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News from EPI In May, Job Openings Up, but Quits Flat and Hires Down

The May Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was more sobering than the strong June jobs report released last Thursday. The JOLTS data show a labor market that is holding steady, not accelerating. If job opportunities were ramping up, we should see the rate of hires and quits rising, but the hires rate has made no sustained improvement in the last nine months, and the quits rate hasn’t budged for seven months.

In her analysis, EPI economist Heidi Shierholz explains that for a full recovery in the labor market to occur, two key things need to happen: Layoffs need to come down, and hiring needs to pick up. Though layoffs have been at prerecession levels for more than three years, hiring is the side of that equation that, while generally improving, has not yet come close to a full recovery. There are more than 10 percent fewer hires each month than there were before the recession began, and hires actually dropped by 52,000 in May. The rate of hires has seen no sustained improvement since last August.

Further, there are more than 15 percent fewer voluntary quits each month than there were before the recession began, and the quit rate has seen no improvement since last October. This indicates that there are a huge number of workers who are locked into jobs that they would leave if they could.