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Evaluating Estimates of Labor Demand and Turnover

Charlotte Mueller and John C. Wohlford


The Bureau of Labor Statistics has developed a new establishment survey that is producing nationally representative data on labor demand and turnover in the United States. In adding to the federal statistical framework, these data are shedding new light on the U.S. labor market and economy in general. This paper begins by briefly describing the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). The paper then describes some of the efforts to evaluate the quality of the estimates, specifically highlighting comparisons of the JOLTS data series with other recognized and comparable series. These comparisons help validate the long-run trends seen in the new JOLTS series, and statistical correlations confirm what past research has suggested. The job openings estimates have a strong inverse relationship with the unemployment rate as depicted by the Beveridge Curve, and the job openings series mirrors the trend movements of the Conference Board's Help-Wanted Advertising Index. Hires estimates are strongly correlated with employment change, and trends in separations match the movements of a smaller turnover report from the Bureau of National Affairs. As quits dominates the movement of total separations, it has been compared with consumer confidence measures and shows similar trends over time. All of these comparisons lend validity to the JOLTS data series, presenting new opportunities for the series to contribute to a wide range of labor market research and analysis.