Job Openings Remain Elevated, But Quit Rates and Layoffs at Pre-Pandemic Levels

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Key Takeaways

  • The Labor Department’s JOLTS report showed 9.6 million job vacancies at the end of September, hovering near economists' expectations and last month's levels.
  • Worker quit rates of 2.3% and a layoff rate of 1% are around pre-pandemic levels. 
  • ADP report shows the private sector adding 113,000 jobs in October, better than September’s figures but lower than economists' forecasts.

The number of U.S. job openings in September changed little from the previous month, as both quit rates and layoffs returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) showed that there were 9.6 million job vacancies by the end of September, approximately the same level of openings as the previous month. The numbers come in just higher than economists' forecasts of 9.4 million jobs and remain above pre-pandemic levels.

“The labor market has cooled off from its 2021 highs, but demand for workers is no longer dropping off,” Indeed Hiring Lab Director of Economic Research Nick Bunker wrote in an email. “But with labor supply still growing, this continued high level of demand won’t necessarily push up inflation and draw the Federal Reserve’s ire."

Other measurements also came in steady, with the figure of 5.9 million hires and 5.5 million separations little changed.  Also staying steady was the number of workers who quit, at 3.7 million, and those who were laid off or discharged, at 1.5 million, according to the  Bureau of Labor Statistics report. 

“Today’s JOLTS report was, simply, a bit boring—in the best possible way. Not much has changed over the past few months, and the labor market appears to be stabilizing at a level consistent with a sustainable economy,” Bunker wrote.

Workers quit jobs at a rate of 2.3%, the same reading for the past three months, and equal to the average rate from 2019.  About 1% of workers were laid off or discharged, less than the average rate from 2017 - 2019. 

“Job openings might be elevated, but both quitting and hiring have plateaued at healthy levels similar to what we saw before the pandemic,” Bunker wrote. 

The JOLTS data comes as the ADP National Employment Report shows that the private sector added 113,000 jobs in October, with annual pay growing 5.7% year-over-year. While economists were expecting to see 130,000 new jobs in the report, it’s an increase over September’s figure of 89,000 new jobs.

Economists and financial market participants will now turn their attention to Friday's Nonfarm Payrolls Report.

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  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary - 2023 M09 Results.”

  2. MarketWatch. “U.S. Economic Calendar.”