US job openings, quit rates fell slightly ahead of holidays
- The total number of U.S. job openings fell to 6.9 million in November 2018 — shortly before the peak of the holiday season — according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, released Tuesday.
- The 6.9 million mark nonetheless represents an increase from the 5.9 million job openings recorded in November 2017. BLS recorded a job openings rate of 4.7% among the nation's private employers, down from October's 4.9% but up from the 4.2% rate measured 12 months prior. Total quits also fell by a count of 112,000, with noted drops in professional and business services and in accommodation and food services.
- Among industries in the report, job opening declines were highest in BLS "other services" category (which includes industries like machinery repair and personal care services) and in construction.
Hiring remains a relatively healthy business in the new year, even as BLS' jobs report for December 2018 showed a slight uptick in the unemployment rate, as well as a six-figure increase in the number of job leavers at 142,000. And while fears of a recession have grown in larger discussion of the world economy, some economists believe the U.S. labor market to be at a high note despite the less positive signals, like market performance or the raising of interest rates.
Demographic changes in the labor market could add strength to this narrative, Bloomberg columnist and New River Investments portfolio manager Conor Sen wrote last week. As aging boomers retire from the workforce in 2019 and beyond, a larger share of workers will be entering what Sen called, "consumption-intensive family formation years," between the ages of 25 and 39. The jobs, promotions and raises taken up by working boomers could transfer to their younger replacements and "could act as a stimulus and keep any downturn mild and short," Sen said.
Employers are still struggling with retention issues despite November's decreased quit rates, which clocked in at 2.3% for the month across public and private sectors measured by BLS. On the whole, quit rates are increasing from year to year in a candidate-friendly market. While the promise of higher wages and better benefits play a factor in an employee's decision to leave, employers can still influence that decision in other ways, including by improving office culture and ensuring leadership is strong. As workflows grow more flexible and agile across industries, HR may increasingly be tasked with changing culture to adapt to these changes.
Entering 2019, HR departments at leading employers are experimenting not just with employee development and training, but also with emerging technologies like artificial intelligence to improve candidate experience.
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