Pandemic still in control

February JOLTS report showed a pandemic still in control

Yesterday morning’s JOLTS report for February showed that the pandemic was still in control of the numbers.
This report has only a 20 year history, and so includes only two prior recoveries. In those recoveries: 

  • first, layoffs declined
  • second, hiring rose
  • third, job openings rose and voluntary quits increased, close to simultaneously

The recovery from the worst of the pandemic almost one year ago at first followed this script, but the winter surge, which led to a few month of flat, or worse, jobs reports, disrupted that trend.

Layoffs have followed the above script, reverting to normal levels back in last May, and continuing at those levels since:

But the situation is different with hirings, openings, and quits. Here is the long-term record of the entire series:

But now, let’s zoom in on the past several years:

This shows up in the YoY view as well, where only openings are positive compared with February 2020 (in contrast with the past two recoveries, where hires turned positive first):

While hires did bounce back most strongly at first, as in the past two recoveries, they have faded relatively speaking since.

Further, job openings have continued to increase strongly, and are back to close to their all-time peaks in late 2018 and early 2019. Meanwhile, quits, like hires, are slightly subdued.

Because the YoY comparisons will be with the worst of the pandemic in the next several months, those comparisons will generally be useless. We will see if hires reassert themselves, as in the past two recoveries, or whether openings without actual hiring continue to soar as they did start in 2015.