Job Openings on the Rise, Highest Level Since 2001

By Roy Maurer Jan 16, 2015

Job opportunities for U.S. workers are improving, according to a recently released report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey revealed there were nearly 5 million job openings in November 2014, up from 4.8 million the previous month, the most open positions since January 2001. Hiring and turnover rates were little changed from October 2014, signifying a tepid hiring pace and fewer separations.

Open jobs rose by 142,000 to 4.97 million by the last business day of November 2014. The job openings rate was 3.4 percent. The number of job openings (not seasonally adjusted) increased over the previous 12 months ending in November, specifically in the professional and business services, health care and social assistance, and accommodation and food services. Job openings decreased in the arts, entertainment and recreation.

The BLS report showed a higher than expected increase in job vacancies, said Jennifer Schramm, SHRM-SCP, manager of workforce trends and forecasting at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Over the past 12 months ending in November 2014, hires totaled 57.6 million and separations totaled 54.9 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.7 million. “These numbers add to the increasingly optimistic labor market picture that has been emerging in recent months,” said Schramm.

The U.S. economy added 252,000 jobs in December 2014, and unemployment fell from 5.8 percent to 5.6 percent, ending a strong year for job growth, according to the BLS. About 3 million more Americans found work in 2014, the most in 15 years.

SHRM’s monthly Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) report for January 2015 was also upbeat, said Schramm. “A net of more than one-third of manufacturers and more than one in four service-sector companies say they will add jobs in January. Meanwhile, the LINE recruiting difficulty index continues to climb in both sectors.”

The number of people hired dropped to 4.99 million in November from a near-term high of 5.1 million the prior month, pushing down the hiring rate to 3.6 percent from 3.7 percent, according to the BLS. Hires especially decreased over the month in professional and business services.

Total turnover including quits, layoffs and discharges fell slightly to 4.6 million in November. The turnover rate was 3.3 percent. Some 2.62 million people quit their jobs in November, down from 2.71 million in October. The quits rate in November was 1.9 percent and decreased in government, durable goods manufacturing, and professional and business services.

There were 1.6 million layoffs and discharges in November, little changed from October. The rate was 1.2 percent in November.

“The quits rate is of interest to HR professionals,” said Schramm. “If this starts to go up along with vacancies, employers may start to focus more on both their recruiting and retention efforts.”So far, there hasn’t been much of an increase in wages despite the gains in employment, but wages might start to slowly go up if more employees start looking for new opportunities, said Schramm. “After all, the No. 1 job satisfaction factor for employees, according to the latest SHRM Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey report, is compensation. And we are seeing some evidence that this could be starting to have an impact—in the LINE survey, pay rates for new hires improved in December.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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