August data for JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) released this morning showed that job openings dropped dramatically with a revision downward for last month as well. Even with the revisions and miss on the headline figure, Job Openings are at all-time highs in terms of their level. Despite large numbers of openings, though, turnover is declining; the number of workers who left their job in the month of August was only 3.4% of employees, flat MoM and in the low end of the current range.
The job openings rate, like the number of openings, is consistent with a tight labor market, but declined MoM on both a private and total basis. Both are near all-time highs for the JOLTS data history.
Quits continue to disappoint. Despite very strong, record openings, very few workers are willing to quit their current job in favor of other opportunities elsewhere. This is concerning, as it means that less labor churn (which usually leads to pay increases and retention efforts) is taking place. For wages to accelerate, quits need to rise.
While job openings fell MoM, layoffs had no significant move, and the private layoff rate remains at the bottom end of its post-recession range.
On a granular level, there was mixed news in this month’s report. The high-turnover, low-wage Food Services industry has seen its quit rate edge up to near a new cycle high, while other “low-end” labor markets are trending sideways. There was a record spike (MoM) in the Northeast layoff rate (from its lowest ever rate, 0.8%, to a more normal 1.3%) in August, but other rates were more mixed, contributing to an unchanged national layoff rate.