Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Economic Jolt: Job Openings and Labor Turnover December 2008

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released their latest monthly read of job availability and turnover (JOLT) showing that, on a year-over-year basis, private non-farm job “openings” declined 34.06%, job “hires” declined 21.21%, and “separations” jumped a whopping 15.17% fueled by the recent wave of job cuts and despite a 20.14% drop in “quits”.

These results are clearly indicating that the slowdown in the employment market has developed substantially over the last six months and now is quickly accelerating down into territory typical of severe recessionary contraction.

Job “openings” (click chart below for larger version), the reports most leading “demand side” indicator, has now declined on a year-over-year basis for sixteen consecutive months strongly suggesting that the private sector is curtail future hiring activity.

Sliding down that slope of the Beveridge curve, the decline in the job vacancy rate is clearly corresponding with an equal but inverse movement up in the general unemployment rate as can be plainly seen in the following chart (click chart for larger version).

Job “hiring” activity (click chart for larger version) has also been declining significantly with the latest results posting the twentieth consecutive decline on a year-over-year basis further confirming the tremendous weakness seen in the job market.

Job “separations”, whereby workers and their employers go their separate ways by one means or another (layoffs, retirement, termination, quitting, etc.), appear to be rising dramatically despite the inclusion of steadily decreasing “quitting” activity.

It’s important to understand that job “quits” are included as a component of the “separations” data series as “quitting” is a valid means of workers “separating” from employers but their inclusion tends to create an overall procyclical trend in what would otherwise be logically thought of as a countercyclical process (i.e. downturn leads to increase in separations not decrease).

As the economy slides further into recession and the employment situation worsens workers tend to reduce quitting activity presumably for fear that they could risk a long bout of unemployment and the latest results (click chart for larger version) confirm this with the some of the sharpest year-over-year declines on record.