Job Openings Up 4.8 Percent in March

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights:

  • Job openings at the end of March ROSE 4.8 percent to 7.49 million, 17 percent higher than the number of persons unemployed;
  • The number of hires FELL 0.6 percent to a 5.66 million in March;
  • The ratio of job openings per unemployed ROSE to 1.17 in March from 1.08 in February.

Trends:

  • Job openings exceeded unemployed for the 13th month in a row;
  • The month-month percentage increase in job openings was the largest since March 2018;
  • The number of layoffs/discharges is on pace to be lower in 2019 than it was in 2018.

Data Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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The JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) report for March showed a continuation of the trend we’ve seen in the labor market for several months with available jobs remaining unfilled as a skills mismatch among workers continues.

In several key industry sectors – notably professional and business services and construction – the ratio of job openings to unemployed shot up, to 7.9 in professional and business services and 3.3 in construction from 1.8 and 1.6 respectively.

The job openings data tracks new jobs as reported in the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly Employment Situation report. The Employment Situation report is a snapshot of the labor market while the JOLTS data resemble more of a moving picture, detailing the “ins” an “outs” of the labor sector. For March, the BLS reported the nation added 189,000 jobs

Each major industry sector had more openings than unemployed, according to JOLTS. In the manufacturing, financial activities and information sectors, the number of openings per unemployed in March however dipped from February. The total number of unemployed individuals, according to the BLS, fell to 6,382,000 in March from 6,625,000 in January.

The JOLTS data suggest a slight weakening of labor confidence as the number of “quits” fell for the second straight month for the first time since the end of 2017. The number of “quits” offers a glimpse into worker confidence as workers are confident in their ability to secure a new job.

Hires as a percentage of job openings has also fallen underscoring a skills mismatch which could affect the economy’s future strength.

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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