March JOLTS Report Confirms That Month’s Strong Jobs Report

This morning’s JOLTS report for March confirmed that month’s stellar jobs report. Job openings made a new series high, while layoffs and discharges made a new series low. Hires quits, and total separations all also moved in the right direction.

This report has only a 20-year history, and so includes only two prior recoveries. In those recoveries: 

  • first, layoffs declined
  • second, hiring rose
  • third, job openings rose and voluntary quits increased, close to simultaneously

The recovery from the worst of the pandemic almost one year ago at first followed this script, but the winter surge, which led to a few months of flat, or worse, jobs reports, disrupted that trend. We now appear to have reverted to that prior trend.

Let’s start out with layoffs and discharges (red) and total separations (blue), showing that these have followed their past patterns, as layoffs rapidly declined to a normal rate after last March and April. As noted above, this month’s report made a new series low:

Next, here is the series-long record of hiring, quits, and job openings:

Here is the zoom-in look at the past several years:

What has been different this time around is that, after rapidly improving, hires declined again until bottoming in December and January. All three are now moving in the right direction.

In the past few months, I have also highlighted YoY changes, but that view is useless now, as comparisons are with the worst of the March and April 2020 lockdowns.

Last month I flagged the issue of whether “hires reassert themselves, as in the past two recoveries, or whether openings without actual hiring continue to soar as they did starting in 2015.” In March both happened, as hires increased and openings made an all-time high. Given the relatively subpar April employment report, the jury is still out on whether hires will continue to increase - as that appears to be the missing link in this jobs recovery.

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Disclaimer: This blog contains opinions and observations. It is not professional advice in any way, shape or form and should not be construed that way. In other words, buyer beware.

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