Hiring Up, Layoffs Down in U.S.

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Hiring rose and layoffs fell in October in yet more signs that the U.S. labor force should have plenty of momentum heading into 2016, according to a report released Tuesday by the Labor Department.

The government's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, released each month to profile hiring, firing and position vacancy trends across the country, showed American employers signed on more than 5.1 million new workers in October, making it the best month for hiring since June and the second-best since November 2007, the month before the Great Recession began.America also held 5.4 million open positions at the end of October. That's down by about 151,000 vacancies month over month but is still comfortably up 534,000 positions year over year.

A downtick in job openings, coupled with an uptick in hiring, suggests employers are starting to attract qualified candidates to fill vacant positions (or, at the very least, that employers are settling for less-than-qualified candidates, which is still good news for the labor market).

And considering America's labor force participation rate – which measures the number of working-age individuals actively participating in the workforce – ticked up last month to 62.5 percent, it seems more people are starting to trickle back into the labor market.
Layoffs and discharges, meanwhile, fell by more than 100,000 from September and were at their third-lowest level of any month this year, clocking in at just 1.7 million. But not all industries have had a great year in terms of layoffs.

"The number of layoffs and discharges rose over the year in state and local government (+30,000) and mining and logging (+6,000)," the report said, also noting that layoffs were down by 88,000 in professional business services and 28,000 in transportation, warehousing and utilities industries.

A separate report released last week by consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that U.S. layoffs in November fell to their lowest levels in more than a year. Just under 31,000 job cuts were announced last month, according to the report. That's down 39 percent from the 50,504 layoffs announced in October.

For comparison's sake, there was an average of more than 64,000 job cuts announced in each of the four months leading up to November – more than twice last month's final tally.

"The fourth quarter tends to experience heavier cuts, as employers make year-end adjustments to workforce levels in order achieve earnings goals. The November decline could be the quiet before a December storm," John Challenger, the firm's chief executive officer, said in a statement accompanying the report. "Or it could signal a lower-than-expected downsizing to close out the year. If recent history is any indication, it could be the latter, as December job cuts have been lower than the annual average since the end of the recession."

Job cuts this year currently sit at nearly 575,000, which is up 28 percent year over year and on pace for the worst year for layoffs since 2009. But cuts have been isolated to a few weak sectors like energy, government and legal practices.

Challenger said the vast majority of the labor market still has plenty of momentum heading into 2016.
"Overall, the U.S. economy is fairly strong. The increase in job cuts this year is due to a handful of industries," he said, highlighting the energy sector's 708 percent year-over-year layoffs climb. "In fact, of the 28 sectors we track, more than half have experienced a year-over-year decline in job cuts."
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