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Openings And Quits Near Record Highs

The January JOLTS

March 9, 2022 by Rucha Vankudre, Kyle Rudman, and Tim Hatton

The January JOLTS report this morning showed little change from the past several months. While the widespread labor shortage hasn’t gotten worse, it isn’t getting better, either; for every 100 job openings, there are still only 58 unemployed workers on the market to fill them. 

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey is released monthly by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and tracks hiring, resignations, and layoffs. This morning, our senior economists Rucha Vankudre and Ron Hetrick went live with their first impressions and initial takeaways from today’s report, and you can watch that right here.

After an upward revision, the BLS now reports that December 2021 had 11.5 million job openings, a new all-time record. For January, it reports a slight decrease to 11.3 million—still a remarkable number.

The ratio of unemployed workers per job opening has been declining over the past several months, holding steady at 0.58 this month but down from 1.41 last January. In other words: over the course of a year, we’ve gone from a worker surplus to a worker deficit with respect to openings. Ever since last summer, there have not been enough unemployed workers to fill all the open positions.

The number of job postings has also shown tremendous growth in January 2022, up 40% in the last week of the month compared to January 2021.

Although the overall number of job openings stayed constant in January, many industries saw a significant shift. Accommodation and food service saw a decrease of 288,000 jobs, followed by transportation and warehousing with a decrease of 132,000. Those industries were among those with the greatest increase in demand last month.

Roughly 4.3 million people quit their jobs in January, down just slightly from the revised December number of 4.4 million and the series high of 4.5 million in November. The rate of people quitting their job decreased from 2.9% to 2.8% between December and January. 

It’s too early to say if those downticks signal the end of the Great Resignation, but it shows the trend is at least holding steady, rather than getting worse. 

Finally, layoffs edged upward, from 0.8% in December up to 0.9% in January. That’s a small change, but it could indicate employers are less worried about their ability to hire and more confident in dismissing the workers they do have. However, layoffs are still down significantly over the past year.

Overall, this JOLTS doesn’t show much difference from previous reports—the words “little changed” appear twelve times in the summary alone—but that means a tight labor market persists. 

Next month’s report may indicate a more robust market after the decline of the Omicron variant, as last week’s employment situation report showed. But even so, employers are still in a difficult competition for talent. 

For more insight and analysis, be sure to catch up on our live stream from this morning. To learn more about some of the larger trends creating this worker shortage, download our latest report—The Demographic Drought: Bridging the Gap in our Labor Force.

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