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 5426 2882 2018
2001-01-01 5722 3245 2220
2001-02-01 5303 3053 1855
2001-03-01 5528 3054 2133
2001-04-01 5204 3163 1883
2001-05-01 5410 2993 2029
2001-06-01 5109 2878 2015
2001-07-01 5244 2947 2038
2001-08-01 5223 2928 2011
2001-09-01 4954 2703 2107
2001-10-01 5078 2795 2319
2001-11-01 4914 2560 2255
2001-12-01 4829 2559 1922
2002-01-01 4855 2845 1907
2002-02-01 4801 2572 1978
2002-03-01 4706 2493 1883
2002-04-01 4928 2624 1956
2002-05-01 4857 2537 1967
2002-06-01 4869 2522 2015
2002-07-01 4946 2561 2102
2002-08-01 4871 2561 1923
2002-09-01 4879 2521 2022
2002-10-01 4798 2423 1935
2002-11-01 4792 2403 1944
2002-12-01 4893 2501 2007
2003-01-01 5058 2429 2109
2003-02-01 4714 2490 2015
2003-03-01 4470 2394 1949
2003-04-01 4600 2279 1998
2003-05-01 4678 2291 2072
2003-06-01 4682 2315 2076
2003-07-01 4639 2271 2062
2003-08-01 4666 2195 2162
2003-09-01 4799 2354 1932
2003-10-01 4902 2415 1969
2003-11-01 4767 2411 1951
2003-12-01 4984 2444 2007
2004-01-01 4900 2354 2037
2004-02-01 4788 2448 1985
2004-03-01 5227 2582 2065
2004-04-01 5152 2534 2010
2004-05-01 4976 2428 1914
2004-06-01 5009 2659 1887
2004-07-01 4891 2609 1885
2004-08-01 5013 2586 1974
2004-09-01 5062 2531 2027
2004-10-01 5149 2550 1903
2004-11-01 5181 2789 2037
2004-12-01 5153 2695 1951
2005-01-01 5201 2732 2008
2005-02-01 5276 2651 2068
2005-03-01 5273 2747 2188
2005-04-01 5362 2741 1957
2005-05-01 5271 2763 2021
2005-06-01 5376 2754 2015
2005-07-01 5328 2735 1898
2005-08-01 5409 2957 1905
2005-09-01 5493 3046 2032
2005-10-01 5124 2863 1873
2005-11-01 5344 2895 1769
2005-12-01 5294 2849 1923
2006-01-01 5271 2945 1784
2006-02-01 5474 2965 1882
2006-03-01 5524 2956 1888
2006-04-01 5215 2778 1853
2006-05-01 5498 3002 1991
2006-06-01 5455 3042 1817
2006-07-01 5573 3047 1860
2006-08-01 5373 3056 1775
2006-09-01 5288 2888 1831
2006-10-01 5375 2983 1898
2006-11-01 5495 3043 1926
2006-12-01 5214 2999 1772
2007-01-01 5426 2956 1922
2007-02-01 5160 2933 1850
2007-03-01 5479 2997 1882
2007-04-01 5353 2911 2000
2007-05-01 5469 3010 1967
2007-06-01 5267 2910 1845
2007-07-01 5217 2951 1896
2007-08-01 5358 3014 2033
2007-09-01 5344 2691 2188
2007-10-01 5398 2926 1998
2007-11-01 5176 2784 1966
2007-12-01 5119 2773 1915
2008-01-01 5071 2847 1989
2008-02-01 5077 2881 1995
2008-03-01 4924 2661 1918
2008-04-01 4948 2837 1958
2008-05-01 4691 2607 1950
2008-06-01 4893 2595 2172
2008-07-01 4637 2489 2071
2008-08-01 4682 2445 2190
2008-09-01 4499 2468 2088
2008-10-01 4548 2347 2250
2008-11-01 4104 2157 2290
2008-12-01 4348 2084 2482
2009-01-01 4095 1976 2581
2009-02-01 4061 1952 2599
2009-03-01 3858 1834 2575
2009-04-01 3888 1712 2654
2009-05-01 3758 1683 2231
2009-06-01 3639 1685 2261
2009-07-01 3857 1685 2267
2009-08-01 3810 1555 2119
2009-09-01 3944 1627 2195
2009-10-01 3838 1660 2028
2009-11-01 4024 1810 1913
2009-12-01 4004 1766 2033
2010-01-01 3904 1742 1880
2010-02-01 3864 1844 1825
2010-03-01 4302 1856 1924
2010-04-01 4159 1897 1749
2010-05-01 4420 1813 1762
2010-06-01 4111 1911 2075
2010-07-01 4163 1785 2166
2010-08-01 4046 1842 1890
2010-09-01 4034 1895 1832
2010-10-01 4173 1846 1745
2010-11-01 4182 1887 1849
2010-12-01 4299 1977 1854
2011-01-01 4000 1832 1827
2011-02-01 4231 1958 1755
2011-03-01 4430 2033 1794
2011-04-01 4296 1882 1792
2011-05-01 4261 1965 1904
2011-06-01 4366 1923 1942
2011-07-01 4261 1986 1845
2011-08-01 4298 2031 1845
2011-09-01 4429 2041 1872
2011-10-01 4370 1997 1794
2011-11-01 4365 2039 1912
2011-12-01 4356 1981 1801
2012-01-01 4457 2030 1797
2012-02-01 4560 2130 1903
2012-03-01 4575 2167 1784
2012-04-01 4389 2134 1880
2012-05-01 4533 2138 1969
2012-06-01 4440 2152 1892
2012-07-01 4327 2072 1722
2012-08-01 4450 2069 1894
2012-09-01 4302 1950 1805
2012-10-01 4389 2035 1891
2012-11-01 4489 2078 1921
2012-12-01 4452 2051 1700
2013-01-01 4487 2280 1678
2013-02-01 4571 2298 1664
2013-03-01 4369 2124 1787
2013-04-01 4572 2296 1793
2013-05-01 4663 2234 1836
2013-06-01 4440 2203 1761
2013-07-01 4561 2363 1713
2013-08-01 4730 2316 1816
2013-09-01 4726 2302 1892
2013-10-01 4518 2372 1675
2013-11-01 4622 2391 1630
2013-12-01 4614 2287 1770
2014-01-01 4626 2311 1806
2014-02-01 4696 2411 1767
2014-03-01 4763 2449 1703
2014-04-01 4880 2474 1764
2014-05-01 4808 2483 1710
2014-06-01 4925 2507 1761
2014-07-01 5008 2633 1781
2014-08-01 4810 2549 1699
2014-09-01 5149 2732 1718
2014-10-01 5111 2718 1835
2014-11-01 4978 2600 1726
2014-12-01 5192 2552 1857
2015-01-01 5061 2764 1789
2015-02-01 5127 2741 1757
2015-03-01 5126 2754 1973
2015-04-01 5196 2705 1856
2015-05-01 5142 2743 1711
2015-06-01 5125 2756 1821
2015-07-01 5150 2764 1703
2015-08-01 5163 2879 1773
2015-09-01 5287 2778 1964
2015-10-01 5338 2810 1845
2015-11-01 5358 2897 1779
2015-12-01 5540 3056 1803
2016-01-01 5220 2875 1805
2016-02-01 5470 2994 1894
2016-03-01 5359 2917 1850
2016-04-01 5294 2955 1771
2016-05-01 5197 3009 1825
2016-06-01 5281 3018 1750
2016-07-01 5426 2967 1759
2016-08-01 5327 2998 1860
2016-09-01 5306 3047 1588
2016-10-01 5210 3074 1664
2016-11-01 5308 3026 1751
2016-12-01 5343 2989 1708
2017-01-01 5497 3166 1738
2017-02-01 5345 3085 1714
2017-03-01 5394 3145 1759
2017-04-01 5309 3028 1705
2017-05-01 5477 3125 1804
2017-06-01 5664 3166 1935
2017-07-01 5508 3107 1858
2017-08-01 5571 3109 1919
2017-09-01 5409 3214 1885
2017-10-01 5605 3177 1835
2017-11-01 5463 3166 1740
2017-12-01 5424 3194 1676
2018-01-01 5459 3034 1994
2018-02-01 5633 3200 1758
2018-03-01 5636 3305 1783
2018-04-01 5610 3366 1741
2018-05-01 5865 3401 1767
2018-06-01 5777 3401 1793
2018-07-01 5707 3444 1791
2018-08-01 5863 3476 1838
2018-09-01 5616 3424 1778
2018-10-01 5876 3460 1824
2018-11-01 5815 3435 1905
2018-12-01 5709 3381 1824
2019-01-01 5741 3521 1689
2019-02-01 5668 3543 1769
2019-03-01 5684 3524 1721
2019-04-01 6051 3494 1954
2019-05-01 5719 3487 1776
2019-06-01 5776 3527 1771
2019-07-01 5987 3627 1826
2019-08-01 5907 3591 1825
2019-09-01 5970 3449 1982
2019-10-01 5799 3414 1793
2019-11-01 5842 3482 1788
2019-12-01 5882 3487 1952
2020-01-01 5974 3568 1788
2020-02-01 5979 3430 1953
2020-03-01 5132 2902 13046
2020-04-01 3942 2107 9307
2020-05-01 8272 2206 2096
2020-06-01 7697 2646 2204
2020-07-01 6237 3182 1845
2020-08-01 6431 2987 1573
2020-09-01 5932 3307 1555
2020-10-01 6035 3352 1728
2020-11-01 6019 3296 2123
2020-12-01 5411 3407 1823
2021-01-01 5465 3306 1724
2021-02-01 5794 3383 1723
2021-03-01 6006 3568 1525
2021-04-01 6012 3992 1450
2021-05-01 5927 3604 1368
ChartData Download data

The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel.

Note: Shaded areas denote recessions.

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

Copy the code below to embed this chart on your website.

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.