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Impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on Job Openings and Labor Turnover data for May 2021

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) national estimates of job openings, hires, and separations have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This page provides further information on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for the May 2021 JOLTS news release.

More information on the JOLTS methodology can be found in the JOLTS Handbook of Methods chapter.

Collection mode

Data collection for JOLTS was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, JOLTS collected 42 percent of data by phone at the JOLTS data collection center on average. Most phone respondents were asked to report electronically. However, data collection was adversely affected by the inability to reach some respondents that normally respond by phone.

Table 1. Percent of establishments responding to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey by collection mode
Time period Phone Web Other

12-month average through February 2020

42% 52% 6%

March 2020

19% 75% 6%

April 2020

27% 68% 5%

May 2020

28% 67% 5%

June 2020

32% 62% 6%

July 2020

31% 65% 4%

August 2020

32% 63% 5%

September 2020

33% 62% 6%

October 2020

29% 66% 6%

November 2020

30% 65% 5%

December 2020

31% 64% 6%

January 2021

31% 64% 5%

February 2021

34% 61% 5%

March 2021

30% 64% 6%

April 2021

33% 62% 6%

May 2021

13% 81% 6%

Response rates

The preliminary JOLTS response rate for May was 44 percent. In April, the final response rate was 48 percent. In the year prior to the pandemic, the preliminary response rate averaged 54 percent and the final response rate averaged 58 percent.

In May 2021, JOLTS response rates declined in all size classes and in all industries. The industries with the largest declines in response rates were state and local government education and state and local government, excluding education.

Table 2. Response rates for the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey
Time period Preliminary rate Final rate

12-month average through February 2020

54% 58%

March 2020

46% 51%

April 2020

44% 49%

May 2020

45% 51%

June 2020

47% 50%

July 2020

46% 50%

August 2020

47% 50%

September 2020

47% 50%

October 2020

45% 49%

November 2020

43% 47%

December 2020

42% 48%

January 2021

43% 48%

February 2021

45% 49%

March 2021

45% 48%

April 2021

44% 48%

May 2021

44% Not available

Imputation

JOLTS imputation for May resulted in very few cells with more imputation relative to the previous year. The industries that generally experienced more imputation were mining and logging, professional and business services, and federal government.

Changes to methods

At the onset of the pandemic, the JOLTS program reviewed all estimation and methodological procedures. Changes to the JOLTS estimation and seasonal adjustment methods are described below.

Estimation

For the May 2021 preliminary and the April 2021 final JOLTS estimates, there was no suppression of the alignment process. The JOLTS hires minus separations and CES over-the-month employment changes are no longer significantly different. Please see below for further explanation.

BLS modified the JOLTS estimates for the March 2020 preliminary through the November 2020 preliminary estimates to better reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and produce the highest quality JOLTS estimates possible in this unique situation. The estimation process usually includes an alignment of monthly hires minus separations to the over-the-month change in the Current Employment Statistics (CES) employment estimates. BLS suspended the alignment process during this time frame because the differing reference periods for the CES employment estimates (pay period including the 12th of the month) and the JOLTS hires and separations estimates (the entire reference month) led to different measurement outcomes. For example, hires and separations during the latter half of April 2020 were not included in the CES employment change for April 2020, but were included in the JOLTS data for the month.

The alignment portion of the JOLTS estimation process was designed to correct a long-term divergence between the JOLTS implied employment change and the CES employment change. JOLTS hires minus separations and CES employment change generally approximate one another. Alignment was developed to correct small monthly discrepancies between the two series that build up over time; it was not designed to address a substantial short-term divergence between the two series.

Seasonal Adjustment

Seasonal adjustment factors can be either multiplicative or additive. A multiplicative seasonal effect is assumed to be proportional to the level of the series. A sudden large increase in the level of the series will be accompanied by a proportionally large seasonal effect. In contrast, an additive seasonal effect is assumed to be unaffected by the level of the series. In times of relative economic stability, the multiplicative option is generally preferred over the additive option. However, in the presence of a large level shift in a time series, multiplicative seasonal adjustment factors can result in systematic over- or under-adjustment of the series; in such cases, additive seasonal adjustment factors are preferred since they tend to more accurately track seasonal fluctuations in the series and have smaller revisions.

In accordance with the survey’s usual practice, the seasonal adjustment factors were reviewed through the calendar year ending in December 2020, and 5 years of seasonally adjusted estimates were revised. The majority of the JOLTS series retained the additive designation.

Comparison of current month estimates with past monthly JOLTS estimates

Please see the following tables for a comparison of May 2021 estimates to historical levels.

Table 3a. Job openings by sector and region (numbers in thousands)
Sector and region May 2021 level Monthly change Monthly percent change Last time level was smaller or equal or next closest Last time level was larger or equal or next closest Last time monthly change was smaller or equal or next closest Last time monthly change was larger or equal or next closest Last time monthly percent change was smaller or equal or next closest Last time monthly percent change was larger or equal or next closest

Total nonfarm

9,209 16 0.2 Apr 2021 9,193 Apr 2021 9,193 Dec 2020 -14 Apr 2021 905 Dec 2020 -0.2 Apr 2021 10.9

Total private

8,305 42 0.5 Apr 2021 8,263 Apr 2021 8,263 Dec 2020 16 Apr 2021 817 Dec 2020 0.3 Apr 2021 11.0

Government

904 -26 -2.8 Mar 2021 843 Apr 2021 930 Feb 2021 -61 Apr 2021 87 Feb 2021 -8.5 Apr 2021 10.3

Region

Northeast

1,661 16 1.0 Apr 2021 1,645 Apr 2021 1,645 Dec 2020 -24 Apr 2021 121 Dec 2020 -2.1 Apr 2021 7.9

South

3,543 34 1.0 Apr 2021 3,509 Apr 2021 3,509 Dec 2020 22 Apr 2021 346 Dec 2020 0.8 Apr 2021 10.9

Midwest

1,989 -80 -3.9 Mar 2021 1,783 Apr 2021 2,069 Aug 2020 -175 Apr 2021 286 Aug 2020 -11.2 Apr 2021 16.0

West

2,016 46 2.3 Apr 2021 1,970 Apr 2021 1,970 Dec 2020 -21 Apr 2021 152 Dec 2020 -1.4 Apr 2021 8.4
Table 3b. Hires by sector and region (numbers in thousands)
Sector and region May 2021 level Monthly change Monthly percent change Last time level was smaller or equal or next closest Last time level was larger or equal or next closest Last time monthly change was smaller or equal or next closest Last time monthly change was larger or equal or next closest Last time monthly percent change was smaller or equal or next closest Last time monthly percent change was larger or equal or next closest

Total nonfarm

5,927 -85 -1.4 Feb 2021 5,794 Apr 2021 6,012 Dec 2020 -608 Apr 2021 6 Dec 2020 -10.1 Apr 2021 0.1

Total private

5,619 -42 -0.7 Feb 2021 5,490 Apr 2021 5,661 Dec 2020 -577 Apr 2021 15 Dec 2020 -10.2 Apr 2021 0.3

Government

307 -44 -12.5 Feb 2021 304 Apr 2021 351 Feb 2021 -59 Apr 2021 -9 Feb 2021 -16.3 Apr 2021 -2.5

Region

Northeast

848 -113 -11.8 Apr 2020 558 Apr 2021 961 Jul 2020 -268 Apr 2021 -36 Jul 2020 -19.0 Apr 2021 -3.6

South

2,432 73 3.1 Apr 2021 2,359 Nov 2020 2,458 Apr 2021 64 Mar 2021 111 Apr 2021 2.8 Mar 2021 5.1

Midwest

1,245 -45 -3.5 Jan 2021 1,241 Apr 2021 1,290 Dec 2020 -113 Apr 2021 -5 Dec 2020 -8.6 Apr 2021 -0.4

West

1,402 1 0.1 Apr 2021 1,401 Mar 2021 1,419 Apr 2021 -18 Mar 2021 98 Apr 2021 -1.3 Mar 2021 7.4
Table 3c. Total separations by sector and region (numbers in thousands)
Sector and region May 2021 level Monthly change Monthly percent change Last time level was smaller or equal or next closest Last time level was larger or equal or next closest Last time monthly change was smaller or equal or next closest Last time monthly change was larger or equal or next closest Last time monthly percent change was smaller or equal or next closest Last time monthly percent change was larger or equal or next closest

Total nonfarm

5,318 -485 -8.4 Sep 2020 5,235 Apr 2021 5,803 Aug 2020 -491 Apr 2021 367 Aug 2020 -9.1 Apr 2021 6.8

Total private

5,035 -443 -8.1 Jan 2021 5,007 Apr 2021 5,478 Aug 2020 -445 Apr 2021 378 Aug 2020 -9.0 Apr 2021 7.4

Government

283 -42 -12.9 Jul 2016 283 Apr 2021 325 Dec 2020 -93 Apr 2021 -10 Dec 2020 -21.2 Apr 2021 -3.0

Region

Northeast

782 -56 -6.7 Sep 2020 753 Apr 2021 838 Jan 2021 -64 Apr 2021 23 Jan 2021 -7.5 Apr 2021 2.8

South

2,144 -206 -8.8 Jan 2021 2,128 Apr 2021 2,350 May 2020 -2108 Apr 2021 153 May 2020 -54.0 Apr 2021 7.0

Midwest

1,191 -77 -6.1 Jan 2021 1,111 Apr 2021 1,268 Dec 2020 -142 Apr 2021 68 Dec 2020 -10.9 Apr 2021 5.7

West

1,201 -146 -10.8 Oct 2020 1,157 Apr 2021 1,347 Aug 2020 -255 Apr 2021 124 Aug 2020 -18.9 Apr 2021 10.1
Table 3d. Layoffs and discharges by sector and region (numbers in thousands)
Sector and region May 2021 level Monthly change Monthly percent change Last time level was smaller or equal or next closest Last time level was larger or equal or next closest Last time monthly change was smaller or equal or next closest Last time monthly change was larger or equal or next closest Last time monthly percent change was smaller or equal or next closest Last time monthly percent change was larger or equal or next closest

Total nonfarm

1,368 -82 -5.7 Sep 2020 1,555 Apr 2021 1,450 Mar 2021 -198 Apr 2021 -75 Mar 2021 -11.5 Apr 2021 -4.9

Total private

1,299 -66 -4.8 Sep 2020 1,406 Apr 2021 1,365 Apr 2021 -68 Feb 2021 2 Mar 2021 -12.4 Apr 2021 -4.7

Government

69 -17 -19.8 Nov 2001 71 Apr 2021 86 Dec 2020 -105 Apr 2021 -6 Dec 2020 -54.1 Apr 2021 -6.5

Region

Northeast

285 16 5.9 Apr 2021 269 Feb 2021 323 Apr 2021 6 Oct 2020 121 Apr 2021 2.3 Oct 2020 47.1

South

503 -16 -3.1 Sep 2020 502 Apr 2021 519 Apr 2021 -43 Feb 2021 21 Apr 2021 -7.7 Feb 2021 3.5

Midwest

324 3 0.9 Apr 2021 321 Mar 2021 349 Apr 2021 -28 Feb 2021 54 Apr 2021 -8.0 Feb 2021 16.5

West

257 -84 -24.6 May 2017 308 Apr 2021 341 Feb 2021 -89 Apr 2021 -10 May 2020 -81.0 Apr 2021 -2.8
Table 3e. Quits by sector and region (numbers in thousands)
Sector and region May 2021 level Monthly change Monthly percent change Last time level was smaller or equal or next closest Last time level was larger or equal or next closest Last time monthly change was smaller or equal or next closest Last time monthly change was larger or equal or next closest Last time monthly percent change was smaller or equal or next closest Last time monthly percent change was larger or equal or next closest

Total nonfarm

3,604 -388 -9.7 Mar 2021 3,568 Apr 2021 3,992 Apr 2020 -795 Apr 2021 424 Apr 2020 -27.4 Apr 2021 11.9

Total private

3,438 -372 -9.8 Mar 2021 3,387 Apr 2021 3,810 Apr 2020 -736 Apr 2021 423 Apr 2020 -27.5 Apr 2021 12.5

Government

165 -17 -9.3 Feb 2018 165 Apr 2021 182 Mar 2021 -18 Apr 2021 1 Nov 2020 -19.7 Apr 2021 0.6

Region

Northeast

441 -66 -13.0 Jan 2021 432 Apr 2021 507 Apr 2020 -101 Apr 2021 16 Apr 2020 -24.7 Apr 2021 3.3

South

1,494 -202 -11.9 Feb 2021 1,406 Apr 2021 1,696 Apr 2020 -277 Apr 2021 191 Apr 2020 -24.0 Apr 2021 12.7

Midwest

803 -70 -8.0 Mar 2021 780 Apr 2021 873 Aug 2020 -130 Apr 2021 93 Aug 2020 -16.5 Apr 2021 11.9

West

865 -51 -5.6 Mar 2021 792 Apr 2021 916 Aug 2020 -137 Apr 2021 124 Aug 2020 -18.2 Apr 2021 15.7

Last Modified Date: July 7, 2021