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, 2000-2022

 

Date Hires Quits Layoffs
Dec-2000 5,426 2,882 2,018
Jan-2001 5,722 3,245 2,220
Feb-2001 5,303 3,053 1,855
Mar-2001 5,528 3,054 2,133
Apr-2001 5,204 3,163 1,883
May-2001 5,410 2,993 2,029
Jun-2001 5,109 2,878 2,015
Jul-2001 5,244 2,947 2,038
Aug-2001 5,223 2,928 2,011
Sep-2001 4,954 2,703 2,107
Oct-2001 5,078 2,795 2,319
Nov-2001 4,914 2,560 2,255
Dec-2001 4,829 2,559 1,922
Jan-2002 4,855 2,845 1,907
Feb-2002 4,801 2,572 1,978
Mar-2002 4,706 2,493 1,883
Apr-2002 4,928 2,624 1,956
May-2002 4,857 2,537 1,967
Jun-2002 4,869 2,522 2,015
Jul-2002 4,946 2,561 2,102
Aug-2002 4,871 2,561 1,923
Sep-2002 4,879 2,521 2,022
Oct-2002 4,798 2,423 1,935
Nov-2002 4,792 2,403 1,944
Dec-2002 4,893 2,501 2,007
Jan-2003 5,058 2,429 2,109
Feb-2003 4,714 2,490 2,015
Mar-2003 4,470 2,394 1,949
Apr-2003 4,600 2,279 1,998
May-2003 4,678 2,291 2,072
Jun-2003 4,682 2,315 2,076
Jul-2003 4,639 2,271 2,062
Aug-2003 4,666 2,195 2,162
Sep-2003 4,799 2,354 1,932
Oct-2003 4,902 2,415 1,969
Nov-2003 4,767 2,411 1,951
Dec-2003 4,984 2,444 2,007
Jan-2004 4,900 2,354 2,037
Feb-2004 4,788 2,448 1,985
Mar-2004 5,227 2,582 2,065
Apr-2004 5,152 2,534 2,010
May-2004 4,976 2,428 1,914
Jun-2004 5,009 2,659 1,887
Jul-2004 4,891 2,609 1,885
Aug-2004 5,013 2,586 1,974
Sep-2004 5,062 2,531 2,027
Oct-2004 5,149 2,550 1,903
Nov-2004 5,181 2,789 2,037
Dec-2004 5,153 2,695 1,951
Jan-2005 5,201 2,732 2,008
Feb-2005 5,276 2,651 2,068
Mar-2005 5,273 2,747 2,188
Apr-2005 5,362 2,741 1,957
May-2005 5,271 2,763 2,021
Jun-2005 5,376 2,754 2,015
Jul-2005 5,328 2,735 1,898
Aug-2005 5,409 2,957 1,905
Sep-2005 5,493 3,046 2,032
Oct-2005 5,124 2,863 1,873
Nov-2005 5,344 2,895 1,769
Dec-2005 5,294 2,849 1,923
Jan-2006 5,271 2,945 1,784
Feb-2006 5,474 2,965 1,882
Mar-2006 5,524 2,956 1,888
Apr-2006 5,215 2,778 1,853
May-2006 5,498 3,002 1,991
Jun-2006 5,455 3,042 1,817
Jul-2006 5,573 3,047 1,860
Aug-2006 5,373 3,056 1,775
Sep-2006 5,288 2,888 1,831
Oct-2006 5,375 2,983 1,898
Nov-2006 5,495 3,043 1,926
Dec-2006 5,214 2,999 1,772
Jan-2007 5,426 2,956 1,922
Feb-2007 5,160 2,933 1,850
Mar-2007 5,479 2,997 1,882
Apr-2007 5,353 2,911 2,000
May-2007 5,469 3,010 1,967
Jun-2007 5,267 2,910 1,845
Jul-2007 5,217 2,951 1,896
Aug-2007 5,358 3,014 2,033
Sep-2007 5,344 2,691 2,188
Oct-2007 5,398 2,926 1,998
Nov-2007 5,176 2,784 1,966
Dec-2007 5,119 2,773 1,915
Jan-2008 5,071 2,847 1,989
Feb-2008 5,077 2,881 1,995
Mar-2008 4,924 2,661 1,918
Apr-2008 4,948 2,837 1,958
May-2008 4,691 2,607 1,950
Jun-2008 4,893 2,595 2,172
Jul-2008 4,637 2,489 2,071
Aug-2008 4,682 2,445 2,190
Sep-2008 4,499 2,468 2,088
Oct-2008 4,548 2,347 2,250
Nov-2008 4,104 2,157 2,290
Dec-2008 4,348 2,084 2,482
Jan-2009 4,095 1,976 2,581
Feb-2009 4,061 1,952 2,599
Mar-2009 3,858 1,834 2,575
Apr-2009 3,888 1,712 2,654
May-2009 3,758 1,683 2,231
Jun-2009 3,639 1,685 2,261
Jul-2009 3,857 1,685 2,267
Aug-2009 3,810 1,555 2,119
Sep-2009 3,944 1,627 2,195
Oct-2009 3,838 1,660 2,028
Nov-2009 4,024 1,810 1,913
Dec-2009 4,004 1,766 2,033
Jan-2010 3,904 1,742 1,880
Feb-2010 3,864 1,844 1,825
Mar-2010 4,302 1,856 1,924
Apr-2010 4,159 1,897 1,749
May-2010 4,420 1,813 1,762
Jun-2010 4,111 1,911 2,075
Jul-2010 4,163 1,785 2,166
Aug-2010 4,046 1,842 1,890
Sep-2010 4,034 1,895 1,832
Oct-2010 4,173 1,846 1,745
Nov-2010 4,182 1,887 1,849
Dec-2010 4,299 1,977 1,854
Jan-2011 4,000 1,832 1,827
Feb-2011 4,231 1,958 1,755
Mar-2011 4,430 2,033 1,794
Apr-2011 4,296 1,882 1,792
May-2011 4,261 1,965 1,904
Jun-2011 4,366 1,923 1,942
Jul-2011 4,261 1,986 1,845
Aug-2011 4,298 2,031 1,845
Sep-2011 4,429 2,041 1,872
Oct-2011 4,370 1,997 1,794
Nov-2011 4,365 2,039 1,912
Dec-2011 4,356 1,981 1,801
Jan-2012 4,457 2,030 1,797
Feb-2012 4,560 2,130 1,903
Mar-2012 4,575 2,167 1,784
Apr-2012 4,389 2,134 1,880
May-2012 4,533 2,138 1,969
Jun-2012 4,440 2,152 1,892
Jul-2012 4,327 2,072 1,722
Aug-2012 4,450 2,069 1,894
Sep-2012 4,302 1,950 1,805
Oct-2012 4,389 2,035 1,891
Nov-2012 4,489 2,078 1,921
Dec-2012 4,452 2,051 1,700
Jan-2013 4,487 2,280 1,678
Feb-2013 4,571 2,298 1,664
Mar-2013 4,369 2,124 1,787
Apr-2013 4,572 2,296 1,793
May-2013 4,663 2,234 1,836
Jun-2013 4,440 2,203 1,761
Jul-2013 4,561 2,363 1,713
Aug-2013 4,730 2,316 1,816
Sep-2013 4,726 2,302 1,892
Oct-2013 4,518 2,372 1,675
Nov-2013 4,622 2,391 1,630
Dec-2013 4,614 2,287 1,770
Jan-2014 4,626 2,311 1,806
Feb-2014 4,696 2,411 1,767
Mar-2014 4,763 2,449 1,703
Apr-2014 4,880 2,474 1,764
May-2014 4,808 2,483 1,710
Jun-2014 4,925 2,507 1,761
Jul-2014 5,008 2,633 1,781
Aug-2014 4,810 2,549 1,699
Sep-2014 5,149 2,732 1,718
Oct-2014 5,111 2,718 1,835
Nov-2014 4,978 2,600 1,726
Dec-2014 5,192 2,552 1,857
Jan-2015 5,061 2,764 1,789
Feb-2015 5,127 2,741 1,757
Mar-2015 5,126 2,754 1,973
Apr-2015 5,196 2,705 1,856
May-2015 5,142 2,743 1,711
Jun-2015 5,125 2,756 1,821
Jul-2015 5,150 2,764 1,703
Aug-2015 5,163 2,879 1,773
Sep-2015 5,287 2,778 1,964
Oct-2015 5,338 2,810 1,845
Nov-2015 5,358 2,897 1,779
Dec-2015 5,540 3,056 1,803
Jan-2016 5,220 2,875 1,805
Feb-2016 5,470 2,994 1,894
Mar-2016 5,359 2,917 1,850
Apr-2016 5,294 2,955 1,771
May-2016 5,197 3,009 1,825
Jun-2016 5,281 3,018 1,750
Jul-2016 5,426 2,967 1,759
Aug-2016 5,327 2,998 1,860
Sep-2016 5,306 3,047 1,588
Oct-2016 5,210 3,074 1,664
Nov-2016 5,308 3,026 1,751
Dec-2016 5,343 2,989 1,708
Jan-2017 5,499 3,188 1,745
Feb-2017 5,350 3,089 1,711
Mar-2017 5,395 3,150 1,762
Apr-2017 5,272 3,028 1,710
May-2017 5,477 3,111 1,794
Jun-2017 5,635 3,154 1,970
Jul-2017 5,497 3,097 1,910
Aug-2017 5,519 3,103 1,868
Sep-2017 5,450 3,190 1,787
Oct-2017 5,581 3,219 1,837
Nov-2017 5,494 3,186 1,747
Dec-2017 5,421 3,222 1,732
Jan-2018 5,480 3,060 1,953
Feb-2018 5,644 3,195 1,784
Mar-2018 5,641 3,309 1,797
Apr-2018 5,599 3,364 1,734
May-2018 5,845 3,384 1,754
Jun-2018 5,763 3,381 1,815
Jul-2018 5,676 3,437 1,813
Aug-2018 5,803 3,431 1,790
Sep-2018 5,601 3,414 1,772
Oct-2018 5,867 3,487 1,828
Nov-2018 5,833 3,502 1,933
Dec-2018 5,754 3,407 1,831
Jan-2019 5,778 3,545 1,735
Feb-2019 5,684 3,558 1,789
Mar-2019 5,706 3,527 1,702
Apr-2019 6,010 3,491 1,967
May-2019 5,704 3,468 1,753
Jun-2019 5,769 3,486 1,762
Jul-2019 5,928 3,624 1,844
Aug-2019 5,862 3,557 1,786
Sep-2019 5,954 3,452 1,961
Oct-2019 5,779 3,453 1,819
Nov-2019 5,845 3,530 1,777
Dec-2019 5,941 3,516 1,919
Jan-2020 6,005 3,578 1,821
Feb-2020 6,025 3,445 1,973
Mar-2020 5,222 2,951 13,026
Apr-2020 4,031 2,038 9,191
May-2020 8,145 2,244 2,180
Jun-2020 7,438 2,580 2,279
Jul-2020 6,188 2,973 1,850
Aug-2020 5,998 2,901 1,598
Sep-2020 5,898 3,158 1,531
Oct-2020 6,105 3,297 1,687
Nov-2020 5,885 3,258 2,097
Dec-2020 5,660 3,368 1,928
Jan-2021 5,719 3,311 1,582
Feb-2021 6,028 3,439 1,641
Mar-2021 6,208 3,695 1,512
Apr-2021 6,121 4,015 1,384
May-2021 6,092 3,838 1,343
Jun-2021 6,414 4,035 1,361
Jul-2021 6,556 4,088 1,440
Aug-2021 6,362 4,126 1,404
Sep-2021 6,504 4,253 1,405
Oct-2021 6,460 4,132 1,342
Nov-2021 6,705 4,510 1,295
Dec-2021 6,450 4,403 1,262
Jan-2022 6,426 4,258 1,403
Feb-2022 6,832 4,384 1,354
Mar-2022 6,737 4,536 1,405
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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.