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Article

July 2015

Comparison of U.S. and international labor turnover statistics

To help mark the Monthly Labor Review’s centennial, the editors invited several producers and users of BLS data to take a look back at the last 100 years. This installment of the anniversary series comes from the Bureau's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) program. JOLTS produces labor demand data on job openings, hires, and separations in the United States. The first section of this article provides a brief overview of the JOLTS program. The second section examines the availability and definitions of labor demand data from other countries. Analyses of countries with comparable data are discussed in the final section.

Overview of labor demand data at BLS

Since 1999, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has produced job openings and labor turnover data in order to assess the unmet demand for workers in the labor market. The JOLTS program measures job openings, hires, and separations on a monthly basis by industry and geographic region.6

Eurostat defines job vacancies as follows:

A paid post that is newly created, unoccupied, or about to become vacant: (a) for which the employer is taking active steps and is prepared to take further steps to find a suitable candidate from outside the enterprise concerned; and (b) which the employer intends to fill either immediately or within a specific period of time. A vacant post that is only open to internal candidates is not treated as a 'job vacancy'. The job vacancy rate (JVR) measures the proportion of total posts that are vacant, according to the definition of job vacancy above, expressed as a percentage of the number of job vacancies divided by the sum of the number of occupied posts plus the number of job vacancies all multiplied by 100.7

Eurostat provides job vacancy data on a quarterly and annual basis.

The majority of EU countries provide job vacancy statistics to Eurostat and make that data available on their individual statistical agencies’ websites. France and Sweden produce alternative statistics.

The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) of France produces a statistic called registered job vacancies. Registered job vacancies are described as follows:

Total job vacancies registered over a given period (year, month) are the permanent (more than 6 months), temporary (1 to 6 months) or casual (less than 1 month) job vacancies filed by employers in local employment agencies in the course of the year. The statistics on job vacancies registered in the course of a given period (month, year) are compiled by the statistics department of the Ministry for Labour, drawn from all the vacancies filed with Pôle Emploi.8

Statistics Sweden produces data on job openings and provides that data to Eurostat. It also produces job vacancy statistics. The survey description and definitions read as follows:

The Job Vacancy Survey is an enterprise-based survey covering both the public and the private sector. The purpose of the survey is to contribute information about the labour demand. The results are published quarterly. The number of job openings follows Eurostat’s definition of vacancies. Unmet demand is measured by vacancies, defined as unoccupied job openings to be filled immediately.9

Hires and separations data

A number of countries produce hires data and separations data. These countries include Estonia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, and the United States. Table 2 shows the definitions used by these countries.

Table 2. International definitions of hires and separations
Country, statistical organizationDefinition of hires(1)Definition of separations(2)

United States, Bureau of Labor Statistics(3)

Hires are defined as the total number of additions to the payroll occurring at any time during the reference month, including both new and rehired employees; full-time, part-time, permanent, short-term, and seasonal employees; employees recalled to the location after a layoff (i.e., 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 employees transferred from other locations of the same business.Separations are defined as the total number of terminations of employment occurring at any time during the reference month, and are reported by type of separation: quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations.

Estonia, Statistics Estonia(4)

The number of engaged employees includes employees with whom a contract has been concluded for a fixed or unfixed period (including contracts of seasonal work), and persons working under employment contracts, service contracts, and the Public Service Act.The number of left employees is defined as dismissed employees and employees who leave voluntarily.

Japan, Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare

Monthly Labour Survey(5): The total increase of regular employees is defined as “newly hired employees, employees transferred to the establishments (including employees transferred from some other establishment of the same organization) and so on.”Monthly Labour Survey: The total decrease of regular employees is defined as “retired employees, employees transferred from the establishments (including employees transferred to some other establishment of the same organization) and so on."
Survey on Employment Trends(6): Hired employees are defined as “persons hired as regular employees under employment contracts newly concluded during the reference period. This also includes daily workers and the like who had been excluded from the regular employee classification, but who, because of repeated renewal of their employment contracts, satisfy the condition of regular employee during the reference period; the persons who, after mandatory retirement, continued to be employed at the same enterprise as non-regular employees or temporary employees; new entrants from affiliated enterprises (including transferred employees, but excluding dispatched workers).”Survey on Employment Trends: Separated employees are defined as “a regular employee who has retired or been dismissed from an establishment during the period covered by the survey, including persons transferred to another enterprise or returning from transfer, but excluding persons moving from an establishment within the same enterprise.”

New Zealand, Statistics New Zealand(7)

Accessions are defined as the number of new employees who have joined employers since the previous reference date.Separations are defined as the number of employees who have left employers since the previous reference date.

Philippines, Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics(8)

New hires (accessions) refer to permanent or temporary additions to employment in the enterprise due to (1) expansion of business activity and (2) replacement of separated workers and employment resulting from changes in methods/technology of production or service.Separations refer to terminations of employment due to (a) quits or terminations initiated by the employees and (b) layoffs or terminations initiated by the employers due to economic reasons (e.g., lack of market, financial losses, redundancy) and non-economic reasons (e.g., gross negligence, AWOL).

Singapore, Ministry of Manpower(9)

Average monthly recruitment rate during a quarter is defined as the average number of persons recruited in a month during the quarter divided by the average number of employees in the establishment. The annual figures are the simple average of the quarterly figures.Average monthly resignation rate during a quarter is defined as the average number of persons who resigned in a month during the quarter divided by the average number of employees in the establishment. The annual figures are the simple average of the quarterly figures.

Notes:

(1) Hires are commonly referred to as accessions. While the JOLTS program uses the term hires, the historical Labor Turnover Survey used the term accession. Both of these terms, plus other terms determined by each country, are used in this paper depending upon the country being discussed.

(2) Separations may be referred to using other terms depending upon the country being discussed.

(3) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, Data Definitions, https://www.bls.gov/opub/hom/.

(4) Assistance with the definitions for the data elements discussed was provided by Vilma Mere, Leading Statistician, Wages Statistics Service, Statistics Estonia, October 28, 2013. http://www.stat.ee/65226?highlight=left,employees.

(5) Monthly Labour Survey (Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare), http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/database/db-slms/dl/slms-01.pdf.

(6) Survey on Employment Trends (Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare), http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/database/db-l/employment_trends_2010.html.

(7) “Definitions and Measures,” Guide to Interpreting the LEED Data (Statistics New Zealand), http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/income-and-work/employment_and_unemployment/guide-interpreting-the-leed-data/definitions-of-measures.aspx.

(8) “G. Concepts and Definitions, Metadata,” Labor Turnover Survey (Republic of the Philippines, Philippine Statistical Authority, Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics), http://www.bles.dole.gov.ph/SURVEY%20RESULTS/LTS/LTS.html.

(9) Singapore, Ministry of Manpower, Labour Turnover Concepts and Definitions, http://stats.mom.gov.sg/SL/Pages/Labour-Turnover-Concepts-and-Definitions.aspx?Flag=90&TRMID=669&PageNo=1.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare calculates accession rates and separation rates, by industry, using data collected via the Monthly Labour Survey. According to the Ministry survey description, the aim of the survey is “to clarify changes in employment, earnings and hours worked, on both national and a prefectural level.”10

Since 1999, Statistics New Zealand has produced quarterly data detailing the worker turnover rate. The rate, a measure of workforce stability, is defined as “the ratio of the average of the total accessions and separations to the average of the total jobs in the reference quarter (t) and the previous quarter (t−1).”11

Analysis of job openings and labor demand data

Labor demand data complement other data sources, particularly labor supply data, and help data users examine factors that influence a nation’s economy. These data, when available, are used to examine labor force churn, labor demand and supply, business cycles, and industry and geographic economic conditions.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a global recession can be defined as “a contraction in world real per capita GDP accompanied by a broad decline in various other measures of global economic activity.”12 There have been four global recessions in the last 50 years with the most recent being the year-long 2009 global recession.13 While the number of job openings, hires, and separations decreased during the 2009 global recession, labor demand and labor market churn continued. Using time series that encompass the most recent global recession, the following figures examine labor demand data from several countries.

Figure 1 compares the euro area quarterly vacancy rate with the JOLTS job openings rate (adjusted on a quarterly basis) before and after the 2009 global recession. Note that while the global recession covers the four quarters of 2009, the economies of the euro area countries and the United States experienced recessions with differing quarterly periods. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Euro Area Business Cycle Dating Committee, the euro area recession began in the first quarter of 2008 and ended in the second quarter of 2009.14 The United States experienced a recession from December 2007 through June 2009 as determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which would be reflected in the quarterly data from the fourth quarter of 2007 through the second quarter of 2009.15

The job openings and job vacancy rates for both the United States and the euro area series began to decline prior to the start of the 2009 global recession and started to recover at the end of 2009. In the fourth quarter of 2009, euro area and U.S. rates reached lows of 1.3 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.

Job openings, representing labor demand, is a complementary statistic to unemployment, which represents labor supply. As a labor market contracts, workers experience job loss and can have a difficult time finding a new job. Job availability declines because many establishments are forced to slow or freeze hiring, while others go out of business. In order to remain in business, many establishments cease hiring and implement layoffs and discharges to decrease the number of employees on their payrolls and control costs. Thus, the number of available job openings decreases and the number of people looking for a job may increase. As the labor market expands, job availability can increase and the number of people looking for a job may decline.

Figure 2 shows the ratio of the number of unemployed to the number of job openings (vacancies) in the United States and Germany. A high ratio indicates that more people are competing for the same job. Note that, in both countries, this ratio was much higher during the 2009 global recession. In July 2009, U.S. and German ratios peaked, at 6.8 and 12.5, respectively.

Job openings and unemployment have an inverse relationship, which is represented by the Beveridge curve. The Beveridge curve plots the job openings rate with respect to the unemployment rate over time. The curve can be used to identify forces of change in the labor market. Demand-related expansions and contractions show movement along the curve, indicating changes related to the business cycle. During an economic expansion, job openings are high and unemployment is low; during an economic contraction, job openings are low and unemployment is high. Other types of changes in the labor market can shift the curve toward or away from the axis. A shift in the curve can indicate structural change, a change in labor force participation, or various other changes.

Figure 3 shows the U.S. Beveridge curve with data reflecting the impact of recessionary periods from March 2001 to November 2001 and December 2007 through June 2009.

Figure 4 shows the U.K. Beveridge curve with data reflecting the recession from the third quarter of 2008 through the third quarter of 2009.16

Hires are procyclical. During an expansion, establishments replace workers that separate and possibly increase the number of employees through hires. During a contraction, establishments may delay replacing employees that separate.

Figure 5 compares the hires, accessions and engaged employees rates of the United States (adjusted to a quarterly basis), New Zealand, and Estonia. While the global recession covers all four quarters of 2009, these countries separately experienced recessions with differing quarterly periods.

JOLTS separations data comprise quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. Of these components, quits are considered procyclical since workers generally quit more during economic expansions (when more jobs are available) and quit less during economic contractions (when fewer jobs are available). Layoffs and discharges, on the other hand, are considered countercyclical. Establishments retain workers during expansions and lay off workers during contractions.

Figure 6 compares the Estonian quarterly left employees rates, the New Zealand quarterly separations rates, and the United States separations rates adjusted to a quarterly basis. The data trended downward before the 2009 global recession, as individual countries experienced their respective recessions.

There are currently many countries that produce job openings (vacancies) data and fewer that produce hires (accessions) and separations data. Various methodologies and definitions exist to capture these data. Different levels of data detail are published, ranging from national totals to detailed break downs by industry, region, occupation, and size class. Labor demand data tell users the underlying story of employment growth and decline, both in the United States and abroad. Although the definitions of various data elements differ across countries, the data generally show similar trends over the time period examined in this article. Labor demand data are increasingly useful for gauging the overall health of the economy and for making informed decisions about economic policy.

Appendix 1. International labor demand data surveys, non-European Union countries
CountryStatistical agency/survey nameData elementsFrequency

Australia

Australian Bureau of Statistics: Job Vacancy Survey (JVS)Job vacancy estimates by state, territory, and industryQuarterly since 1979, suspended between August 2008 and August 2009

Canada

Statistics Canada: Workplace SurveyLabour turnover rates, job vacancies, hard-to-fill jobsAnnually

The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China

Quarterly Report of Employment and Vacancies; Quarterly Report of Employment and Vacancies at Construction SitesVacanciesQuarterly

Gibralter

Government of Gibralter Information ServicesNotices of terminations, notices of engagements, and vacancies filledSemi-annual for notices and monthly for vacancies

India

Labour Bureau, Government of IndiaAccession rates and separation ratesAnnually

Israel

Central Bureau of Statistics, Job Vacancy SurveyJob vacanciesQuarterly averages since 2004

Japan

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Monthly Labour SurveyAccession rates and separation ratesMonthly
Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Survey on Employment TrendsHires and separationsConducted in 2010, 2011, 2012

New Zealand

Statistics New Zealand, Linked Employer-Employee Data (LEED)Accessions, separations, worker turnover ratesQuarterly

Philippines

Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics, Labor Turnover SurveyNew hires (accessions), separations, existing job vacanciesQuarterly

Switzerland

Swiss Federal Statistical Office, JOBSTATJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency and Eurostat)Quarterly

United States

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS)Job openings, hires, and separations levels and ratesMonthly
Appendix 2. International labor demand agencies, European Union and closely tied countries
CountryStatistical agencyData elementsFrequency

European Union

EurostatJob vacancy levels and rates for multiple European Union and euro area groupingsQuarterly, Annual (rates only)

Austria

Statistics AustriaJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency & Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Belgium

Statistics BelgiumJob vacancy levels and rates (via Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Bulgaria

National Statistical InstituteJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency & Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Croatia

Croatian Bureau of StatisticsJob vacancy levels & rates (via Eurostat)Quarterly

Cyprus

CYSTATJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency & Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Czech Republic

Czech Statistical OfficeJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency & Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Denmark

Statistics DenmarkJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency)Quarterly

Estonia

Statistics EstoniaJob vacancies levels and rates (via agency & Eurostat); number of engaged employees; number of left employees; number of dismissed employeesQuarterly, Annual

Finland

Statistics FinlandJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency & Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

France

National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE)Registered job vacancies (advertisements)Monthly (Annual rates on Eurostat)

Germany

DestatisVacancies unfilled (levels & rates via agency and Eurostat)Monthly, Quarterly, Annual

Greece

Hellenic Statistical Authority (EL.STAT.)Job vacancy levels (levels & rates via Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Hungary

Hungarian Central Statistical OfficeJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency & Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Ireland

Central Statistics OfficeJob vacancy rates (via Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Italy

Italian National Institute of Statistics (Istat)Job vacancy rates (via agency)Quarterly

Latvia

Latvijas StatistikaJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency & Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Lithuania

Statistics LithuaniaJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency & Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Luxembourg

STATECJob vacancy levels and rates (via Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Malta

National Statistics OfficeJob vacanciesQuarterly by economic activity; annually by occupation

Netherlands

Statistics NetherlandsJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency and Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Norway

Statistics NorwayJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency and Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Poland

Central Statistical OfficeJob vacancy levels and rates (via Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Portugal

Statistics PortugalJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency & Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Republic of Macedonia

Republic of Macedonia State Statistical OfficeJob vacanciesQuarterly

Romania

National Institute of StatisticsJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency & Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Slovakia

Statistical Office of the Slovak RepublicJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency & Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Slovenia

Statistical Office of the Republic of SloveniaJob vacancy levels and rates (via agency & Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Spain

National Statistics Institute (INE)Job vacancy levels and rates (via Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

Sweden

Statistics SwedenJob openings and vacancies (via agency and Eurostat)Quarterly, Annual

United Kingdom

Office for National StatisticsJob vacancy levels & rates (via agency and Eurostat)Monthly, Quarterly, Annual

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not constitute policy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Suggested citation:

Katherine Bauer, "Comparison of U.S. and international labor turnover statistics," Monthly Labor Review, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, July 2015, https://doi.org/10.21916/mlr.2015.26.

Notes


1 The JOLTS program follows the North American Industrial Classification System. The term “industry” can refer to a supersector, sector, or subsector, depending on the context. Census region descriptions can be viewed at https://www.bls.gov/eag/.

2 Job openings are also commonly referred to as job vacancies. While the JOLTS program uses the term job openings, the historical Labor Turnover Program used the term job vacancy. Both terms are used in this article depending upon the term used by the country being discussed.

3 Hires are commonly referred to as accessions. While the JOLTS program uses the term hires, the historical Labor Turnover Program used the term accession. Both of these terms, plus other terms determined by each country, are used in this article depending upon the country being discussed.

4 For more information, see Katherine Bauer “Examination of state-level labor turnover data,” Monthly Labor Review, January 2014, http://stats.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2014/article/examination-of-state-level-labor-turnover-survey-data.htm.

6 Eurostat Statistics Explained, (Eurostat, European Commission), http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Job_vacancy_statistics.

7 Detailed information on the definitions and methodology for Eurostat job vacancies is available at http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/labour-market/job-vacancies.

8 Definitions and methods, (French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies INSEE), http://www.insee.fr/en/methodes/default.asp?page=definitions/offres-emploi-enregistrees.htm.

9 Job openings and unmet labour demand, (Statistics Sweden), http://www.scb.se/AM0701-EN/.

10 Monthly Labour Survey, (Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare), http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/database/db-slms/dl/slms-01.pdf.

12 IMF Research Bulletin, Volume 13 Number 4, December 2012, p. 8, http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/irb/2012/04/index.pdf.

13 Ibid., pp. 7–9.

14 Centre for Economic Policy Research, Euro Area Business Cycle Dating Committee, Chronology of Euro Area Business Cycles. http://www.cepr.org/content/euro-area-business-cycle-dating-committee

15 U.S. Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions, announced September 20, 2010. http://www.nber.org/cycles.html.

16 Key Issues for the New Parliament 2010, House of Commons Library Research, Recession and Recovery, pp. 28–29, http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/key-issues-for-the-new-parliament/economic-recovery/recovery-from-recession/.

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About the Author

Katherine Bauer
bauer.katherine@bls.gov

Katherine Bauer is an economist in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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