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First Cut: March JOLTS data reflect severity of layoffs and contraction in labor market

The data on Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) for March feels particularly out-of-date at this stage with the April Employment Situation already reported and other labor market indicator showing the rapid and steep turnaround in conditions. The key take-aways in the numbers is not the decline in job openings and new hires, but the severity o the change in separations.

The rate of separations jumped to 9.6% in March after 3.7% in February. The level of separations climbed 8.814 million to 14.517 million, an historic one-month change. The number of voluntary job quits – a subset of separations – were down 792,000 to 2.782 million and the rate fell five-tenths to 1.8%.
The number of hires declined 719,000 to 5.206 million. Net separations – hires less separations – was down 9.311 million.

The plot point for the Beveridge Curve slipped to 3.9% for the job openings rate compared to 4.4% for the unemployment rate in March. It is a little hard to read in the graph, but this is rapid exit from the cluster of recent data points consistent with a tight labor market. The change will be even more dramatic when the April data is published.

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