Reclaiming Common Sense

Sometimes an article is written in this column to clarify what is being reported elsewhere. This month we saw the release of a very strong Jobs Report for the month of February. This past week we saw the release of the Monthly Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report for the month of January. The data indicated an elevated level of job openings for January, and an elevated level of people quitting jobs.The problem is that the data does not indicate whether these people were quitting part-time jobs or full-time jobs. It is a good thing that this column published an article on the January Jobs Report. We saw a drop of over 700,000 full-time jobs and a drop of over 550,000 part-time jobs, non- seasonally adjusted, during January. Relax. January is "always" lay-off month. People quit to go back to school or are released due to poor annual sales. It is the Scrooge Bump.

The  general trend for job openings has been upward since December of 2008. The January Job Report recorded that every sector lost jobs during January, and that five sectors had not returned to July 2007 levels, the peak pre-recession month for employment. That same report indicated that the four sectors that have seen the largest percentage growth since January 2008: The Leisure and Hospitality, Professional and Business Services, Education and Health Services, and Trade, Transportation, and Utilities sectors. These are the sectors that have the most job openings. It is important to note here that even though Manufacturing levels have not returned to pre-recession levels that the number of job opening are approaching a near all time record, since the JOLTS data  has been collected.

January Job Openings are near an all-time high.The four categories that require a considerable amount of attention are the Education and Health Services, Leisure and Hospitality, Professional and Business, and Trade, Transportation, and Utility Sectors. We are near a record high level of total jobs opening for the month of January. Is this because of all the "quits," due in part to returning to school and in part due to the level of part-time work available? Are they part-time jobs, full-time jobs, or a combination of part-time and full-time jobs? How does the mix of part-time and full-time jobs, as job openings, compare to prior years? Here is the second major problem with the JOLTS data - there is so differentiation between full-time and part-time jobs.

Quits are near a record high for January. Once again the top for sectors are Leisure, Transportation, Professional Business Services, and Education/Health Services. This was the largest quit level for health and education since the data was first collected, for the month of January. Is this a ramification of the Affordable Care Act?

Separations are near a Record High for January. We set a record for separations for the Health and Education sector as well as a near record for the Leisure and Hospitality Sector. Did employers hire more part-time workers to handle the holiday crush? Do they realize that temporary workers are not covered by the ACA?

Hires were near a record high for the month of January. Care to guess which categories? Same story. Different Category.

When we compare Hires and "Fires" you can see that January was a good month, relatively speaking. We did not lose as many jobs as we normally do. We added more jobs than any other January other than 2000. 

The JOLTS data is a seriously lagging indicator. The January JOLTS data was released after the February Jobs Report. The January JOLTS report does not break out full-time and part-time jobs. The January Jobs data, and therefore the January JOLTS data, is one that is incredibly seasonal in nature due to Holiday Hiring and "Firing" as well as end of the year closures. Total separations were 5.461 million  with quits accounting for 3.068 million of those separations.  There is a considerable amount of data that can be interpreted numerous different ways.

It's the economy.