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First Cut: December job openings reach new heights, hiring strong, separations low, voluntary quits active

The data on Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) for December saw the level of job openings hit a record high of 7.335 million and return to a record high rate of 4.7% last seen in August. The number of new hires was up 95,000 to 5.907 million, just under the record high of 5.928 million in October and the hire rate at 3.9%, just under the record of 4.0%. Separations were little changed at 5.545 million in December from 5.563 in November and the separations rate was unchanged at 3.7%. Voluntary quits – a component of separations which indicates confidence in the vitality of the labor market – were also little changed at 3.482 million in December after 3.494 million in the prior month. The quits rate was at 2.3% for a third straight month and just below the record of 2.4% in the July-September period.

The data does not incorporate the Current Employment Survey revisions that were used in the January Employment Situation. These will be used for the January JOLTS data set for release on Friday, March 15 at 10:00 ET.

Net turnover – new hires less separations – were up 362,000 due to strong hires and low separations.

The Beveridge Curve signals the tightness in the labor market. Conditions reflect the very low unemployment rate of 3.9% for December in relation to the very high number of job openings. Present conditions surpass those seen prior to the recession.

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