State of the Labor Market

February 2019 JOLTS: Don’t Panic About the Drop in Job Openings

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The drop in job openings in the February Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report is definitely something to keep an eye on, but it shouldn’t cause any panic yet. This might just be a sign of the beginning of a slowdown in employment growth from the rapid pace of 2018, which isn’t necessarily a sign of a recession. While the number of job openings declined by over a half million in February, it has grown by 8.5% since last February.

Quitting continues to stagnate with the rate of workers quitting their jobs at 2.3% for the ninth straight month. This is not as many quits as you would expect in such a tight labor market, when workers are in higher demand. Though perhaps this isn’t surprising in the short term, given that the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings has been rising.

Remember that employment growth was quite low in February and there was a subsequent bounceback in the March numbers. It’s never wise to read too much into one month’s data, but job openings will be the first thing I look at in next month’s report.

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