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First Cut: Job openings down for second month in July, hiring picks up slightly

The data on Job Openings and Labor Turnover for July showed job openings were down 31,000 and for a second month in a row, the first time that has occurred since December 2016-January 2017. Hiring was up 237,000 in July, rebounding after two months of declines. Separations were up 246,000, also firming substantially after two months of declines, in part on a fresh wave of job voluntary job quits which rose 130,000 after two months of decreases.

Net turnover — new hires less separations — was up 194,000, about on trend with recent months.

The rate of job openings ticked down a tenth to 4.5% in July, its lowest since 4.5% in February and 4.4% in March 2018. The rate isn’t far off the series high of 4.8%, but it does appear to be trending incrementally lower. The hires rate was up a tenth to 3.9% in July and is hovering just below the series high of 4.0% in April.

The separations rate rose two-tenth to 3.8%, in part reflecting an increase in the number of workers voluntarily leaving one job for another. However, the pace of layoffs was up as well.  The quits rate was up a tenth to 2.4% in July, just below the series high of 2.6% in January 2001.

The data in the August Employment Situation has largely overtaken the number in the July JOLTS report. However, it affirms that the fundamentals in the labor market and consumers’ confidence in it was justified over the summer months in spite of some slower economic activity. However, it also provides a hint that the number of job openings may not be a plentiful going forward even as these are sufficient to absorb new workers coming into the labor force for the near future.

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