The latest JOLTS report (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary), with data through May, is now available. From the press release:

The number of hires increased by 2.4 million to a series high of 6.5 million in May, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This was the largest monthly increase of hires since the series began. Total separations decreased by 5.8 million to 4.1 million, the single largest decrease since the series began. Within separations, the quits rate rose to 1.6 percent while the layoffs and discharges rate fell to 1.4 percent. Job openings increased to 5.4 million on the last business day of May. These improvements 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.

Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) Data Corrections

This news release contains corrections to previously released January 2020 data in tables 1-6. An error in federal government data affected estimates for government, total nonfarm, and all four regions. More information on these corrections as well as a complete list of corrections in this news release and in the JOLTS database can be found at www.bls.gov/bls/errata/corrections-to-jobopenings-and-labor-turnover-survey-estimates-for-january-2020.htm.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on May 2020 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey Data

Data collection for the JOLTS survey was affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While 42 percent of data are usually collected by phone at the JOLTS data collection center, most phone respondents were asked to report electronically. However, data collection was adversely impacted due to the inability to reach some respondents that normally respond by phone. The JOLTS response rate for May was 45 percent, while response rates prior to the pandemic averaged 54 percent. BLS modified the JOLTS estimation methods starting in March and continuing through May to better reflect the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The estimation process usually includes an alignment of monthly hires minus separations to the over-the-month change in the Current Employment Statistics (CES) employment estimates. For May estimates, as in earlier months, BLS suspended the alignment process because the differing reference periods for the CES employment estimates (pay period including the 12th of the month) and the JOLTS hires and separations estimates (the entire reference month) led to substantially different measurement outcomes. For more information about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the JOLTS survey, including more information about the JOLTS estimation methodology, please see www.bls.gov/covid19/job-openingsand-labor-turnover-covid19-may-2020.htm.

The first chart below shows four of the headline components of the overall series, which the BLS began tracking in December 2000. The time frame is quite limited compared to the main BLS data series in the monthly employment report, many of which go back to 1948, and the enormously popular Nonfarm Employment (PAYEMS) series goes back to 1939. Nevertheless, there are some clear JOLTS correlations with the most recent business cycle trends.

The chart below shows the monthly data points four of the JOLTS series. They are quite volatile, hence the inclusion of six-month moving averages to help identify the trends. For the last five years, the moving average for openings has been above the hires levels as seen in the chart below.

JOLTS Overview