Department of Labor Logo United States Department of Labor
Dot gov

The .gov means it's official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site.

Https

The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Article

June 2020

Job openings, hires, and quits set record highs in 2019

Data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey show that the labor market continued to be strong throughout most of 2019, with job openings, hires, total separations, and quits reaching their highest monthly levels since these data series began in December 2000. The job openings level reached 7.5 million in January 2019; the hires level reached 6.0 million in April 2019; the separations level reached 5.8 million in April, July, and December 2019; and the quits level reached 3.6 million in July 2019. The annual hires level increased from 68.6 million in 2018 to 70.0 million in 2019, which is a series high since 2001, the first full year of data. The annual total separations level increased from 66.2 million in 2018 to 67.9 million in 2019, another series high since 2001. Within total separations, annual quits rose from 40.3 million in 2018 to 42.1 million in 2019, which also was a series high. The number of layoffs and discharges—another component of total separations—edged down from 21.8 million in 2018 to 21.7 million in 2019. The annual number of other separations declined slightly over the year, from 4.1 million in 2018 to 4.0 million in 2019.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data continued to show signs of a strong labor market in 2019, as job openings, hires, and total separations generally trended upward for total nonfarm and total private throughout the year.1 This article reviews the JOLTS data for 2019 at the total nonfarm, industry, and region levels.2 (For definitions of JOLTS terms, see the box that follows.)

Definitions of JOLTS terms*

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 the following three conditions: (1) 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; (2) the job could start within 30 days, whether or not the employer can find a suitable candidate during that time; and (3) 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 and 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 recalls 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 the employees have not yet reported for work; and positions to be filled by employees of temporary help agencies, employee leasing companies, outside contractors, or consultants.

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 a strike; and employees of temporary help agencies, employee leasing companies, outside contractors, or consultants.

Separations

Separations include all separations from the payroll during the entire reference month and are reported by type of separation: quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. Quits include employees who left voluntarily, except for retirements or transfers to other locations. Layoffs and discharges include 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 are transfers within the same location; employees on strike; and employees of temporary help agencies, employee leasing companies, outside contractors, or consultants.

* From U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Handbook of Methods, “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey,” p. 2, https://www.bls.gov/opub/hom/pdf/homch18.pdf.

Job openings

The job openings level is a procyclical measure of demand; the number of job openings tends to increase during economic expansions and decrease during economic contractions.3 A larger number of job openings generally indicates that employers need additional workers, which is a sign of a demand for labor and confidence in the economy. Job openings and employment are closely linked and tend to rise and fall together. Also notable in this context is that the number of employees on nonfarm payrolls is considered a Principal Federal Economic Indicator; more particularly, payroll employment has frequently been cited as a coincident economic indicator.4

Monthly data show that job openings reached a data series high of 7.5 million in January 2019, indicating that the demand side of the labor force continued to show signs of strength. However, since the 2019 series high, job openings have trended downward, returning to early 2018 levels. Over the year, job openings fell from a December 2018 level of 6.7 million to a December 2019 level of 6.0 million, a 10.8-percent decrease.5 (See table 1.) However, even with this decrease, job openings were still robust, compared with historical levels.

Table 1. Change in level and percentage of job openings, by industry and region, not seasonally adjusted, December 2018–December 2019 (levels in thousands)
Industry and regionLevel by month and yearChange, December 2017 to December 2018Change, December 2018 to December 2019
 December 2017 December 2018 December 2019LevelPercentLevelPercent

Industry

Total nonfarm

5,6386,6995,9741,06118.8–725–10.8

Total private

5,1086,1065,28299819.5–824–13.5

Mining and logging

202313315.0–10–43.5

Construction

18029121611161.7–75–25.8

Manufacturing

3814413606015.7–81–18.4

Durable goods

2332972226427.5–75–25.3

Nondurable goods

148144138–4–2.7–6–4.2

Trade, transportation, and utilities

1,2601,2651,04550.4–220–17.4

Wholesale trade

208164168–44–21.242.4

Retail trade

834791633–43–5.2–158–20.0

Transportation, warehousing, and utilities

2183102449242.2–66–21.3

Information

118129146119.31713.2

Financial activities

353340306–13–3.7–34–10.0

Finance and insurance

269279222103.7–57–20.4

Real estate and rental and leasing

846184–23–27.42337.7

Professional and business services

8061,1981,06939248.6–129–10.8

Education and health services

1,0871,2381,14715113.9–91–7.4

Educational services

869210667.01415.2

Healthcare and social assistance

1,0001,1461,04114614.6–105–9.2

Leisure and hospitality

71190774419627.6–163–18.0

Arts, entertainment, and recreation

6296983454.822.1

Accommodation and food services

64981064616124.8–164–20.2

Other services

1912752368444.0–39–14.2

Government

5305936916311.99816.5

Federal

899888910.1–10–10.2

State and local

4424956035312.010821.8

State and local education

1392022116345.394.5

State and local, excluding education

302293393–9–3.010034.1

Region

Northeast

1,0241,1141,055908.8–59–5.3

South

1,9942,5252,24553126.6–280–11.1

Midwest

1,3251,5861,25526119.7–331–20.9

West

1,2951,4731,41817813.7–55–3.7

Note: Details may not sum to totals because of rounding.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Job openings by industry

During 2019, the monthly job openings level for eight industries reached series highs. The top three industries with the most job openings were healthcare and social assistance, at 1.3 million in March; accommodation and food services, at 1.0 million in January; and construction, at 430,000 in April. (See table 2.)

Table 2. Monthly data series highs, by industry and region, seasonally adjusted, 2019
Industry and regionIndustry and region data elementMonthLevel

Industry

Mining and logging

Job openingsJuly40,000

Construction

Job openingsApril430,000

Wholesale trade

Job openingsJanuary279,000

Educational services

Job openingsNovember146,000

Healthcare and social assistance

Job openingsMarch1,300,000

Accommodation and food services

Job openingsJanuary1,000,000

State and local government education

Job openingsOctober234,000

State and local government, excluding education

Job openingsAugust409,000

Healthcare and social assistance

HiresJuly655,000

Accommodation and food services

HiresJune992,000

Retail trade

QuitsNovember577,000

Transportation, warehousing, and utilities

QuitsDecember150,000

Professional and business services

QuitsMarch697,000

Educational services

QuitsDecember66,000

Arts, entertainment, and recreation

QuitsNovember86,000

Accommodation and food services

QuitsFebruary714,000

Other services

QuitsOctober183,000

State and local government education

QuitsJanuary100,000

Region

Northeast

Job openingsAugust1,300,000

South

Job openingsOctober2,800,000

West

Job openingsJanuary1,800,000

South

HiresJuly2,400,000

Northeast

QuitsAugust535,000

South

QuitsFebruary1,500,000

West

QuitsDecember854,000

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Monthly job openings were up over the year from December 2018 to December 2019 in 7 of the 19 groups of industries for which data are published.6 The largest over-the-year increases in job openings occurred in real estate and rental and leasing (+37.7 percent), state and local government, excluding education (+34.1 percent), and educational services (+15.2 percent). Industries with the largest declines over the year include mining and logging (−43.5 percent), construction (−25.8 percent), and durable goods manufacturing (−25.3 percent). (See table 1.)

Job openings by region

Three out of the four regions reached monthly series highs for job openings in 2019. In the South, the number of job openings reached a high of 2.8 million in October 2019. In the West, job openings reached a high of 1.8 million in January 2019; and in the Northeast, there were a record number of job openings, at 1.3 million in August 2019. (See table 2.) All four census regions experienced over-the-year declines in job openings from December 2018 to December 2019. The largest regional downward trend was in the Midwest, at 20.9 percent. Job openings fell in the South by 11.1 percent, followed by the Northeast (−5.3 percent) and the West (−3.7 percent). (See table 1.)

Job openings and unemployment

One way to analyze job openings and unemployment is to consider the number of unemployed persons per job opening. The number of unemployed persons per job opening is the ratio of unemployed persons, as published by the Current Population Survey (CPS), to the number of job openings. To calculate this ratio, divide the number of unemployed by the number of job openings. Unemployment and job openings levels generally move in opposite directions. That is, when the economy is strong, the number of unemployed is low and the number of job openings is high, causing the ratio to decrease. The opposite occurs when the economy weakens—unemployment increases and job openings decrease, leading to a higher ratio. Because of this countercyclical behavior, the ratio of the number of unemployed persons per job opening provides a metric that helps describe the slack or tightness in the labor market.7

When the “Great Recession” began in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons per job opening was 1.7.8 The ratio peaked at 6.4 unemployed persons per job opening in July 2009, the month after the recession ended. In 2018, the ratio of unemployed persons per job opening went below 1.0 for the first time. For 22 consecutive months—from March 2018 to December 2019—the ratio of unemployed persons per job opening was below 1.0. Within the year (2019), the ratio fell to a series low of 0.8 from March through October. (See figure 1.)

Hires

Like job openings, hires are a procyclical measure. The hires level has increased each year since the end of the 2007–09 recession, in June 2009. The 2019 monthly level for hires rose to a series high of 6.0 million in April. The total annual hires level has risen for 10 consecutive years; it increased from 68.6 million in 2018 to 69.9 million in 2019, or 2.0 percent. (See table 3.)

Table 3. Change in level and percentage of annual hires, by industry and region, not seasonally adjusted, 2017–19 (levels in thousands)
Industry and regionLevel by yearChange, 2017 to 2018Change, 2018 to 2019
201720182019LevelPercentLevelPercent

Total

65,63868,59469,9432,9564.51,3492.0

Industry

Total private

61,50264,28665,5672,7844.51,2812.0

Mining and logging

3744493197520.1–130–29.0

Construction

4,5854,5244,981–61–1.345710.1

Manufacturing

3,9854,3904,08140510.2–309–7.0

Durable goods

2,2382,5122,29727412.2–215–8.6

Nondurable goods

1,7481,8791,7831317.5–96–5.1

Trade, transportation, and utilities

12,64213,68213,8701,0408.21881.4

Wholesale trade

1,6561,7561,8061006.0502.8

Retail trade

8,4799,0329,0885536.5560.6

Transportation, warehousing, and utilities

2,5072,8952,97638815.5812.8

Information

1,0181,0881,123706.9353.2

Financial activities

2,5302,5012,649-29–1.11485.9

Finance and insurance

1,6571,6361,672–21–1.3362.2

Real estate and rental and leasing

874864977–10–1.111313.1

Professional and business services

13,43013,74713,8603172.41130.8

Education and health services

8,0078,5098,6895026.31802.1

Educational services

1,1411,1591,209181.6504.3

Healthcare and social assistance

6,8677,3507,4804837.01301.8

Leisure and hospitality

12,23612,79713,3885614.65914.6

Arts, entertainment, and recreation

2,0482,2111,9791638.0–232–10.5

Accommodation and food services

10,18810,58711,4083993.98217.8

Other services

2,6872,5982,603–89–3.350.2

Government

4,1384,3104,3761724.2661.5

Federal

3804205064010.58620.5

State and local

3,7573,8893,8681323.5–21–0.5

State and local education

1,8202,0131,99319310.6–20–1.0

State and local, excluding education

1,9361,8741,877–62–3.230.2

Region

Northeast

10,48610,49611,000100.15044.8

South

25,89827,31528,0941,4175.57792.9

Midwest

14,34015,19214,9728525.9–220–1.4

West

14,90915,59215,8766834.62841.8

Note: Details may not sum to totals because of rounding.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Hires by industry

Annual hires rose in 14 of 19 industries in 2019 and fell in 5 industries. The largest percentage increases in annual hires levels in 2019 were in federal government (+20.5 percent), real estate and rental and leasing (+13.1 percent), and construction (+10.1 percent).9 The largest percentage declines in hires occurred in mining and logging (−29.0 percent); arts, entertainment, and recreation (−10.5 percent); and durable goods manufacturing (−8.6 percent). (See table 3.) There were 5 industries that had annual series highs for the number of hires in 2019. The top 3 industries in terms of hires are professional and business services, accommodation and food services, and healthcare and social assistance. (See table 4.)

Table 4. Annual data series highs, by industry and region, not seasonally adjusted, 2019 (levels in thousands)
Industry and regionIndustry and region data elementLevel

Industry

Transportation, warehousing, and utilities

Hires2,976

Professional and business services

Hires13,860

Educational services

Hires1,209

Healthcare and social assistance

Hires7,480

Accommodation and food services

Hires11,408

Retail trade

Quits6,238

Transportation, warehousing, and utilities

Quits1,639

Professional and business services

Quits7,782

Educational services

Quits640

Healthcare and social assistance

Quits4,901

Arts, entertainment, and recreation

Quits942

Accommodation and food services

Quits8,239

Other services

Quits1,621

State and local government education

Quits1,103

Region

Northeast

Hires11,000

South

Hires28,094

West

Hires15,876

Northeast

Quits5,778

South

Quits17,158

Midwest

Quits9,245

West

Quits9,931

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Monthly seasonally adjusted hires reached series highs in two industries during 2019: accommodation and food services, at 992,000 in June, and healthcare and social assistance, at 655,000 in July. (See table 2.)

Hires by region

The Northeast region had the highest percentage increase in annual hires in 2019, rising 4.8 percent. Annual hires also increased in the South (+2.9 percent) and West (+1.8 percent), while they declined in the Midwest (−1.4 percent). In 2018, the Midwest had the highest percentage increase in annual hires, at 5.9 percent, while the Northeast had the lowest percentage increase in annual hires, at 0.1 percent. (See table 3.)

The South, Northeast, and West regions had series highs in the number of annual hires in 2019. In July 2019, the South experienced a series high of 2.4 million hires based on its monthly seasonally adjusted level. (See table 2.)

Hires and job openings

Following steady growth in the number of job openings after the end of the 2007–09 recession in June 2009, job openings started to increase rapidly in early 2014. Hires also increased after the recession, but at a slower pace than job openings. The monthly number of total nonfarm hires has exceeded the number of job openings for most of the history of the JOLTS series. In January 2015, however, job openings began to exceed hires, which was not expected, because hires is a full-month (or flow) measure whereas job openings is a 1-day, end-of-month snapshot (or stock) measure. When job openings exceed hires, it may suggest that employers have unmet demand for workers. For 60 consecutive months—from January 2015 to December 2019—job openings exceeded hires. The last time that the number of hires exceeded the number of job openings was in December 2014. (See figure 2.)

Total separations

The annual number of total separations increased 2.5 percent from 2018 to 2019, rising from 66.2 million to 67.9 million. (See table 5.) Total separations—also known as turnover—has risen annually for 9 consecutive years.

Table 5. Change in level and percentage of annual total separations, by industry and region, not seasonally adjusted, 2017–19 (levels in thousands)
Industry and regionLevel by yearChange, 2017 to 2018Change, 2018 to 2019
201720182019LevelPercentLevelPercent

Total

63,49766,19967,8562,7024.31,6572.5

Industry

Total private

59,42962,05863,6402,6294.41,5822.5

Mining and logging

3273933466620.2–47–12.0

Construction

4,2784,2154,855-63–1.564015.2

Manufacturing

3,8134,1234,0213108.1–102–2.5

Durable goods

2,1162,2912,2771758.3–14–0.6

Nondurable goods

1,6951,8301,7441358.0–86–4.7

Trade, transportation, and utilities

12,51213,50113,6859897.91841.4

Wholesale trade

1,6251,7141,741895.5271.6

Retail trade

8,5409,1549,1066147.2–48–0.5

Transportation, warehousing, and utilities

2,3522,6302,84027811.82108.0

Information

1,0141,0571,100434.2434.1

Financial activities

2,3812,3342,508–47–2.01747.5

Finance and insurance

1,5761,5301,597–46–2.9674.4

Real estate and rental and leasing

806804912–2–0.210813.4

Professional and business services

13,02413,29413,4882702.11941.5

Education and health services

7,5588,0348,0464766.3120.1

Educational services

1,0681,1291,101615.7–28–2.5

Healthcare and social assistance

6,4876,9066,9454196.5390.6

Leisure and hospitality

11,91012,54713,0646375.35174.1

Arts, entertainment, and recreation

1,9692,1081,9431397.1-165–7.8

Accommodation and food services

9,94110,43811,1204975.06826.5

Other services

2,6092,5612,525–48–1.8–36–1.4

Government

4,0684,1384,216701.7781.9

Federal

401400465–1–0.26516.3

State and local

3,6663,7393,748732.090.2

State and local education

1,7821,9281,9371468.290.5

State and local, excluding education

1,8851,8101,811–75–4.010.1

Region

Northeast

10,30310,08610,511-217–2.14254.2

South

25,12526,29926,7811,1744.74821.8

Midwest

13,83214,62114,4937895.7–128–0.9

West

14,23315,19116,0729586.78815.8

Note: Details may not sum to totals because of rounding.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Total separations include quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. Each of these data elements has its own unique trend and cyclical movements. Quits are procyclical, which means that the number of quits typically rises when the economy expands and falls when the economy contracts. Layoffs and discharges are countercyclical, which means that their numbers typically rise during economic contractions and fall during economic expansions. The other separations data element remains relatively constant over time. Figure 3 shows this relationship by displaying the percentage of total separations attributed to each type of separation. Quits as a percentage of total separations have been increasing since 2009, whereas layoffs and discharges as a percentage of total separations have been decreasing since 2009.

The number of annual quits rose over the year, from 40.3 million to 42.1 million. (See table 6.)

Table 6. Change in level and percentage of annual quits, by industry and region, not seasonally adjusted, 2017–19 (levels in thousands)
Industry and regionLevel by yearChange, 2017 to 2018Change, 2018 to 2019
201720182019LevelPercentLevelPercent

Total

37,70840,33142,1132,6237.01,7824.4

Industry

Total private

35,68238,17439,8782,4927.01,7044.5

Mining and logging

1722471777543.6-70–28.3

Construction

1,8522,0582,08220611.1241.2

Manufacturing

2,2922,5062,4752149.3-31–1.2

Durable goods

1,2611,3781,3801179.320.1

Nondurable goods

1,0331,1271,093949.1–34–3.0

Trade, transportation, and utilities

7,8828,4978,8976157.84004.7

Wholesale trade

1,0201,0671,022474.6–45–4.2

Retail trade

5,6165,9586,2383426.12804.7

Transportation, warehousing, and utilities

1,2441,4731,63922918.416611.3

Information

521568563479.0–5–0.9

Financial activities

1,3651,4071,560423.115310.9

Finance and insurance

9098571,014–52–5.715718.3

Real estate and rental and leasing

4575495469220.1-3–0.5

Professional and business services

7,4587,5617,7821031.42212.9

Education and health services

4,9205,3795,5434599.31643.0

Educational services

57658064040.76010.3

Healthcare and social assistance

4,3454,7974,90145210.41042.2

Leisure and hospitality

7,7498,4449,1816959.07378.7

Arts, entertainment, and recreation

77991994214018.0232.5

Accommodation and food services

6,9727,5248,2395527.97159.5

Other services

1,4701,5111,621412.81107.3

Government

2,0262,1592,2361336.6773.6

Federal

17718420674.02212.0

State and local

1,8471,9752,0281286.9532.7

State and local education

9261,0431,10311712.6605.8

State and local, excluding education

923933925101.1-8–0.9

Region

Northeast

5,4245,3885,778-36–0.73907.2

South

15,31716,46717,1581,1507.56914.2

Midwest

8,1168,9889,24587210.72572.9

West

8,8539,4889,9316357.24434.7

Note: Details may not sum to totals because of rounding.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

The annual quits level has risen for 10 consecutive years. Annual layoffs and discharges decreased slightly over the year, from 21.8 million in 2018 to 21.7 million in 2019. (See table 7.)

Table 7. Change in level and percentage of annual  layoffs and discharges, by industry and region, not seasonally adjusted, 2017–19 (levels in thousands)
Industry and regionLevel by yearChange, 2017 to 2018Change, 2018 to 2019
201720182019LevelPercentLevelPercent

Total

21,60821,80321,7391950.9–64–0.3

Industry

Total private

20,26320,54420,4922811.4-52–0.3

Mining and logging

12812915210.82317.8

Construction

2,2452,0022,571–243–10.856928.4

Manufacturing

1,2531,3711,3051189.4–66–4.8

Durable goods

702753747517.3–6–0.8

Nondurable goods

5496205597112.9–61–9.8

Trade, transportation, and utilities

3,7414,1714,02243011.5–149–3.6

Wholesale trade

490502604122.410220.3

Retail trade

2,3022,6582,40035615.5–258–9.7

Transportation, warehousing, and utilities

9511,0121,019616.470.7

Information

396409449133.3409.8

Financial activities

683634644–49–7.2101.6

Finance and insurance

383417323348.9–94–22.5

Real estate and rental and leasing

303218319–85–28.110146.3

Professional and business services

4,8914,9895,012982.0230.5

Education and health services

2,0642,1012,008371.8–93–4.4

Educational services

4274803995312.4–81–16.9

Healthcare and social assistance

1,6381,6221,611–16–1.0–11–0.7

Leisure and hospitality

3,8473,8003,560–47–1.2–240–6.3

Arts, entertainment, and recreation

1,1531,146965–7–0.6–181–15.8

Accommodation and food services

2,6952,6542,594–41–1.5–60–2.3

Other services

1,012938763–74–7.3–175–18.7

Government

1,3421,2571,248–85–6.3–9–0.7

Federal

12089120–31–25.83134.8

State and local

1,2231,1681,127–55–4.5–41–3.5

State and local education

562601548396.9–53–8.8

State and local, excluding education

663567580–96–14.5132.3

Region

Northeast

4,1303,9283,989–202–4.9611.6

South

8,1908,3528,1241622.0-228–2.7

Midwest

4,8694,7874,459–82–1.7–328–6.9

West

4,4174,7335,1713167.24389.3

Note: Details may not sum to totals because of rounding.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

The annual level of other separations declined slightly, from 4.1 million in 2018 to 4.0 million in 2019. (See table 8.)

Table 8. Change in level and percentage of annual other separations, by industry and region, not seasonally adjusted, 2017–19 (levels in thousands)
Industry and regionLevel by yearChange, 2017 to 2018Change, 2018 to 2019
201720182019LevelPercentLevelPercent

Total

4,1824,0654,002–117–2.8–63–1.5

Industry

Total private

3,4833,3423,269–141–4.0–73–2.2

Mining and logging

252117–4–16.0–4–19.0

Construction

181156202–25–13.84629.5

Manufacturing

270248240–22–8.1–8–3.2

Durable goods

15516115163.9–10–6.2

Nondurable goods

1148889–26–22.811.1

Trade, transportation, and utilities

892836765–56–6.3–71–8.5

Wholesale trade

1151451133026.1–32–22.1

Retail trade

622542470–80–12.9–72–13.3

Transportation, warehousing, and utilities

155147182–8–5.23523.8

Information

958091–15–15.81113.8

Financial activities

333294304–39–11.7103.4

Finance and insurance

283255260–28–9.952.0

Real estate and rental and leasing

483744–11–22.9718.9

Professional and business services

677743692669.7–51–6.9

Education and health services

570553497–17–3.0–56–10.1

Educational services

66686423.0–4–5.9

Healthcare and social assistance

505485432–20–4.0–53–10.9

Leisure and hospitality

312304323-8-2.6196.3

Arts, entertainment, and recreation

42423700.0–5–11.9

Accommodation and food services

271260284–11–4.1249.2

Other services

127114142–13–10.22824.6

Government

698724735263.7111.5

Federal

1041281402423.1129.4

State and local

59359559320.3–2–0.3

State and local education

294285287–9–3.120.7

State and local, excluding education

30030931093.010.3

Region

Northeast

747769746222.9–23–3.0

South

1,6211,4791,496–142–8.8171.1

Midwest

848844790–4–0.5–54–6.4

West

96497397290.9–1–0.1

Note: Details may not sum to totals because of rounding.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Components of separations by industry

As mentioned previously, separations are the total number of employees separated from their employer at any time during the reference month. Separations consist of quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. This section discusses what happened in 2019 with the components of separations.

Quits

Quits include employees who left their job voluntarily, excluding retirements or transfers to other locations, which are counted as other separations. In 2019, the number of annual quits grew in 13 of 19 industries, while 6 industries had fewer quits. The largest percentage increases in annual quits levels in 2019 were in finance and insurance (+18.3 percent), federal government (+12.0 percent), and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+11.3 percent). After having the largest percentage increase in annual quits in 2018, mining and logging had the largest 2019 annual percentage decrease (−28.3 percent), followed by wholesale trade (−4.2 percent), and nondurable goods manufacturing (−3.0 percent).

Nine of 19 industries reached a series high for the annual level of quits. The top 3 of these industries are accommodation and food services, at 8.2 million; professional and business services, at 7.8 million; and retail trade, at 6.2 million. (See table 6.) Eight industries reached monthly seasonally adjusted series highs for quits in 2019: accommodation and food services, at 714,000 in February; professional and business services, at 697,000 in March; and retail trade at 577,000 in November. (See table 2.)

Layoffs and discharges

In general, layoffs and discharges include involuntary separations initiated by the employer, including layoffs with no intent to rehire. Annual layoffs and discharges dropped in 2019 in 10 of 19 industries, whereas 9 industries had higher layoffs and discharges. The largest percentage declines in annual layoffs and discharges were in finance and insurance (−22.5 percent), other services (−18.7 percent), and educational services (−16.9 percent). After having the largest percentage decrease in annual layoffs and discharges in 2018, real estate and rental and leasing had the largest 2019 annual percentage increase (+46.3 percent), followed by federal government (+34.8 percent),10 and construction (+28.4 percent).

For annual layoffs and discharges, only one industry reached a series low—finance and insurance, at 323,000. (See table 7.) For monthly layoffs and discharges, no industry reached a series high. State and local government, excluding education, was the only industry to reach a series low for the monthly layoffs and discharges level, at 29,000 in December. (See table 4.)

Other separations

In 2019, annual other separations increased in 11 of 19 industries, with 8 industries having fewer annual other separations than in the previous year. The largest percentage increases in annual other separations include construction (+29.5 percent), other services (+24.6 percent), and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+23.8 percent). The industries with the largest percentage declines in annual other separations were wholesale trade (−22.1 percent), mining and logging (−19.0 percent), and retail trade (−13.3 percent). No industry reached a series high for the annual level of other separations. Retail trade dropped to an annual series low of 470,000, as did durable goods manufacturing, at 151,000, and mining and logging, at 17,000. (See table 8.) There were no monthly seasonally adjusted series highs in other separations for 2019. (See table 2.)

Components of separations by region

In 2019, the Northeast region had an annual level of 10.5 million total separations. Within total separations, the Northeast had 5.8 million quits, 4.0 million layoffs and discharges, and 746,000 other separations. In the South region, the annual level of total separations for 2019 was 26.8 million. Within total separations, the quits level was 17.2 million for the South region, the layoffs and discharges level was 8.1 million, and the other separations level was 1.5 million. In the Midwest region, the annual total separations level was 14.5 million. Within total separations, there were 9.2 million quits in the Midwest region, 4.5 million layoffs and discharges, and 790,000 other separations. In 2019, the West region annual total separations level was 16.1 million. Within total separations in the West region, the quits level was 9.9 million, the layoffs and discharges level was 5.2 million, and the other separations level was 972,000. (See tables 5, 6, 7, and 8.)

Three out of the four regions reached monthly series highs for quits in 2019. The South quits level reached a series high of 1.5 million, in February; the West quits level reached a series high of 854,000, in December; and the Northeast quits level reached a series high of 535,000, in August. (See table 2.) No region reached a monthly series high for layoffs and discharges and other separations in 2019.

An analysis of each region by the components as a percentage of total separations illustrates the different characteristics of the JOLTS data at the region level. The Northeast region had the smallest percentage of quits within total separations, at 55.1 percent in 2019. The South experienced the highest percentage of quits, at 64.1 percent. In 2019, the Northeast region had the largest percentage of layoff and discharges within total separations, at 37.8 percent. The South region had the lowest percentage of layoffs and discharges, at 30.3 percent. The Northeast had the highest percentage of other separations, at 7.1 percent, while the Midwest region had the lowest percentage, at 5.5 percent. (See figure 4.)

Quits compared with layoffs and discharges

Over the period from July 2011 to December 2019, there were 102 consecutive months in which the monthly quits level exceeded the monthly layoffs and discharges level. During this period, the gap between the level of quits and the level of layoffs and discharges continued to widen. This growing gap is attributable to the number of quits increasing and the number of layoffs and discharges remaining flat. (See figure 5.)

Summary

JOLTS data show that the level of job openings, hires, total separations, and quits in the U.S. labor market rose throughout 2019. The job openings level began the year at its highest level since the data series began in December 2000. Although job openings declined throughout the year, ending at a lower level than in December 2018, the average job openings level in 2019 was higher than the average job openings level in 2018. In 2019, the number of hires continued its strong growth rate throughout the year and reached its highest level since the series began in December 2000. The number of total separations also maintained strong growth in 2019 and reached its highest level since December 2000. Much of the growth in total separations can be attributed to the increase in the number of quits, which also rose to a new high since the series began in December 2000.

 

Suggested citation:

Montgomery McCarthy and Larry Akinyooye, "Job openings, hires, and quits set record highs in 2019," Monthly Labor Review, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2020, https://doi.org/10.21916/mlr.2020.12.

Notes


1 The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) produces monthly data on job openings, hires, quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations from a sample of approximately 16,000 establishments. This sample consists of establishments from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all nonfarm industries as classified by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The JOLTS sample allows publication of data by four census regions and by select NAICS two-digit sectors. All annual data are not seasonally adjusted, and all monthly data are seasonally adjusted. Over-the-year changes are calculated from December of the previous year through December of the reference year. For more information on the program’s concepts and methodology, see “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey,” Handbook of Methods (Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015), https://www.bls.gov/opub/hom/pdf/jlt-20130314.pdf. See also the JOLTS page on the BLS website, at https://www.bls.gov/jlt/.

2 JOLTS estimates are produced by region for the Northeast, the South, the Midwest, and the West.

3 According to the finance and investment education website Investopedia, procyclical “refers to a condition of a positive correlation between the value of a good, a service, or an economic indicator and the overall state of the economy. In other words, the value of the good, service, or indicator tends to move in the same direction as the economy, growing when the economy grows and declining when the economy declines.” For more information, see Akhilesh Ganti, “Procyclic,” Investopedia, September 9, 2019, http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/procyclical.asp.

4 For more information, see “What Principal Federal Economic Indicators (PFEIs) are published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics?” News Room—Frequently Asked Questions (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 29, 2016), https://www.bls.gov/newsroom/faqs.htm. For more on payroll employment being a “coincident” economic indicator, see Geoffrey H. Moore, “An introduction to international economic indicators,” in Business Cycles, Inflation, and Forecasting, 2nd ed. (Pensacola, FL: Ballinger Publishing, 1983), pp. 65–92, https://www.nber.org/chapters/c0692.pdf; see p. 70.

5 BLS considers job openings a stock measure and does not produce job openings annual totals.

6 The JOLTS program publishes estimates by seven NAICS supersectors (manufacturing; trade, transportation, and utilities; financial activities; education and health services; leisure and hospitality; government; and state and local government) and for 19 other groups of industries that are within the scope of the JOLTS program; excluded are agriculture and private households. Publicly owned establishments are classified in government. For a complete list of the 19 groups of industries (henceforth referred to as “industries”), see the JOLTS NAICS page at https://www.bls.gov/jlt/jltnaics.htm.

7 Countercyclical is a condition of negative correlation in which the value of the good, service, or indicator moves “in the opposite direction of the overall economic cycle: rising when the economy is weakening, and falling when the economy is strengthening.” For more information, see the definition of "countercyclical" in InvestorWords, at http://www.investorwords.com/1166/countercyclical.html. .

8 The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) is the official arbiter of the beginning and ending dates of U.S. business cycle expansions and contractions. The NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee recently determined that a peak in monthly economic activity occurred in the U.S. economy in February 2020, marking an end to the most recent economic expansion and the beginning of a recession. See “Determination of the February 2020 peak in U.S. economic activity” (National Bureau of Economic Research, June 8, 2020), http://www.nber.org/cycles/june2020.html. See also, “U.S. business cycle expansions and contractions” (National Bureau of Economic Research, June 8, 2020), http://www.nber.org/cycles/.

9 The large increase in annual hires for the federal government was largely the result of the hiring of temporary Census 2020 workers in the late summer of 2019.

10 The large increase in annual layoffs and discharges for the federal government was heavily affected by the temporary Census 2020 workers having their positions ended in October 2019.

article image
About the Author

Montgomery McCarthy
mccarthy.mongtomery@bls.gov

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

Larry Akinyooye
akinyooye.larry@bls.gov

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

close or Esc Key