Job Openings Trend Upward, Break 5 Million

By Roy Maurer Feb 11, 2015
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Job opportunities for U.S. workers continue to increase, 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 5 million job openings at the end of December 2014, up from 4.8 million the previous month.

It looks like the first time since January 2001 that the number of job openings broke 5 million, said Jennifer Schramm, SHRM-SCP, manager of workforce trends at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

The job openings rate was 3.5 percent. Job openings increased over the year for many industries including for the professional and business services and the health care and social assistance fields. The number of openings increased over the year in all four U.S. regions, indicating the balance of power in the labor market is shifting toward workers looking for jobs and away from employers looking to higher. Hires (5.1 million) hit the highest level since November 2007, and especially increased in construction. Hires increased over the year in construction, finance and insurance, and accommodation and food services.

Total turnover including quits, layoffs and discharges rose slightly to 4.9 million in December 2014 from 4.6 million the month before, the highest level of separations since October 2008.

The turnover rate was 3.5 percent, up from 3.3 percent the month before. Some 2.7 million people quit their jobs in December, up from 2.6 million in November. The quits rate in December was 1.9 percent and increased in construction and durable goods manufacturing. Over the year, quits increased for several industries, including the retail trade and the accommodation and food services industries.

There were 1.7 million layoffs and discharges in December 2014, up from 1.6 million the previous month. The rate stayed at 1.2 percent in December. The number of layoffs and discharges decreased over the year in accommodation and food services and in the federal government.

Net Change in Employment

Net employment change results from the relationship between hires and separations. When the number of hires exceeds the number of separations, employment rises, even if the hires level is steady or declining. Conversely, when the number of hires is less than the number of separations, employment declines, even if the hires level is steady or rising.

Fifty-eight million people were hired in 2014, and 55 million were laid off, discharged or quit, yielding a net employment gain of 2.9 million.

“HR professionals are often most interested in the quits rate because it gives an indication of how much voluntary turnover they might anticipate,” said Schramm. “For a while there the quits rate was lower than the layoffs rate but now that the economy is doing better it is now slightly higher again. There are indications that filling many key jobs is getting harder. For HR professionals all this means that they must continue to focus on retention, especially for their workers with in-demand skills and experience.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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