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There were 5.1 million job openings at the close of February 2015, the highest level of openings since January 2001, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The number of available jobs ticked up 168,000 from January 2015 and significantly rose from 4.2 million a year ago.
Over the 12 months ending in February 2015, hires totaled 59.3 million and separations totaled 56.1 million, yielding a net employment gain of 3.2 million. There were 4.9 million hires in February, which despite the increase in job openings, continues a downward trend from 5.0 million hires in January and 5.1 million hires in December 2014.
In a separate report, BLS data showed that employers added 126,000 jobs in March 2015—the fewest since December 2013—breaking a 12-month streak where gains exceeded 200,000 jobs a month.
“After the disappointing numbers from the BLS’s March Employment Situation report, many economic analysts were a bit more curious than usual about what the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover report would say,” said Jennifer Schramm, SHRM-SCP, manager of workforce trends at the Society for Human Resource Management. “The trend the February numbers are following can be considered a relatively good one. The number of job openings remains fairly high and the voluntary separations, or quits rate, is at a level that indicates that many workers are reasonably confident about seeking new job opportunities.”
The quits rate is what many HR professionals keep an eye on as they consider whether they should be bracing for higher voluntary turnover rates, said Schramm.
Total separations for February 2015— including quits, layoffs and discharges—fell to 4.7 million from 4.8 million in January.
There were 2.7 million quits in February, slightly down from 2.8 million in January. The number of quits increased from 2.4 million in February 2014, with more quits seen in professional and business services and health care and social assistance.
There were 1.6 million layoffs and discharges in February 2015, a 7.6 percent drop from January and the lowest level since November 2013. Layoffs and discharges increased in the mining and logging industries.
Overall, the report does not alleviate some of the concerns about the U.S. economy that the disappointing March job numbers raised, said Schramm. “But the fact that job openings are holding steady at over 5 million is a good thing. The more job openings there are, the more opportunities job seekers may have in finding a position.”
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him @SHRMRoy
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