JOLTS Jobs Data: Nothing Too Jolting

Despite all the anxiety, the job market is still mostly humming along.



It was data some experts dreaded to see, the latest statistics on the number of jobs open around the country. Recent weeks have seen a decline in manufacturing activity, the ongoing trade wars, and an increasing sense that the economy was fading fast.

And the JOLTS—short for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey—did surprise, sort of. The number of job openings shows the employment market is still OK. 

There were 7.2 million job openings in July, only 31,000 lower from the month earlier. That was slightly lower than expectations of about 7.5 million, but not that far from the record 7.6 million openings reported last July. “There’s a flattening of the curve but there’s still a very good employment market,” says Scott Macfarlane, senior client partner global account lead in Korn Ferry’s Financial Services practice.

Although it lags a month behind other government employment data, the JOLTS report adds context to monthly employment figures by measuring dynamics such as resignations, help-wanted ads, and hiring. There have been at least 7 million job openings nationwide every month since April 2018.

Vacancies in wholesale trade decreased by 55,000, while federal government job openings fell by 11,000. But those declines were offset by 42,000 more jobs available in information technology and an additional 11,000 vacancies in mining and logging.

The quit rate, or the number of people leaving their job willingly, rose to 2.4% from 2.3%, suggesting people are still reasonably confident they can find new jobs. The number of people who quit in July was 3.6 million, 130,000 more than in June. The number of layoffs and discharges changed little in July at 1.8 million.

Even with the mostly robust JOLTS numbers, some organizations are slowing down their hiring decisions, Macfarlane says. “There’s definitely an increase of uncertainty in the business world,” he says. Plus, there are some industries, such as manufacturing, going through structural changes resulting in fewer jobs. Nevertheless, “It’s not panic stations,” Macfarlane says.