US Job Openings Fall Sharply to Near Two-Year Lows in February Rekindling Recession Concerns

Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey for February (JOLTS) in February of 2023 were reported as openings falling by more than 600,000. When compared to January’s unrevised total, job openings were down nearly 900,000 in February. The sharp fall revives questions about the strength of the labor market, and therefore the broader economy. Treasuries bounced sharply off the release and stocks and the US dollar both fell with force.

For perspective note this report lags the BLS jobs report by one month, which is released Friday. The ratio of openings to unemployed people rose to a near record-high 1.9 from 1.7 a month earlier and compared to 1.2 before the pandemic.


JOLTS is the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey published by the BLS.

The JOLTS job data is a favored measure for the Fed, but it is on a lag (February data). The BLS March employment report will be released on Friday with expectations of 200-300K.

The JOLTS survey is the Labor Department’s report on job openings, quitting, hiring and layoffs and offers clues on the trajectory of the U.S. labor market. Job openings still greatly exceed the number of unemployed people seeking work and private-sector estimates show labor demand remains high but slowing with the economy loses steam.


JOLTS February 2023 Highlights

  • Job openings 9.931M. vs 10.4M expected
  • Prior was 10.824M (est. 10.5M) revised to 10.563M
  • Quits rate 2.6% vs 2.5% last month. Total quits came in at 4.024 million versus 3.878 million was more than
  • Hires 4.0% vs 4.1% last month. Total hires came in at 6.163 million versus 6.327 million last month
  • Separations 3.7% of versus 3.8% last month. Total separations came in at 5.82 million versus 5.90 million last month
  • In February, the largest decreases in job openings were in professional and business services (-278,000); health care and social assistance (-150,000); and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-145,000). The number of job openings increased in construction (+129,000) and in arts, entertainment, and recreation (+38,000)
United States Job Openings

Bond Yields fall sharply on Recession Concerns

2-yr: -16 bps to 3.83%
3-yr: -13 bps to 3.60%
5-yr: -10 bps to 3.43%
10-yr: -5 bps to 3.38%
30-yr: -3 bps to 3.61%

The US dollar fell to lows of the day across the board and USD/JPY down 55 pips to 131.87 and at the worst levels in a week.


  • In February, the number and rate of hires changed little at 6.2 million
  • The rate changed little at 4.0 percent
  • Hires increased in federal government (+8,000)


  • In February, the number of total separations changed little at 5.8 million. The rate was little changed at 3.7 percent.
  • The number of total separations decreased in transportation, warehousing, and utilities(-45,000) but increased in educational services (+21,000)
  • In February, the number of quits edged up to 4.0 million (+146,000), and the rate was little changed at 2.6 percent.
  • Quits increased in professional and business services (+115,000); accommodation and food services (+93,000); wholesale trade (+31,000); and educational services (+18,000). The number of quits decreased in finance and insurance (-39,000). (See table 4.)
  • In February, the number of layoffs and discharges decreased to 1.5 million (-215,000). The rate was little changed at 1.0 percent. Layoffs and discharges decreased in professional and business services (-157,000).
  • The number of other separations was little changed in February at 291,000. Other separations increased in finance and insurance (+19,000) and in wholesale trade (+10,000).

Separation Definition

Total separations include quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. Quits are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee. Therefore, the quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs. Layoffs and discharges are involuntary separations initiated by the employer. Other separations include separations due to retirement, death, disability, and transfers to other locations of the same firm

Establishment Size Class

In February, establishments with 1 to 9 employees saw little change in their job openings rate, hires rate,
and total separations rate; but the layoffs and discharges rate decreased. Establishments with more than
5,000 employees saw little change in their hires rate and total separations rate while the job openings
rate decreased.

Layoffs Increasing

Companies such as Netflix Inc. and Tesla Inc., along with Ford Motor Co., Walmart Inc., Robinhood Markets Inc. Redfin Corp. Stanley Black & Decker Inc., Corteva Inc., Compass Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., have started to lay off employees or leave jobs unfilled to reduce their costs in an uncertain economy.

The Labor Department will release its March employment numbers on Friday.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey estimates for March 2023 are scheduled to be
released on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. (ET).

Source: TradersCommunity Data, BLS

From The TradersCommunity News Desk