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State of the Labor Market

October 2020 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey: Lack of Momentum

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Job openings ticked up in October, but they remain 5% below February levels, according to the latest data from the federal Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) . However, that progress varies quite a bit across industries. Manufacturing’s plans for hiring more workers are up, with job openings 24% higher than pre-pandemic levels. At the same time, financial activities employers are posting 27% fewer openings.

What’s clear from the latest data is that, as of October, the labor market was continuing to grind out gains. What’s not clear is whether that trend will continue, given how different the public health and economic situation looks today. The lack of significant momentum in October was happening before the current surge in COVID-19 cases, which is not a good sign for this winter.

October’s data paints a very similar picture to previous months. Demand for new workers is increasing, but still depressed, layoffs have settled after spiking, and worker confidence is steady. Let us hope that we don’t look back at these trends with nostalgia after the new few reports.