Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Comparison of U.S. and International Labor Turnover Statistics

Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Comparison of U.S. and International Labor Turnover Statistics

Article excerpt

Overview of labor demand data at BLS

Since 1999, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has produced job openings and labor turnover data in order to assess the unmet demand for workers in the labor market. The JOLTS program measures job openings, hires, and separations on a monthly basis by industry and geographic region. (1) The program gauges labor demand by collecting data each month from a sample of approximately 16,000 nonfarm business establishments. JOLTS labor demand data complements labor supply data with information on current labor demand, providing a valuable resource for data users to examine factors that reflect the health of the U.S. economy. Labor demand data are used to examine churn in the labor force, labor demand versus labor supply, business cycles, and trends by industry and geographic region.

Prior to the inception of the current JOLTS program, a federal-state cooperative BLS program called the Labor Turnover Survey (LTS) published turnover data from 1959 to 1981. Questions on job vacancies were added to the LTS in 1969. BLS produced vacancy rates from 1969 through 1973 for nine selected manufacturing industries and in selected states and metropolitan areas. (2) While limited to the manufacturing sector, historical LTS statistics were used for labor market analysis and research. Layoff, accession, and quit rates were regarded as leading economic indicators. (3) Additionally, the job vacancies series was considered a coincident indicator. Accession rates were used by state agencies to compare, by area, the number of employees placed through the agencies with the total number of hires reported by employers. (4)

International labor demand data

A measure of labor demand is necessary for thorough analysis of the labor market and as a complement to labor supply measures. There are many countries that produce various types of labor demand data. Although definitions of data elements differ across countries, the purpose is to garner information about the status of labor demand within individual economies. Labor market churn (movement to and from employment through hires and separations), as well as the relationship between job openings (labor demand) and unemployment (labor supply), can provide valuable information about an economy.

Comprehensive appendices at the end of this article list the statistical organization, survey name, data elements collected, and frequency of the respective surveys. Appendix 1 includes countries not part of the European Union (EU) that produce labor demand data, and appendix 2 lists countries that are members of, or closely associated with, the European Union. The EU countries, along with Norway and the Republic of Macedonia, are listed separately in appendix 2. All of these countries provide job vacancies to the EU which are centrally available on the Eurostat website. This information was primarily compiled from statistical websites and correspondence.

Job openings data

Table 1 presents definitions of job openings for seven non-EU countries. The definitions contain similar elements, including the timeframe that the job opening is available, the presence of active recruitment by employers to fill the vacancy, and a specification that the recruited employee be from outside the establishment.

The definitions in table 1 exhibit important similarities. Most notably, each includes a timeframe of job availability. BLS, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and the Singapore Ministry of Manpower have specific day-related criteria. BLS states that "work could start within 30 days whether or not a suitable candidate is found," and the Australian Bureau of Statistics states that the vacancy is "available for immediate filling on the actual survey reference day." The Singapore Ministry of Manpower collects the number of unfilled posts at the end of a quarter. …

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