Last month, the BLS reported that the US job market was plagued by a near record 11.26 million job openings. Then moments ago, the BLS published its latest, February JOLTS report according to which job openings had hit a new record high 11.266 million, but not really, because just as all other labor data else was adjusted sharply higher for 2022 (presumably to account for broken seasonal factors due to covid), the December job openings had been revised by 523 thousand higher to 11.448 million, a number which is now the highest on record, and which means that what would otherwise be a record print of 11.266MM for February – compared to December unrevised 10.925MM – and the upward revised January print of 11.283MM (from 11.263MM) – was really the third highest on record.
Splitting hairs aside, whether the peak was in December, January or February, doesn’t matter because as of this moment there still is a record number of job openings in the US job market, a phenomenon which Jeff Gundlach recently attributed to the surging “crime-force participation rate“, claiming that lack of prosecution has made millions of potential workers into hardened shoplifting criminals.
“If you can steal $900 without prosecution, this encourages crime and reduces incentive to take a job” – Gundlach
Looking at the details, Job openings decreased in finance and insurance (-63,000) and in nondurable goods manufacturing (-39,000). Job openings increased in arts, entertainment, and recreation (+32,000); educational services (+26,000); and federal government (+23,000).
What we find far more remarkable, however, is that amid the continued tightening in the labor market, there was a new record, or 5 million (ignoring the recent statistical upward revisions), more vacant jobs than unemployed workers in February, confirming that the US labor market remains woefully, perhaps irreparably cracked.
And with far more job openings than unemployed workers, this meant that in February there were again less than 1 unemployed workers – a record low 0.5565 to be exact – for every job opening.
And while the number of job openings may have declined sequentially if one uses the adjusted data, this was offset by a solid increase in the number of hires, which rose from 6.426MM to 6.689MM in February, just shy of the all time high hit last June.
One last observation comes from the February quits rate: after the number of Americans quitting their job hit an all time high 4.510 million in November, it dropped modestly for two months in a row, but then reversed higher again in February, rising by 100K and increasing to 4.352 million, which while still one of the highest on record, suggests that at least some workers are starting to stay put instead of bouncing around in hopes of getting a better paycheck elsewhere.
The quits rate was 2.9%, up from 2.8% in January. Quits increased in retail trade (+74,000); durable goods manufacturing (+22,000); and state and local government education (+14,000). Quits decreased in finance and insurance (-30,000). The number of quits was little changed in all four regions.