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Private-Sector Job Openings Remain High Despite a Second Consecutive Decline

The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the total number of job openings in the economy decreased to 10.458 million in November, down from 10.512 million in October.

The number of open positions in the private sector decreased to 9.501 million in November, down from 9.528 million in October. November was the sixth decline in the last eight months since hitting a record high in March (see first chart).

The total job openings rate, openings divided by the sum of jobs plus openings, was unchanged at 6.4 percent in November, while the private-sector job-openings rate held at 6.8 percent (see first chart). The November result for the private sector is down from the March peak of 7.7 percent.

The industries with the highest openings are education and health care (2.090 million), professional and business services (2.026 million), trade, transportation, and utilities (1.638 million), and leisure and hospitality (1.519 million). The highest openings rates were in leisure and hospitality (8.7 percent), professional and business services (8.3 percent), and education and health care (7.8 percent; see second chart).

The number of private-sector quits rose in November, coming in at 3.951 million, up from 3.817 million in October (see third chart). Trade, transportation, and utilities led with 1.000 million quits, followed by leisure and hospitality with 861,000 quits, and by professional and business services with 722,000.

The private-sector quits rate rose to 3.0 percent in November versus 2.9 percent in October. The private-sector quits rate is 0.4 percentage points below the record high of 3.4 percent in November 2021 (see third chart). The highest quits rates were in leisure and hospitality industries (5.4 percent), followed by trade, transportation, and utilities (3.5 percent), and business and professional services (3.2 percent; see fourth chart)

Private-sector layoffs and discharges fell in the latest month, dropping to 1.280 million, down from 1.372 million in October. The trend in layoffs and discharges may be higher since hitting a low of 1.183 million in December 2021. The private-sector layoffs and discharge rate held steady in November, coming in at 1.0 percent, above the 0.9 percent low in December 2021.

Among the industry groups, construction had the highest layoffs rate (1.7 percent), followed by professional and business services (1.4 percent) and information industries (1.3 percent).

The number of job seekers (unemployed plus those not in the labor force but who want a job) per opening ticked up slightly in November, rising to 1.185 from 1.075 in October. Before the lockdown recession, the low was 1.409 in October 2019 (see fifth chart).

Today’s job openings data suggest the labor market maintained resilience through November. While the low number of available workers per opening implies the labor market remains tight, some deterioration at the margin is a warning sign. Caution is warranted.

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