Job openings missed expectations today, with a little over 5.66 million reported by employers in May versus expectations for nearly 6.00 million. As shown in the chart right below, that level openings is about where things have stood since mid-2014. The 12m average of job openings is still rising – slowly – but has flattened out quite dramatically as the total number has swung back and forth in its current range. While openings are basically stable, firings remain extremely rare, near record lows.
With the total number of openings basically stable, openings for the whole economy and the private sector are similarly stable.
Another measure of labor market activity is the separations rate. A function of both willing (quits) and unwilling (layoffs, discharges, and other separations like retirement, death, or disability) job exits, the total separations rate has remained relatively low. That’s in large part because of low firings.
Where there was good news in the JOLTS report was in the quits rate. Total quits are up to 2.2%, a high that’s been hit previously in this expansion. For the private sector only, however, it’s a much stronger story. Quits are up to 2.5%, a rate surpassed only once in the prior expansion. That’s good news for wage growth and evidence that labor markets continue to tighten.