The October JOLTS Report: Very Good Employment Market Continues, Just Below Best Levels

Monday's JOLTS report for October was, surprisingly, a little weaker than the employment report from one month ago, that I described at the time as perhaps the best in the entire expansion. But this is a relative statement; basically, most of the series were only a little off their recent best readings:

  • Quits were just below their all-time high in August, and July as well.
  • Hires were just below their August best.
  • Total separations made another new expansion high
  • Layoffs and discharges declined a little from August and September levels (a positive), although they are slightly elevated compared to last spring.
  • Job openings were also just below their all time high in August, as well as September.

Let's update where the report might tell us we are in the cycle, remaining mindful of the fact that we only have 18 years of data. Below is a graph, averaged quarterly through the third quarter, of the *rates* of hiring, quits, layoffs, and openings as a percentage of the labor force since the inception of the series (layoffs and discharges are inverted at the 3% level, so that higher readings show fewer layoffs than normal, and lower readings show more):


During the 2000s expansion:

  • Hires peaked first, from December 2004 through September 2005
  • Quits peaked next, in September 2005
  • Layoffs and Discharges peaked next, from October 2005 through September 2006
  • Openings peaked last, in Spril 2007

By contrast during and after the last recession:

  • Layoffs and Discharges troughed first, from January through April 2009
  • Hiring troughed next, in March and June 2009
  • Openings troughed next, in August 2009
  • Quits troughed last, in August 2009 and again in February 2010

Now here's what the four metrics look like on a monthly basis for the last five years: 


Through August, job openings, quits, and hires have all surged higher this year, with openings virtually "on fire." In the last two months of data there's been a pause, but nothing that suggests a downtrend.

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