Quits and Openings Remain High, Layoffs Hover near Record Low


Published on Jul 6, 2022

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Tim Hatton & Echo Liu

The job market showed little change from April to May, according to the federal government’s JOLTS report, as job openings declined slightly to 11.3 million, layoffs hovered near their record low, while quits and overall separations also remained consistent. 

“People have been really concerned about layoffs, but we’re not seeing that borne out in the data,” said Lightcast Senior Economist Layla O’Kane. “Overall, the layoff rate stayed the same, this past month and quits were also little changed.” 

This morning, O’Kane and Lightcast Chief Economist Bledi Taska went live to discuss their first reactions and initial takeaways right after the report’s release (the first live broadcast since Emsi Burning Glass rebranded as Lightcast).

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics measures how many positions are available and how many workers are leaving their jobs. This month’s report marked six straight months where openings exceeded 11 million. 

While the labor market has cooled somewhat since openings hit their record high of 11.9 million in March, the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings shows that the market remains extremely tight—for every 100 openings, only 52 workers are available to fill them, barely changed from a revised 51 in April. 

Quits stayed consistent, meaning they stayed high at 4.2 million (down slightly from 4.3 million in April) —indicating that the “Great Resignation” has not yet begun to significantly decline. 

“As long as layoffs are low, quits are going to be high because employees feel that if they quit, they can get a better job,” Taska said in this morning’s live discussion. “Quitters, in general, have done a lot better in the labor market [than those who stayed at their jobs]; their pay is significantly higher. As long as those two things continue to happen, we won’t see quit rates decrease.” 

Accommodation and Food Services saw the greatest increase in quits despite having the greatest decline in April. There were 765,000 total quits in the industry in May. 

Within individual industries, several notable trends emerged. While media attention has gravitated toward tech companies making dramatic cuts, especially at high-profile companies like Tesla or those in cryptocurrency, the data in today’s JOLTS doesn’t show that this is widespread. In Professional and Business Services (which overlaps with tech), layoffs increased just 1.8%, from 338,000 to 344,000.

However, Professional and Business Services did see the greatest decrease in openings by a significant margin, cutting 325,000. So while the industry isn’t downsizing, it’s still scaling back.

A similar pattern emerges when looking at Durable Goods Manufacturing, which had the second-greatest decline in openings. There, we also see that hiring decreased, suggesting that those employers aren’t filling their job openings—they’ve just stopped trying to fill them.

But despite those industry shifts, the number of overall hires was still little changed at 6.5 million. Combined with the near-record low number of layoffs and high quits and openings, every indicator shows that the job market has continued to be extremely tight through the spring moving into the summer.

On July 8, the BLS Employment Situation Report will provide the latest update about the job market in June, and the Lightcast economist team will be live once again with their first impressions. Join us for that discussion at 9:00 a.m ET/6:00 PT to hear their insight and analysis.