One of the more useful recent additions to the menu of government statistics available to economic analysts is the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Job Openings and Turnover Survey, commonly referred to as JOLTS. The survey, begun in 2001, provides data on employment, job openings, hires, quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations from employment.
The net hires rate--the difference between the hires rate and the rate of job separations of all sorts--has been positive since September 2005, consistent with the employment growth evident from the usual payroll and household surveys released on the first Friday of every month. The detail available from JOLTS makes it clear that a big part of the story behind the employment picture this year has been the recent decline in separations rate. At 3.2 percent, this is the lowest separations rate since January 2004. Furthermore, the job openings rate--a measure of job availability--has been increasing steadily, implying a growing demand for labor.
Most of the employment growth in the past two years was driven by professional and business services, with an average net hire rate of 0.57 percent. Although the rate of net hires in the information sector has been negative since 2004, there is clear evidence of unmet demand for labor in this area, as indicated by the sector's higher-than-average rate of job openings.
Since 2004, most of the monthly growth in net hires occurred in the South, accounting for 48 percent of U.S. employment growth. The other three regions of the country shared the remaining 52 percent of growth almost equally. As for job openings, the South accounted for 39 percent of the total since 2004, followed by the West at 23 percent, the Midwest at 20 percent, and the Northeast at 18 percent. …