After a disappointing reading last month, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was somewhat improved in February. Headline job openings were down slightly but remained in their recent range while the separations rate (which includes all possible reasons for leaving a job including layoffs, firings, quits, retirements, and other forms of departure) was sideways MoM.

The total openings rate was lower sequentially, following headline openings numbers.

The more encouraging dynamic in the report was a modest recovery in quits.  After falling off recovery highs in January, February data showed sequential improvement and quits are higher than they were during almost all of 2015 for both the private sector and total labor force.

Layoff and discharge rates remain extremely low. Despite popular focus on headline numbers like those compiled in Challenger’s summary of job cuts, the statistically relevant sample of the American labor market in the JOLTS survey remained near recent lows in February at 1.2% of the total labor force and 1.3% of the private labor force; both of those figures are near the low end of the historical range.

Quit rates within industries also recovered somewhat.  Low-prerequisite job categories like Food Services are dealing with their highest quit rates of the recovery while the trend higher in quit rates for Retail and Transportation appears to be intact.  Construction quit rates have not recovered from their recent collapse.  On a regional basis, layoffs plunged in the Midwest to their lowest-ever level while the Northeast saw a small uptick and West declined sequentially.

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