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Companies Aren’t Filling Open Jobs, the BLS Says

There’s good news and bad news for job seekers in a report today from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The good news is that companies have lots of job openings—the most, in fact, since January 2001. The bad news is that they aren’t hiring to fill them.

There were 4.8 million jobs open at the end of August, up by 200,000 from a month earlier. But that’s not because companies were generating lots of new jobs. It’s because the hiring rate slowed down. The number of hires that occurred in August was 4.6 million, down from 4.9 million in July, the BLS reported. The rate of hires as a share of total employment also fell, as the chart below shows. “Job openings keep climbing while hiring takes a spill,” read the headline on a report by economist Daniel Silver of JPMorgan Chase (JPM).

Bureau of Labor Statistics

The data in the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey aren’t as fresh as the data in the monthly employment report, which came out last Friday and included the news that the unemployment rate fell to 5.9 percent in September. But it provides a deeper understanding of the inflows and outflows in the labor market. The net change in monthly employment hides a lot of churn. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Over the 12 months ending in August 2014, hires totaled 56.2 million and separations totaled 53.6 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.5 million.”