Job Openings Retract from Record Highs

Long-term view ‘reasonably upbeat’

By Roy Maurer Oct 21, 2015

U.S. employers were confident enough to post a near-record level of job vacancies in August 2015, even amid concerns that struggling emerging-market economies may affect domestic employment gains.

The number of new available jobs dropped from the all-time high of 5.67 million in July 2015 to 5.37 million, the second-highest level on record, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The agency began tracking this metric in December 2000.

“Job openings decreased in August from the series high in July, but the openings rate at 3.6 percent was the same as April, May and June,” said Jennifer Schramm, SHRM-SCP, manager of workforce trends at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “This comes after several disappointing Employment Situation Reports, adding to the somewhat more pessimistic view of the labor market of recent months. Otherwise, the report showed little change, and the more long-term view remains reasonably upbeat.”

Job openings declined in state and local government (-33,000) and nondurable goods manufacturing (-25,000) in August, but openings are up year-over-year for several industries including professional and business services (+184,000) and health care (+103,000).

“Our own service-sector hiring data also indicates that hiring rates remain strong in these areas,” Schramm said.

Overall, hires edged up 0.3 percent in August 2015 to 5.1 million. Over the 12 months ending in August 2015, hires totaled 60.9 million and separations totaled 58.2 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.7 million.

Total separations for the month—including quits, layoffs and discharges—rose slightly, from 4.7 million in July to 4.8 million. About 2.7 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in August 2015, a rate that remains at 1.9 percent for the fifth month in a row. Quits increased in arts, entertainment and recreation (+17,000) and in nondurable goods manufacturing (+15,000).

The number of quits has held between 2.7 million and 2.8 million for the past 12 months after increasing steadily since the end of the recession.

“The quits rate is a particular indicator of interest to HR professionals so they know when to expect more turnover,” Schramm said. The data show that “HR professionals therefore still need to keep an eye on retention, especially among their employees holding jobs of most strategic importance to their organization. These types of jobs are growing increasingly difficult to fill, according to SHRM’s Leading Indicators of National Employment data.”

Layoffs and discharges rose from 1.6 million to 1.7 million over the month of August. Over the previous 12 months, the number of layoffs and discharges rose in accommodation and food services (+107,000), state and local government (+41,000), and durable goods manufacturing (+30,000). Layoffs and discharges decreased over the year in professional and business services (-122,000); arts, entertainment and recreation (-54,000); and wholesale trade (-32,000).

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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