Private-Sector Job Openings Fell Slightly in August but Remain Near Record Level

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Job openings as of the end of August fell 59,000, or 1.0 percent, to 5.57 million versus the record-high level recorded at the end of July. The job-openings rate, openings divided by openings plus employment, held steady at 4.3 percent for the private sector. A high level of job openings suggests continued gains in jobs growth over the coming months and potentially higher pressure on wages increases as employers bid for workers.

Among the industries studied separately, there were more than 1 million open positions in professional and business services (1.08 million) and health care and social assistance (1.09 million), followed by 762,000 openings in accommodation and food services and 647,000 in retail. Three of those industries also had the highest openings rates: accommodation and food services (5.3 percent), health care and social assistance (5.3 percent), and professional and business services (4.9 percent). The lowest openings rates were in educational services (2.5 percent), durable-goods manufacturing (3.0 percent), and arts, entertainment, and recreation (3.2 percent).

For the public sector, government job openings rose to 516,000 in August from 515,000 in July. State and local jobs accounted for the lion’s share of openings, totaling 443,000. Within that total, education job openings were 145,000 while non-education openings were 298,000. Federal-government openings totaled 72,000.

On the other side of the ledger, the number of employees quitting their jobs in the private sector fell slightly to 2.96 million versus 3.02 million in July. Rising or high levels of quits are considered to be a sign of confidence for employees in the jobs market. Quits tend to rise when jobs are more plentiful. The decline in quits resulted in a quits rate, quits divided by employment, of 2.4 percent, down 0.1 percentage points from the cycle-high rate of 2.5 percent in June. The 2.5 percent peak for the current cycle is just 0.1 percentage points below the 2.6 percent high achieved in the prior economic expansion but still well below the all-time peak of 2.9 percent in January 2001.

Finally, layoffs in the private sector came to 1.62 million in August, down from 1.67 million in July. That translates into a layoff rate of 1.3 percent, unchanged from the prior month. The highest layoff rates were in arts, entertainment, and recreation (4.2 percent) and construction (2.9 percent). Five other industries had layoff rates below 1 percent.

Overall, these data suggest the labor market remains healthy and imply continued jobs growth in the coming months.

Sign up here to be notified of new blogs from Robert Hughes and AIER.

Robert Hughes

Robert Hughes joined AIER in 2013 following more than 25 years in economic and financial markets research on Wall Street. Bob was formerly the head of Global Equity Strategy for Brown Brothers Harriman, where he developed equity investment strategy combining top-down macro analysis with bottom-up fundamentals. Prior to BBH, Bob was a Senior Equity Strategist for State Street Global Markets, Senior Economic Strategist with Prudential Equity Group and Senior Economist and Financial Markets Analyst for Citicorp Investment Services. Bob has a MA in economics from Fordham University and a BS in business from Lehigh University.