The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that the number of job posting rose from 297,000 in May to 312,000 in June, its highest level since November 2007. (June’s figure was slightly higher than the 308,000 observed in March.) This is potentially a good sign, assuming that these job openings translate into actual hires at some point.
But this has yet to occur, with hiring among manufacturers in a narrow range for much of the past three years. (See the attached graph.) The number of hires was up just slightly in June to 263,000 from 262,000 in May. This represents 2.2 percent of the total manufacturing workforce. Meanwhile, manufacturing separations – which include layoffs, retirements, and quits – increased from 248,000 to 251,000, both of which are 2.1 percent of the workforce.
This suggests net hiring among manufacturers was 12,000 in June. This is its slowest pace of 2012. It had been 14,000 in May, with the greatest gains of the year occurring in January (36,000).
Numbers for the overall economy mirrored those of the manufacturing sector. The number of job openings rose from 3,657,000 to 3,762,000. This level is marginally higher than its value in March (3,741,000). While this was positive news, the pace of hiring appears to have slowed. There were fewer hires, down from 4,461,000 to 4,361,000. The construction sector had the greatest gains, with notable declines in some of the service sectors. Separations were also lower.
In short, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data provide mixed news. Increased job openings could indicate better months ahead, but this would only be true if they lead to higher rates of hiring. Overall hiring appears to have stalled, though. For that to pick up, the economy will need to start growing again, and a number of uncertainties about where the economy is headed will need to ease.
Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.