Latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey data further illustrate the catastrophic COVID-19 labor market

This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data for March, which further confirms what we already know: The labor market deteriorated quickly through the month of March. As a reminder, JOLTS data are for the whole month (not just mid-month, like the monthly employment numbers). JOLTS shows a net decline of 9.3 million jobs in March, while the monthly employment numbers showed a loss of 870,000. The difference is due to the labor market collapse in the last half of March.

Total separations hit an all-time high of 14.5 million in March. The increase from February of 8.9 million was nearly 13 times faster than any other point in the history of the survey, which dates back to 2000. Separations occurred across nearly all sectors of the economy, but the largest losses were found in leisure and hospitality, other services, retail trade, and education and health services.

The number of layoffs more than account for the increase in the total number of separations. Between February and March, layoffs increased by 9.5 million, hitting 11.4 million in March. In April 2009—the worst month of the Great Recession for layoffs—there were nearly 2.7 million layoffs, or 2% of the workforce. Layoffs in March were more than four times larger than the worst month in the Great Recession.

The layoffs rate—the number of layoffs during the entire month as a percent of total employment—hit 7.5%, more than three times larger than the series high. As with separations, the largest numbers of layoffs occurred in the service sectors. There were nearly 4.9 million layoffs in leisure and hospitality, almost all in accommodation and food services. There were more than 1.1 million layoffs in retail trade and 1.2 million layoffs in education and health services.

JOLTS

Total hires, layoffs, and quits, 2000-2021

 

Date Hires Quits Layoffs
2000-12-01 5,426 2,882 2,018
2001-01-01 5,722 3,245 2,220
2001-02-01 5,303 3,053 1,855
2001-03-01 5,528 3,054 2,133
2001-04-01 5,204 3,163 1,883
2001-05-01 5,410 2,993 2,029
2001-06-01 5,109 2,878 2,015
2001-07-01 5,244 2,947 2,038
2001-08-01 5,223 2,928 2,011
2001-09-01 4,954 2,703 2,107
2001-10-01 5,078 2,795 2,319
2001-11-01 4,914 2,560 2,255
2001-12-01 4,829 2,559 1,922
2002-01-01 4,855 2,845 1,907
2002-02-01 4,801 2,572 1,978
2002-03-01 4,706 2,493 1,883
2002-04-01 4,928 2,624 1,956
2002-05-01 4,857 2,537 1,967
2002-06-01 4,869 2,522 2,015
2002-07-01 4,946 2,561 2,102
2002-08-01 4,871 2,561 1,923
2002-09-01 4,879 2,521 2,022
2002-10-01 4,798 2,423 1,935
2002-11-01 4,792 2,403 1,944
2002-12-01 4,893 2,501 2,007
2003-01-01 5,058 2,429 2,109
2003-02-01 4,714 2,490 2,015
2003-03-01 4,470 2,394 1,949
2003-04-01 4,600 2,279 1,998
2003-05-01 4,678 2,291 2,072
2003-06-01 4,682 2,315 2,076
2003-07-01 4,639 2,271 2,062
2003-08-01 4,666 2,195 2,162
2003-09-01 4,799 2,354 1,932
2003-10-01 4,902 2,415 1,969
2003-11-01 4,767 2,411 1,951
2003-12-01 4,984 2,444 2,007
2004-01-01 4,900 2,354 2,037
2004-02-01 4,788 2,448 1,985
2004-03-01 5,227 2,582 2,065
2004-04-01 5,152 2,534 2,010
2004-05-01 4,976 2,428 1,914
2004-06-01 5,009 2,659 1,887
2004-07-01 4,891 2,609 1,885
2004-08-01 5,013 2,586 1,974
2004-09-01 5,062 2,531 2,027
2004-10-01 5,149 2,550 1,903
2004-11-01 5,181 2,789 2,037
2004-12-01 5,153 2,695 1,951
2005-01-01 5,201 2,732 2,008
2005-02-01 5,276 2,651 2,068
2005-03-01 5,273 2,747 2,188
2005-04-01 5,362 2,741 1,957
2005-05-01 5,271 2,763 2,021
2005-06-01 5,376 2,754 2,015
2005-07-01 5,328 2,735 1,898
2005-08-01 5,409 2,957 1,905
2005-09-01 5,493 3,046 2,032
2005-10-01 5,124 2,863 1,873
2005-11-01 5,344 2,895 1,769
2005-12-01 5,294 2,849 1,923
2006-01-01 5,271 2,945 1,784
2006-02-01 5,474 2,965 1,882
2006-03-01 5,524 2,956 1,888
2006-04-01 5,215 2,778 1,853
2006-05-01 5,498 3,002 1,991
2006-06-01 5,455 3,042 1,817
2006-07-01 5,573 3,047 1,860
2006-08-01 5,373 3,056 1,775
2006-09-01 5,288 2,888 1,831
2006-10-01 5,375 2,983 1,898
2006-11-01 5,495 3,043 1,926
2006-12-01 5,214 2,999 1,772
2007-01-01 5,426 2,956 1,922
2007-02-01 5,160 2,933 1,850
2007-03-01 5,479 2,997 1,882
2007-04-01 5,353 2,911 2,000
2007-05-01 5,469 3,010 1,967
2007-06-01 5,267 2,910 1,845
2007-07-01 5,217 2,951 1,896
2007-08-01 5,358 3,014 2,033
2007-09-01 5,344 2,691 2,188
2007-10-01 5,398 2,926 1,998
2007-11-01 5,176 2,784 1,966
2007-12-01 5,119 2,773 1,915
2008-01-01 5,071 2,847 1,989
2008-02-01 5,077 2,881 1,995
2008-03-01 4,924 2,661 1,918
2008-04-01 4,948 2,837 1,958
2008-05-01 4,691 2,607 1,950
2008-06-01 4,893 2,595 2,172
2008-07-01 4,637 2,489 2,071
2008-08-01 4,682 2,445 2,190
2008-09-01 4,499 2,468 2,088
2008-10-01 4,548 2,347 2,250
2008-11-01 4,104 2,157 2,290
2008-12-01 4,348 2,084 2,482
2009-01-01 4,095 1,976 2,581
2009-02-01 4,061 1,952 2,599
2009-03-01 3,858 1,834 2,575
2009-04-01 3,888 1,712 2,654
2009-05-01 3,758 1,683 2,231
2009-06-01 3,639 1,685 2,261
2009-07-01 3,857 1,685 2,267
2009-08-01 3,810 1,555 2,119
2009-09-01 3,944 1,627 2,195
2009-10-01 3,838 1,660 2,028
2009-11-01 4,024 1,810 1,913
2009-12-01 4,004 1,766 2,033
2010-01-01 3,904 1,742 1,880
2010-02-01 3,864 1,844 1,825
2010-03-01 4,302 1,856 1,924
2010-04-01 4,159 1,897 1,749
2010-05-01 4,420 1,813 1,762
2010-06-01 4,111 1,911 2,075
2010-07-01 4,163 1,785 2,166
2010-08-01 4,046 1,842 1,890
2010-09-01 4,034 1,895 1,832
2010-10-01 4,173 1,846 1,745
2010-11-01 4,182 1,887 1,849
2010-12-01 4,299 1,977 1,854
2011-01-01 4,000 1,832 1,827
2011-02-01 4,231 1,958 1,755
2011-03-01 4,430 2,033 1,794
2011-04-01 4,296 1,882 1,792
2011-05-01 4,261 1,965 1,904
2011-06-01 4,366 1,923 1,942
2011-07-01 4,261 1,986 1,845
2011-08-01 4,298 2,031 1,845
2011-09-01 4,429 2,041 1,872
2011-10-01 4,370 1,997 1,794
2011-11-01 4,365 2,039 1,912
2011-12-01 4,356 1,981 1,801
2012-01-01 4,457 2,030 1,797
2012-02-01 4,560 2,130 1,903
2012-03-01 4,575 2,167 1,784
2012-04-01 4,389 2,134 1,880
2012-05-01 4,533 2,138 1,969
2012-06-01 4,440 2,152 1,892
2012-07-01 4,327 2,072 1,722
2012-08-01 4,450 2,069 1,894
2012-09-01 4,302 1,950 1,805
2012-10-01 4,389 2,035 1,891
2012-11-01 4,489 2,078 1,921
2012-12-01 4,452 2,051 1,700
2013-01-01 4,487 2,280 1,678
2013-02-01 4,571 2,298 1,664
2013-03-01 4,369 2,124 1,787
2013-04-01 4,572 2,296 1,793
2013-05-01 4,663 2,234 1,836
2013-06-01 4,440 2,203 1,761
2013-07-01 4,561 2,363 1,713
2013-08-01 4,730 2,316 1,816
2013-09-01 4,726 2,302 1,892
2013-10-01 4,518 2,372 1,675
2013-11-01 4,622 2,391 1,630
2013-12-01 4,614 2,287 1,770
2014-01-01 4,626 2,311 1,806
2014-02-01 4,696 2,411 1,767
2014-03-01 4,763 2,449 1,703
2014-04-01 4,880 2,474 1,764
2014-05-01 4,808 2,483 1,710
2014-06-01 4,925 2,507 1,761
2014-07-01 5,008 2,633 1,781
2014-08-01 4,810 2,549 1,699
2014-09-01 5,149 2,732 1,718
2014-10-01 5,111 2,718 1,835
2014-11-01 4,978 2,600 1,726
2014-12-01 5,192 2,552 1,857
2015-01-01 5,061 2,764 1,789
2015-02-01 5,127 2,741 1,757
2015-03-01 5,126 2,754 1,973
2015-04-01 5,196 2,705 1,856
2015-05-01 5,142 2,743 1,711
2015-06-01 5,125 2,756 1,821
2015-07-01 5,150 2,764 1,703
2015-08-01 5,163 2,879 1,773
2015-09-01 5,287 2,778 1,964
2015-10-01 5,338 2,810 1,845
2015-11-01 5,358 2,897 1,779
2015-12-01 5,540 3,056 1,803
2016-01-01 5,220 2,875 1,805
2016-02-01 5,470 2,994 1,894
2016-03-01 5,359 2,917 1,850
2016-04-01 5,294 2,955 1,771
2016-05-01 5,197 3,009 1,825
2016-06-01 5,281 3,018 1,750
2016-07-01 5,426 2,967 1,759
2016-08-01 5,327 2,998 1,860
2016-09-01 5,306 3,047 1,588
2016-10-01 5,210 3,074 1,664
2016-11-01 5,308 3,026 1,751
2016-12-01 5,343 2,989 1,708
2017-01-01 5,497 3,166 1,738
2017-02-01 5,345 3,085 1,714
2017-03-01 5,394 3,145 1,759
2017-04-01 5,309 3,028 1,705
2017-05-01 5,477 3,125 1,804
2017-06-01 5,664 3,166 1,935
2017-07-01 5,508 3,107 1,858
2017-08-01 5,571 3,109 1,919
2017-09-01 5,409 3,214 1,885
2017-10-01 5,605 3,177 1,835
2017-11-01 5,463 3,166 1,740
2017-12-01 5,424 3,194 1,676
2018-01-01 5,459 3,034 1,994
2018-02-01 5,633 3,200 1,758
2018-03-01 5,636 3,305 1,783
2018-04-01 5,610 3,366 1,741
2018-05-01 5,865 3,401 1,767
2018-06-01 5,777 3,401 1,793
2018-07-01 5,707 3,444 1,791
2018-08-01 5,863 3,476 1,838
2018-09-01 5,616 3,424 1,778
2018-10-01 5,876 3,460 1,824
2018-11-01 5,815 3,435 1,905
2018-12-01 5,709 3,381 1,824
2019-01-01 5,741 3,521 1,689
2019-02-01 5,668 3,543 1,769
2019-03-01 5,684 3,524 1,721
2019-04-01 6,051 3,494 1,954
2019-05-01 5,719 3,487 1,776
2019-06-01 5,776 3,527 1,771
2019-07-01 5,987 3,627 1,826
2019-08-01 5,907 3,591 1,825
2019-09-01 5,970 3,449 1,982
2019-10-01 5,799 3,414 1,793
2019-11-01 5,842 3,482 1,788
2019-12-01 5,882 3,487 1,952
2020-01-01 5,974 3,568 1,788
2020-02-01 5,979 3,430 1,953
2020-03-01 5,132 2,902 13,046
2020-04-01 3,942 2,107 9,307
2020-05-01 8,272 2,206 2,096
2020-06-01 7,697 2,646 2,204
2020-07-01 6,237 3,182 1,845
2020-08-01 6,431 2,987 1,573
2020-09-01 5,932 3,307 1,555
2020-10-01 6,035 3,352 1,728
2020-11-01 6,019 3,296 2,123
2020-12-01 5,411 3,407 1,823
2021-01-01 5,465 3,306 1,724
2021-02-01 5,794 3,383 1,723
2021-03-01 6,006 3,568 1,525
2021-04-01 6,012 3,992 1,450
2021-05-01 6,022 3,630 1,353
2021-06-01 6,827 3,870 1,354
2021-07-01 6,761 4,028 1,423
2021-08-01 6,322 4,270 1,343
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Note: Shaded areas denote recessions.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey

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On the flip side, workers are quitting their jobs at much lower rates than in the pre-pandemic economy: quits dropped by 20% in March, from 3.4 million to 2.8 million. This is not a good sign—a large number of quits signifies a healthy labor market in which people can leave their job to find one that is better for them. One likely reason quits didn’t drop even further is because people had to, for example, leave a job to take care of a child whose school closed as a result of the virus.

Job openings fell precipitously from 7.0 million on the last business day of February down to 6.2 million on the last business day of March. While this drop of -813,000 was the largest one-month drop in the history of the survey, it’s a bit surprising it didn’t fall further given other labor market indicators. Hires also fell in March from 5.9 million to 5.2 million, again the largest drop on record. Nearly all sectors experienced a drop in hires, with the exception of construction.