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Private-Sector Job Openings Rose in September

The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the total number of job openings in the economy increased to 10.717 million in September, up from 10.280 million in August.

The number of open positions in the private sector increased to 9.668 million in September, up from 9.240 million in August. September was the second gain in the last six months since hitting a record high in March (see first chart).

The total job openings rate, openings divided by the sum of jobs plus openings, rose to 6.5 percent in September from 6.3 percent in August, while the private-sector job-openings rate increased to 6.9 percent from 6.6 percent in the previous month (see first chart). The September result for the private sector is 0.8 percentage points below the March peak.

The industries with the highest openings are education and health care (2.306 million, up 138,000 for the month), professional and business services (1.916 million, up 104,000), leisure and hospitality (1.631 million, up 234,000), and trade, transportation, and utilities (1.585 million, up 9,000). The highest openings rates were in leisure and hospitality (9.3 percent, up 1.2 percentage points), education and health care (8.6 percent, up 0.5 percentage points), and professional and business services (7.9 percent, up 0.4 percentage points).

The number of private-sector quits declined in September, coming in at 3.820 million, down from 3.965 million in August (see second chart). Trade, transportation, and utilities led with 908,000 quits, followed by leisure and hospitality with 844,000 quits, and by professional and business services with 729,000.

The private-sector quits rate fell to 2.9 percent in September versus 3.0 percent in the prior month. The private-sector quits rate is the lowest since March 2021 and 0.5 percentage points below the record high of 3.4 percent in November 2021 (see second chart).

Private-sector layoffs and discharges also decreased in the latest month, dropping to 1.247 million, down from 1.405 million in August. However, the trend in layoffs and discharges may be higher since hitting a low of 1.183 million in December 2021 (see third chart). The private-sector layoffs and discharge rate also fell in September, coming in at 1.0 percent, but still above the 0.9 percent low in December 2021 (see third chart).

The number of job seekers (unemployed plus those not in the labor force but who want a job) per opening ticked down slightly in September, falling to 1.083 from 1.113 in August. Before the lockdown recession, the low was 1.409 in October 2019 (see fourth chart).

Today’s job openings data suggest the labor market maintained resilience through September. While the low number of available workers per opening implies the labor market remains tight, some deterioration at the margin is a warning sign. Caution is warranted.

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