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Economic News Release
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JOLTS JLT Program Links

Job Openings and Labor Turnover Technical Note

Technical Note

This news release presents statistics from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). The JOLTS 
program provides information on labor demand and turnover. Additional information about the JOLTS program can 
be found at www.bls.gov/jlt/. Estimates are published for job openings, hires, quits, layoffs and discharges, other 
separations, and total separations. The JOLTS program covers all private nonfarm establishments, as well as civilian 
federal, state, and local government entities in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Starting with data for 
January 2023, industries are classified in accordance with the 2022 North American Industry Classification System.

Definitions

Employment. Employment includes persons on the payroll who worked or received pay for the pay period that 
includes the 12th day of the reference month. Full-time, part-time, permanent, short-term, seasonal, salaried, and 
hourly employees are included, as are employees on paid vacation or other paid leave. Proprietors or partners of 
unincorporated businesses, unpaid family workers, employees on strike for the entire pay period, and employees on 
leave without pay for the entire pay period are not counted as employed. Employees of temporary help agencies, 
employee leasing companies, outside contractors, and consultants are counted by their employer of record, not by 
the establishment where they are working. JOLTS does not publish employment estimates but uses the reported 
employment for validation of the other reported data elements.

Job Openings. Job openings include all positions that are open on the last business day of the reference month.

A job is open only if it meets all three of these conditions:
* A specific position exists, and there is work available for that position. The position can be full-time or 
part-time, and it can be permanent, short-term, or seasonal.
* The job could start within 30 days, whether or not the employer can find a suitable candidate during that 
time.
* The employer is actively recruiting workers from outside the establishment to fill the position. Active 
recruiting means that the establishment is taking steps to fill a position. It may include advertising in 
newspapers, on television, or on the radio; posting internet notices, posting “help wanted” signs, 
networking or making “word-of-mouth” announcements; accepting applications; interviewing candidates; 
contacting employment agencies; or soliciting employees at job fairs, state or local employment offices, or 
similar sources.

Excluded are positions open only to internal transfers, promotions or demotions, or recall from layoffs. Also 
excluded are openings for positions with start dates more than 30 days in the future; positions for which employees 
have been hired but have not yet reported for work; and positions to be filled by employees of temporary help 
agencies, employee leasing companies, outside contractors, or consultants. The job openings rate is computed by 
dividing the number of job openings by the sum of employment and job openings—that is, all filled and unfilled 
jobs—and multiplying that quotient by 100.

Hires. Hires include all additions to the payroll during the entire reference month, including newly hired and 
rehired employees; full-time and part-time employees; permanent, short-term, and seasonal employees; employees 
who were recalled to a job at the location following a layoff (formal suspension from pay status) lasting more than 7 
days; on-call or intermittent employees who returned to work after having been formally separated; workers who 
were hired and separated during the month, and transfers from other locations. Excluded are transfers or promotions 
within the reporting location, employees returning from strike, employees of temporary help agencies, employee 
leasing companies, outside contractors, or consultants. The hires rate is computed by dividing the number of hires by 
employment and multiplying that quotient by 100.

Separations. Separations include all separations from the payroll during the entire reference month and is 
reported by type of separation: quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. Quits include employees who 
left voluntarily, with the exception of retirements or transfers to other locations. Layoffs and discharges includes 
involuntary separations initiated by the employer, including layoffs with no intent to rehire; layoffs (formal 
suspensions from pay status) lasting or expected to last more than 7 days; discharges resulting from mergers, 
downsizing, or closings; firings or other discharges for cause; terminations of permanent or short-term employees; 
and terminations of seasonal employees (whether or not they are expected to return the next season). Other 
separations include retirements, transfers to other locations, separations due to employee disability, and deaths.
Excluded from separations measures are transfers within the same location; employees on strike; and employees of 
temporary help agencies, employee leasing companies, outside contractors, or consultants. The separations rate is 
computed by dividing the number of separations by employment and multiplying that quotient by 100. The quits, 
layoffs and discharges, and other separations rates are computed similarly.

Estimation Method

The JOLTS survey design is a stratified random sample of approximately 21,000 nonfarm business and 
government establishments. The sample is stratified by ownership, region, industry sector, and establishment size 
class.

The sampling frame is made up of establishments from two sources: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 
Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages program (QCEW) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). 
The QCEW database contains establishments that cover approximately 95 percent of nonfarm payroll jobs in the 
United States. This database is a compilation of administrative data from state unemployment insurance (UI) 
programs and federal government establishments covered by the Unemployment Compensation for Federal 
Employees (UCFE) program. A frame of railroad establishments is provided by the FRA. This is added to the 
QCEW database to complete the JOLTS sampling frame. 

The JOLTS estimation method involves the following processes: unit nonresponse adjustment, item 
nonresponse adjustment, monthly benchmarking and estimation, automatic outlier detection, birth and death model 
estimation, estimates review and outlier selection, alignment, seasonal adjustment, and variance estimates. 
Establishment size class levels are also produced. Detailed information about the estimation method can be found in 
the Handbook of Methods at https://www.bls.gov/opub/hom/jlt/home.htm.

Monthly benchmarking is the process through which the JOLTS weighted employment for each estimation cell 
is adjusted. JOLTS estimation cells are benchmarked monthly to the current employment level from the BLS 
Current Employment Statistics (CES) program. The sampled weight is benchmarked to ensure that JOLTS weighted 
employment is equal to CES employment.

Birth/death model. The time lag from the start up, or birth, of an establishment until its appearance on the 
sampling frame is approximately one year. In addition, many new establishments fail within the first year, referred 
to as a death. Because new and short-lived universe establishments cannot be reflected in the sampling frame 
immediately, the JOLTS sample cannot capture job openings, hires, and separations from these establishments 
during their early existence. BLS has developed a birth/death model that uses establishment birth and death activity 
from previous years as collected by the QCEW and projects forward to the present using over-the-year change in the 
CES. The birth/death model also uses historical JOLTS data to calculate the amount of churn (meaning the rates of 
hires and separations) that exists in establishments of various sizes. The model then combines the calculated churn 
with the projected employment change to estimate the number of hires and separations that take place in these 
establishments that cannot be measured through sampling. The estimates of job openings, hires, and separations 
produced by the birth/death model are added to the sample-based estimates produced from the survey to arrive at the 
estimates for job openings, hires, and separations.

Alignment. The JOLTS figure for hires minus separations can be used to derive a measure of net employment 
change. This change should be comparable to the net employment change from the much larger CES survey. 
However, definitional differences between the two surveys, as well as sampling and nonsampling errors, historically 
caused JOLTS to diverge from CES over time. To limit the divergence and improve the quality of the JOLTS hires 
and separations series, BLS implemented the monthly alignment method. There are four steps to this method: 
seasonally adjust, align, back out the seasonal adjustment factors, and seasonally adjust again.

Seasonal adjustment. After alignment, the seasonal adjustment program (X-13ARIMA-SEATS) is used to 
seasonally adjust the JOLTS series. Each month, a concurrent seasonal adjustment methodology uses all relevant 
data, up to and including the current month, to calculate new seasonal adjustment factors. Moving averages are used 
as seasonal filters in seasonal adjustment. JOLTS seasonal adjustment includes both additive and multiplicative 
models, as well as regression with autocorrelated errors (REGARIMA) modeling, to improve the seasonal 
adjustment factors at the beginning and end of the series and to detect and adjust for outliers in the series. 

Annual estimates and benchmarking. The JOLTS estimates are revised annually with the issuance of data for 
January. Five years of data are subject to revision. The revised estimates incorporate: 1) benchmarks based on CES 
employment estimates newly benchmarked to QCEW, 2) revised seasonal adjustment factors, and 3) any needed 
special adjustments.

The JOLTS employment levels are ratio-adjusted to the CES employment levels, and the resulting ratios are 
applied to all JOLTS data elements.

The seasonally adjusted estimates are recalculated for the most recent 5 years to reflect updated seasonal 
adjustment factors. These annual updates result in revisions to both the seasonally adjusted and not seasonally 
adjusted JOLTS data series for the period since the last benchmark was established.

Annual levels for hires, quits, layoffs and discharges, other separations, and total separations are the sum of the 
12 published monthly levels.

Annual average levels for job openings are calculated by dividing the sum of the 12 published monthly levels 
by 12. 

Annual average rates for hires, quits, layoffs and discharges, other separations, and total separations are 
calculated by dividing the sum of the 12 monthly JOLTS published levels for each data element by the sum of the 12 
monthly CES published employment levels, and multiplying that quotient by 100.

Annual average rates for job openings are calculated by dividing the sum of the 12 monthly JOLTS published 
levels by the sum of the 12 monthly CES published employment levels plus the sum of the 12 monthly job openings 
levels, and multiplying that quotient by 100.

Reliability of the estimates

JOLTS estimates are subject to two types of error: sampling error and nonsampling error.

Sampling error can result when a sample, rather than an entire population, is surveyed. There is a chance that 
the sample estimates may differ from the true population values they represent. The exact difference, or sampling 
error, varies with the sample selected, and this variability is measured by the standard error of the estimate. BLS 
analyses are generally conducted at the 90-percent level of confidence. This means that there is a 90-percent chance 
that the true population mean will fall into the interval created by the sample mean plus or minus 1.65 standard 
errors. Estimates of median standard errors are released monthly as part of the significant change tables on the 
JOLTS webpage. Standard errors are updated annually with the most recent 5 years of data. Sampling error 
estimates are available at www.bls.gov/jlt/jolts_median_standard_errors.htm.

Nonsampling error can occur for many reasons, including the failure to include a segment of the population, the 
inability to obtain data from all units in the sample, the inability or unwillingness of respondents to provide data on a 
timely basis, mistakes made by respondents, errors made in the collection or processing of the data, and errors from 
the employment benchmark data used in estimation. The JOLTS program uses quality control procedures to reduce 
nonsampling error in the survey’s design.

Other information

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Last Modified Date: January 30, 2024