Business Hiring Jumped Higher in September, Indicating a Strengthening Labor Market

BULLHEAD CITY, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 28: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally on October 28, 2020 in Bullhead City, Arizona. With less than a week until Election Day, Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden are campaigning across the country. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)
Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

The U.S. private sector labor market strengthened in September as businesses hired more people, posted more job openings, and laid off fewer workers, a sign that the recovery from the spring’s pandemic collapse is more vigorous than previously thought.

Job postings by U.S. businesses rose to a seasonally adjusted 5.74 million, up 1.8 percent from 5.64 million in August, data released by the Labor Department showed Tuesday. Businesses hired 5,563 million workers, a 3.1 percent gain from August’s 5.934 million.

Layoffs in the private sector were down sharply, falling 17 percent to 1.2 million. By contrast, there were 1.86 million layoffs in September of 2018.

Hiring picked up in hotels and restaurants, where employers hired 943,000 workers, 137,000 more hires than in August. Wholesalers hired 208,000 workers, a gain of 73,000 over last month’s hires. Transportation, warehousing, and utilities hired 296,000 workers, up 46,000.

Hiring in manufacturing and construction slowed from the prior month but remained strong. Manufacturers hired 351,000 workers and posted 456,000 openings, both down from August. Layoffs in manufacturing fell 10 percent to 90,000.

Hires in construction came in at 383,000 and openings at 229,000, below the August levels. Layoffs in construction, however, plunged to 104,000 from 206,000 in August, matching the record low from June 2014. That’s particularly striking because the construction industry in 2020 employs 7.35 million people, around 19 percent higher than it did back in 2014.

Quits were up in sharply in construction and increased moderately in manufacturing. That’s usually a sign of a strengthening labor market because a higher quits rate can serve gauge of worker confidence that they can find better work and better wages.

Government employment dragged down the total numbers for the U.S. labor market. Hires decreased in federal government by 256,000, largely due to a drop in demand for temporary 2020 Census workers.

State and local education hires were nearly unchanged, as were openings. Quits ticked up but remain below the year ago level.

In total, job postings rose to to 6.44 million in September, up from 6.35 million in August. Hires dipped to 5.87 million workers, down from 5.95 million. Layoffs and discharges fell to 1.33 million from 1.53 million. Quits rose to 3 million from 2.8 million.

The data come from the Department of Labor’s monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, known as JOLTS. Unlike weekly unemployment figuyres, which only count job losses, the JOLTS figures count hiring, job postings, quits, and layoffs. The monthly employment situation numbers measure jobs added less jobs lost and show net totals for jobs, while the JOLTS data present gross figures but do not calculate total numbers of job holders.

 

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