Workplace Trends

Job openings increased to four-year high of 3.7 million

By Lee Hecht Harrison on May 10, 2012

The number of job openings in March 2012 was 3.7 million, up from 3.2 million in March of last year the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this week.   The March 2012 total was the highest since July 2008, just before the onset of the U.S. financial crisis.  Given that it typically takes up to three months for positions to be filled, this increase in openings may foreshadow an increase in employment over the upcoming months.

Openings increased slightly from February 2012 (3.6 million) while the hires rate (3.3%) and separations rate (3.1%) remained the same as last month.  Monthly openings increased in all industry categories except Government which decreased by 26,000. The state and local level registered the greatest loss in this segment (-20,000) due to continued budgetary constraints.  Significantly, gains were reported in manufacturing and construction, two sectors critical to the U.S. economic recovery. 

Source: BLS

The BLS released the following job openings and labor turnover statistics from the month of March –

  • Job Openings Level:  3,737,000 in Mar. 2012 up from 3,565,000 in Feb. 2012
  • Job Openings Rate: 2.7% in Mar. 2012 up from 2.6% in Feb. 2012
  • Hires Rate: 3.3% in Mar. 2012 the same as Feb. 2012
  • Turnover Rate: 3.1%  in Mar. 2012, unchanged from Feb. 2012
  • Layoffs / Discharges Rate: 1.3% in Mar. 2012, the same as Feb. 2012.

Some key industries:

  • Construction openings jumped from 73,000 openings in February 2012 (1.3%) to 96,000 (+23,000) in March 2012 (1.7%) with new hires down from 318,000 (5.7%) in February 2012 to 286,000 (5.1%) in March 2012.  Turnover for March was 5.1%, down from 5.7% in February 2012. 
  • Education and health services openings improved from 655,000 in February 2012 to 668,000 in March 2012 with new hires in March totaling 515,000 (2.5%) down from 527,000 (2.6%) the previous month.  Turnover for January remained unchanged at 2.3%.
  • Manufacturing openings increased from 271,000 in February 2012 to 326,000 in March 2012 (+55,000). Since March of 2011, openings in manufacturing have increased from 2.0% to 2.7% in March 2012.  New hires decreased from 260,000 in February 2012 to 257,000 in March.  Manufacturing turnover decreased from 2.0% in February 2012 to 1.9% in March 2012.
  • Professional and business services openings increased from 710,000 (3.8%) in February 2012 to 729,000 (3.9%) in March 2012. New hires decreased this category from 973,000 (5.5%) in February 2012 to 905,000 (5.1%) in March 2012. Turnover decreased from 4.8% to 4.7% month over.
  • Retail openings increased from 365,000 (2.4%) in February 2012 to 389,000 (2.6%) in March.  Monthly job openings in March 2011 were at 281,000.  New hires decreased slightly over the month from 551,000 (3.7%) to 546,000 (3.7%). Turnover from February to March 2012 increased from 3.7% to 3.9%.

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