The October Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey

Published on Oct 14, 2021

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Clare Coffey

image of Lightcast gradiant

The federal government’s new JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) report finds that job openings still outpace unemployment, with 100 openings for every 85 unemployed workers. 

Job openings declined by 659,000, down to 10.4 million. The total number of job openings is still historically high, but it’s notable that this is the first time openings have gone down from one month to another since the beginning of the year.

Hires also decreased to 6.3 million, while separations remained unchanged at 6 million. Overall, companies are both hiring fewer people and trying to hire fewer people than we’ve seen in recent months. While it’s true that companies currently aren’t losing people at an accelerated rate, overall, we’re not doing well at creating new jobs.

A Note on JOLTS

If you’re wondering what the difference is between JOLTS and other labor statistics, you’re not alone.

The Employment Situation Report (which we covered in Monday’s blog) measures overall participation in the labor force: how many people are unemployed, how many new jobs were created, what industries and sectors have gained and lost jobs, how many people have stopped looking for work, etc.

JOLTS, on the other hand, delves into the process by which those job gains and losses happen: how many people quit their jobs, how many people were laid off, how many were hired, how many new job openings appeared, and more. 

Even though they might be released close together, the Employment Situation report and JOLTS don’t cover the same time frame. The Employment Situation covers the month before it’s released, while JOLTS is two months back.  In the most recent Employment Situation, we learned about the labor market in the month of September. In the most recent JOLTS, we learned about the labor market in the month of August.

Industry Highlights

  • Healthcare and Social Assistance and Accommodation and Food Services saw some of the  biggest declines in job openings, with a drop of 224,000 and 178,000 openings respectively. Interestingly, both of these industries were big gainers last month. Healthcare and Social Assistance had previously added 294,000 job openings, and accommodation and food services added 115,000.

  • Accommodation and Food Services also saw the steepest drop in actual new hires, with a drop of 240,000.


  • Although State and Local Government saw the biggest loss of any industry (-240,000 job openings, Federal Government actually gained 22,000 job openings. Notably, in terms of percent change, Federal Government was the biggest winner overall.

  • Retail Trade and Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities added the most job openings, with 53,000  and 37,000 new openings respectively. This tracks with what we saw in the Employment Situation Report, when these industries were among the leaders in adding actual new jobs (as opposed to merely job openings).

Take this Job and….You Know

As we mentioned early, even though hiring and openings decreased, separations didn’t. But within the category of separations, one metric did rise: quits, or the number of people who resigned their job.

In August, quits increased by 242,000 to 4.3 million, a 2.9% increase

Accommodations and Food services saw the most quits, with 157,000, as well as the highest percentage change.