3 Million New Jobs, But Increases In the Quit Rate Should Throw Up Red Flags

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Movement in the job market is typically a positive sign and a new report from the Department of Labor seems to confirm that:

The Labor Department reported that there were 3.1 million job openings in February, up 352,000 from January and 570,000 from year-earlier levels. It was the largest number of available positions since September 2008.

“Today’s report was broadly positive and reflects continued improvement in the labor market,” wrote Theresa Chen, an economist with Barclays Capital, in a note Wednesday. “We are particularly encouraged by the persistent rise in the job openings rate.”

What is good news for workers could mean that competition is heating up to fill critical positions, especially in areas where there may already be a skill shortage.

Many already looking elsewhere?

It’s been a hot topic of conversation: once the economy improves, people are going to start feeling more comfortable moving out of positions they are unhappy with. Of course, as TLNT’s own John Hollon covered about a month ago, our assumptions as to why as many as 74 percent of people feel ready to move may be completely wrong:

According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Plateau Systems, a wide majority (74 percent) of employed full time/part time and not self employed workers would consider a new job opportunity. No big surprise there, but there is a twist in this poll.

According to Plateau, “after several years of recession marked by widespread layoffs, benefit reductions, and pay cuts, many assume U.S. workers would be singing ‘I can’t get no satisfaction,’ and actively hunting for new jobs. While certainly true for many, the survey indicates that most workers are satisfied or very satisfied with their current employment, and only about a quarter have an updated profile on resume on a job board or networking site like LinkedIn or Monster.”

So to assume that the end is near and that you’ll be losing everyone is completely unnecessary. That being said, there is data that supports the idea that people are feeling more comfortable about leaving.

More quits, layoffs staying steady

From the full report on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can see that quits have increased to almost 2 million in February (compared to 1.7 million in January). If you are a big follower of large scale employment trends, it wouldn’t be surprising to see these quit numbers continue to rise with job availability. After all, even with historic levels of unemployment, people are still hiring from competitors.

That should be the part that worries HR professionals concerned about retention. If people are more confortable dipping their toe in the employment market, you can find yourself reporting your own open jobs soon.

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Of course, it isn’t all bad news for HR. Layoffs have stayed steady and they are down almost 200k from a year ago. Seeing that figure closer to 1 million would be better still, but the good news is that it isn’t going up significantly.

Is there good news for the unemployed?

As I mentioned, many employers still do quite a bit of hiring from other employers. For the unemployed though, more open jobs should always be considered a positive. Even if a company hires someone from another company, that often creates a new job opening at a new place. That’s not to mention that unemployed people are getting hired directly (I’ve known several personally over the last several months).

It’s not all good news. They still have to be the right jobs. Many of the reasons for persistent job openings, even in the throes of the recession, have to do with skill gaps between those who need jobs and those who need jobs done. There’s no easy solution for this.

Still, most signs continue to point up for employment. And before HR professionals put on their party cap to celebrate, they might want to take another look at the number of people who also quit this month for some perspective. The good news is we are hiring again but the bad news is that other people are hiring, too.


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