4.6% in November 2021 — an all-time high for the series dating to 2000, other than in 2020's pandemic-distorted time.
- Companies hired in June at rates similar to 2019 — a time with a robust labor market but without much inflationary pressure. In other words, since late 2021, hiring has gone from insanely hot to pleasantly warm.
The same trend is evident in the rate at which workers voluntarily quit their jobs. The high point of people leaving their jobs was also November 2021, when the quit rate hit 3%, an all-time high in the data series. In June, it fell to 2.4%, down from 2.6% in May.
- This, too, is about the same as levels were in 2019, when it averaged 2.3%.
- The Great Resignation has given way to the Normal, Healthy Job Market Resignation.
Between the lines: For all the splashy layoff announcements from tech and financial firms over the last year, this rebalancing has taken place without mass layoffs.
- Indeed, the rate at which companies have laid off or discharged workers has shown no upward trend at all over the last two years.
- It was unchanged in June, at 1%. It has hovered close to that rate ever since January 2021.
What they're saying: "The data on layoffs show just how resilient employer demand for workers remains," Nick Bunker, head of economic research at Indeed Hiring Lab, said in a note.
- "Layoff data, a loud emergency siren during economic downturns, are instead signaling a muted 'all's well' for current employees."
2. Another tight labor market
A resilient labor market is not unique to the U.S. In Europe, too, the job market remains historically favorable for workers in the face of headwinds, including persistent central bank tightening to slow the economy.
What's new: The unemployment rate was 6.4% in the eurozone in June — the lowest jobless rate on record. The statistics agency also revised down May figures to match that rate.
Why it matters: Much like in the U.S., aggressive rate hikes have yet to slam the labor market the way one might expect. Instead, employment is still tight.
- Even Germany, which technically entered a recession earlier this year, saw its jobless rate edge down slightly.
The big picture: The data underscores a fear among European central bankers about tight labor markets as a key driver of sticky inflation.
- Some prominent economists — including those at the International Monetary Fund — have raised concerns about workers seeking to recoup real wages lost through the period of high inflation.
- A tight labor market might push employers to bend to those demands while passing on those higher costs to consumers.