Job Openings and Closings Hold Steady

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construction jobs Even though the U.S. isn't creating jobs nearly fast enough to employ all those who are out of work and looking, at least the number of job openings in December held pretty much steady, at 3.1 million. That's down only slightly from the 3.2 million jobs available in November, according to the latest numbers just released from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Looking on the bright side, there are about 700,000 more job openings today than there were during the deepest part of the recession, back in July of 2009. But we're still well below the 4.4 million job openings that were available back in December 2007, when the recession was in its beginning stages.

Separated from your job

The total number of separations stayed pretty much the same from November to December as well. "Separations" includes quits (voluntary separations), layoffs and discharges (involuntary separations), and other separations (including retirements). The total separations, or turnover, rate was unchanged over the month in nonfarm, private and government sectors. There was more turnover construction, and less turnover in retail trade.

Analysts paid particular attention to the quits rate, because it can be a measure of workers' willingness or ability to change jobs. In December, the quits rate remained unchanged for the nonfarm, private and government sectors. There was little or no change in the quit rate in every other industry and region.

Layoffs and firings consistent

As opposed to the analysts, we working stiffs tend to pay more attention to the number of layoffs and discharges from month to month. The news about those is basically the same as well: The layoffs and discharges level remained essentially unchanged in December, with a few more layoffs in construction (possibly because of the weather) and a few less in most other industries.

So how does this all shake out? Are we actually losing or gaining jobs? Over the 12 months ending in December, new hires totaled 51.0 million and separations totaled 50.1 million, yielding a net employment gain of 0.9 million. That's not nearly enough to put a serious dent in our nations unemployment problem, but at least we're not losing jobs.

Nearly half of the hires and nearly half of the separations during those 12 months occurred in three industries: retail trade; professional and business services; and accommodation and food services. The largest share of total hires and separations, accounted for by these three industries, reflects the size of the industries as well as their historically, high turnover rates. If you're involved in one of these three industries, you've probably gotten used to people coming and going.

Next: Top 10 Companies Hiring This Week
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