The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) put out by the Labor Department (BLS) probably only makes sense to economists, because it gives a picture of the job market in coming months, as well as the present.
It literally measures the number of job openings (yellow line in graph) vs. hires (blue line) for a month; June in this case; enabling economist to measure whether the demand for new jobs is rising or falling. And though hires decreased slightly to 6.7 million from 7.2 million, it “was still the highest level in series history,” per the BLS.
Job openings rose 518,000 to 5.9 million in June, according to the Labor Department on Monday. That’s above the median forecast of 5.3 million jobs in an Econoday survey of economists. However, the number of jobs available was running around 7 million before the pandemic.
Job openings, another measure of demand, increased in June to 5.889 million from 5.371 million in May, so the number of hires was almost one million higher than vacancies (6.7 hires -5.9 vacancies), meaning there is large number of unfilled jobs to be filled.
So this statistic probably gives the best monthly picture of where the jobs market is headed. The number of job openings (yellow) is still down 18 percent year-over-year, and quits were down 25 percent year-over-year, says Calculated Risk.
Quits are voluntary separations. (see light blue columns at bottom of graph for trend for “quits”) that tells us whether employees are moving on to better paying jobs. More workers are therefore hanging on to their current jobs at the moment, due no doubt to the uncertainty of the pandemic outcome.
In the words of the BLS, “These changes in the labor market reflected a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. This release includes estimates of the number and rate of job openings, hires, and separations for the total nonfarm sector, by industry, and by four geographic regions.”
The largest gains in openings came from accommodation and food service, other service and arts. The biggest declines were in construction and state and local government education, per Marketwatch.
Why are stocks and bonds continuing to rally in the face of the worst infection and death rates in developed countries,? It’s really the record low interest rates with the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond yield down to almost zero (0.58%) at times that are keeping stock and bond prices at record highs (and bond yields at comparable lows).
Watch interest rates, as it’s really the Fed’s doing, as it has pumped extra $trillions into the economy and held short term interest rates also close to zero. There is really too much unused money not being put into useful endeavors, because corporations are reluctant to invest in an uncertain future,and the federal government won’t do more than provide pandemic relief rather than investing in future growth—e.g., in public works projects like infrastructure, education, and the environment.
So there is no plan for post-pandemic growth right now, or maybe until November. Democrats are thinking of the future with the Biden campaign’s “Biden Plan for Leading the Democratic World,” while Republicans are still obsessed with trade wars and ignoring the Wuhan virus that is hurting us much more than China.
The bottom line is there are 13 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic, and still no national plan for combating the pandemic and therefore putting them back to work.
Harlan Green © 2020
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