Job Openings Unexpectedly Jump Higher

ERIE, PA - OCTOBER 10: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally at the Erie Insurance Arena on October 10, 2018 in Erie, Pennsylvania. This was the second rally hosted by the president this week, including one in Iowa yesterday. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The number of job openings rose in October to 7.27 million, a sign of a strong labor market and an economy that appears to be accelerating after the recession scare of 2019.

Economists had expected the Department of Labor’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, known as JOLTS, to show a decline in openings, continuing a downward trend that has been ongoing since openings peaked at the start of the year.


The slowdown in openings was thought to indicate that payroll growth and wage growth could also slowdown. But if openings start trending upward again–and one month is too early to tell if this will continue–that would suggest good news for both payrolls and wages.

November’s numbers were so strong they topped the range of estimates of economists surveyed by Econoday.

Durable goods manufacturing added 50,000 openings. That’s a strong showing, particularly because it occurred when the General Motors autoworkers strike was in full swing. The largest level of openings was in retail trade, which added 125,000, followed by 56,000 in finance and insurance.

Nondurable goods openings fell by 36,000, information technology openings fell by 33,0000, and arts, entertainment and recreation declined by 26,000.

The numbers are seasonally adjusted but sometimes seasonally adjusted so season hiring for holiday shopping should not have a big effect on the numbers.

Slightly over 3.5 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in October, up from 3.47 million in September. This has been called the “worker confidence” figure because economists view it as a good gauge for how easily Americans think it will be to find a new job. The quits rate was unchanged a 2.3 percent.

The number of layoffs decreased in October by 202,000 to 1.8 million and the layoffs rate was little changed at 1.2 percent, a very low figure by historical standard. Layoffs in manufacturing were unchanged. The number of layoffs and discharges increased in the federal government by 16,000, mainly due to layoffs of temporary Census 2020 workers.

The economy slowed in the summer of 2010 and the manufacturing sector appeared to contract. This prompted exaggerated fears that a recession loomed in the near future. Recent economic data have dashed those fears by suggesting the economy is doing better and growth may be accelerating.

The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2019 rose to 2.3 percent on December 17, up from 2.0 percent on December 13.  A month ago, GDPNOW was indicating growth at less than half a percentage point.



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