Job Openings Fall to 18-month Low in September

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist


  • Layoffs and discharges ROSE 8.2 percent or 152,000 in September to 1.96 million5.95 million
  • Job openings at the end of September FELL 3.8 percent to 7.02 million;
  • Hiring in September rose 0.8 percent to 5.9 million;
  • The ratio of job openings per unemployed ROSE to 1.22 in September from 1.21 in August.


  • Job openings at the end of September dropped to 7.02 million, the lowest level since March 2018 (6.9 million
  • Job openings were down year-year for the fourth straight month for the first time in 10 years

Data Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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There were more warning signs about the job market Tuesday in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report.

While employers in September hired 50,000 more people than they had in August, other measures tracked in the JOLTS report were far from bullish.

The number of job openings fell as layoffs and discharges increased suggesting employers are  trying to stay one step ahead of a coming economic downturn.

As concerning, unemployment fell overall in September – to 5.8 million from slightly over 6 million in August, unemployment was up in several key industry sectors as job openings in those sectors fell.

Case in point, in professional and business services, a broad sector, the number of unemployed inched up 3,000 but job openings fell 42,000 according to the JOLTS data.

And then in some sectors though unemployment fell, job openings rose pointing to a skills mismatch and a shortage of qualified. In the construction sector, for example, unemployment fell 11.6 percent in September but job openings rose 6.7 percent. The trend is even more dramatic on a year-year comparison. Unemployment in the construction sector is down 22.6 percent year-year but job openings have increased 21.9 percent in the same period.

The number of unemployed in the financial services sector fell 29.2 percent from September 2018 to September 2019 as the number of job openings jumped 55.7 percent.

A third category would be sectors which appear to be cutting back. In the Information sector, which includes broadcasting, the number of individuals unemployed went up 75.8 percent from September to September while job openings in the sector fell 8.3 percent.

According to the September JOLTS data, hiring this year is on a pace to exceed 2018 hiring by about 1.6 percent.  At the same time though, the JOLTS data extrapolates to a 2.3 percent increase in total separations in 2019 over 2018.

You can hear Mark Lieberman on P.O.T.U.S Morning Briefing (Sirius 124) every Friday at 6:20 am Eastern Time. Follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

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