INDICATOR: February Job Openings and Labor Turnover
KEY DATA: Openings: +299,000; Year-over-Year: +158,000; Hires: +71,000; Year-over-Year: +36,000; Quits: +14,000; Year-over-Year: +114,000
IN A NUTSHELL: "The beat goes on as another indicator points to further improvement in the labor market as openings, hiring and quits all increased."
WHAT IT MEANS: For years, Fed Chair Yellen has talked about her focus on the Job Openings and Labor Turnover, or JOLTS, report. In February, the numbers showed a large uptick from the weakness that appeared in January. The rise in job openings was impressive but given the one month increase exceeded the year-over-year gain, something such as weather may have been at work. Still, the level was the highest since January 2008 so it is clear that businesses have a growing need for workers. Unfortunately, they are not yet filling those positions very rapidly. The February hiring increase again was stellar but exceeded the gain from the previous year. Unfortunately, the level is still closer the fall of 2008 when the economy was beginning to crater. That shows the cautious nature of firms. Similarly, while the quit level, my favorite number, is increasing, it is about twenty percent below where it should be. Workers are still fearful about striking out on their own. When that changes, though, it will not only be a sign that the labor market has turned, but it will be a warning that firms have to start concentrating on labor force retention and actually paying up for keeping and attracting employees.