Job Openings Unexpectedly Decline by 123,000


Job openings unexpectedly declined for the third month but the number of openings is still historically elevated.

The BLS says Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover are little changed but a downtrend, albeit from elevated levels seems in play.

Job Openings

On the last business day of August, the job openings level was little changed at 7.1 million. The job openings rate was 4.4 percent. The number of job openings was little changed for total private and for government. The job openings level decreased in nondurable goods manufacturing (-49,000) and ininformation (-47,000). The number of job openings decreased in the Midwest region.


The number of hires edged down to 5.8 million (-199,000) in August. The hires rate was 3.8 percent. The number of hires edged down for total private (-219,000) and was little changed for government. The hires level increased in federal government (+35,000). The number of hires decreased in the South region.


Total separations includes quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. Total separations is referred to as turnover. Quits are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee. Therefore, the quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs. Layoffs and discharges are involuntary separations initiated by the employer. Other separations includes separations due to retirement, death, disability, and transfers to other locations of the same firm.

The number of total separations was little changed at 5.6 million in August. The total separations rate was 3.7 percent. The number of total separations was little changed for total private and for government. The total separations level was little changed in all industries. The number of total separations decreased in the Midwest region.

The number of quits decreased in August to 3.5 million (-142,000). The quits rate was 2.3 percent. The quits level decreased for total private (-144,000) and was little changed for government. Quits decreased in professional and business services (-76,000) and in other services (-67,000). The number of quits decreased in the Midwest region.

Openings, Hires, Separations

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The above charts from the BLS.

If you only show recent history the decline looks worse than it is (certainly not the BLS' intent).

U.S. Job Openings Unexpectedly Fall to Lowest Since March 2018

Bloomberg reports U.S. Job Openings Unexpectedly Fall to Lowest Since March 2018

Key Bloomberg Insights

  • Openings have been on a downward trend from the record 7.63 million in November, and the latest figures are another sign of labor market cooling. Companies have eased hiring this year amid struggles to find qualified workers and a dimming economic outlook.
  • Total vacancies exceeded the number of unemployed Americans by more than 1 million.
  • Labor Department figures released Friday showed employers added 136,000 jobs in September, while average hourly earnings saw the weakest annual gain in more than a year. Still, the unemployment rate declined to a half-century low of 3.5%.

Econoday Comments

Bloomberg Econoday posted these highlights

  1. Job openings remain plentiful but nevertheless continue to shrink. Openings came in at 7.051 million in August, down 1.7 percent from July for the third monthly decline in a row. Year-on-year, openings are down 4.0 percent which is the lowest reading since February 2010.
  2. Hires are also falling, down 3.3 percent in the month to 5.779 million with this year-on-year rate at minus 0.8 percent. Quits also came down in August, to 3.526 million for a 3.9 percent monthly decline with the quits rate, which is a reading Federal Reserve officials watch as an indication of worker confidence and worker mobility, down 1 tenth to 2.3 percent.
  3. This report is not pointing to increasing capacity stress in the labor market and will offer doves at the Federal Reserve arguments that interest rates can continue to come down without risking an unwanted spike in wage pressures.

Phillips Curve Silliness

Point number 3 above appears to be in reference to the Phillips Curve, totally discredited nonsense, yet something the Fed pays attention to.

Ironically, two Fed studies concludes the Phillip Curve is Nonsense.

Despite the historic surge in job openings, wage inflation, especially in real terms, has been anemic.

Start of a Trend?

It's difficult to say if this is the start of a trend, but it feels like it.

Also, one has to wonder how many of those openings are real in the first place as opposed to companies inflation numbers hoping for more Visa entrants.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (26)
No. 1-10

I'm not sure how they can come up with an accurate figure. Companies can post openings for free on-line and they usually don't take them down when filled or the opening is no longer available. I've worked for companies that always advertised openings so they could collect resumes for when they had an opening.


It's my understanding that 125,000-150,000 new jobs must be created every month just to keep up with population growth. In addition, there's still about 100 million workers who have stopped looking for work. I think the numbers are dismal, have been dismal, and are in keeping with the global slowdown.

Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett

Jobs are overrated.

US will day trade its way to prosperity.


"... but the number of openings is still historically elevated."

Just means the fall could have a long way to go.


All these numbers have been gamed in so many ways in so many countries that historical or international comparisons provide very little information. A much more interesting statistic is what proportion of all men/women 25-55 work full time. Even better would be if you could include just the jobs that allow you to support dependants ("bread winners").

Country Bob
Country Bob

It costs money to interview and screen applicants -- and if one knows in advance that 99% of the applicants are not qualified, the cost of finding that other 1% starts to overwhelm the benefits.

Plus, how does the employer know that Congress won't change labor laws, and increase costs further?

There is a HUGE cost, intangible though it might be, to having a bunch of socialists running the House of non-Representatives


"Tightening labor market" == companies increasingly see no upside to spending more for the labor they already have or on the résumés they get == "productivity growth" is baloney, overall there is none.

Ted R
Ted R

They can't come up with an accurate figure. The Labor Department uses formulas that are mostly based on guesses and estimates. Nobody actually goes out and counts 'jobs'. These numbers are merely guesses. But the government has to come up with something every month to justify their jobs.


Mish, funny enough was talking to a very good friend in IB yesterday, asking how things were, he's top dog (MD) and we were comparing notes with a lawyer (head of corp finance) as to the level of work. My IB friend was saying that business is way off, lawyer friend is up to his eyeballs in work.

The IB guy was very philosophical about all this -- we've got a slow down coming along you sees it in the appetite for deals in the boardrooms. This IB guy is a real rainmaker, serious stuff (yet also the nicest guy...) real old style with amazing relationships, he's often the first call when the appetite for new deals appear, and yet he's saying there's not much hunger for deals.

BTW his take on WeWork was that like Softbank it was always full of hot air, and that the IPO prospectus was "garbage" and "some of the worse he's ever seen" in a 20 year career! That's saying something

Anyway, I think there's something real this time (of course its not the first time I've said that...)